By Okot Nyormoi, Editor

Unexpected HesitationMr. Lobober, the Vice-President of the Republic of Lobomewa had just finished meeting the tenth delegation within the last twelve hours. Delegates from various organizations ( students, women, farmers, teachers, labor, etc.) all came to persuade him to become the candidate for the presidency. Although this was expected to be a mere formality, it was not. As the deadline for nomination approached, Mr. Lobober’s failure to declare his candidacy turned into a major political crisis.

The crisis which began as a joke grew into a political shock because nobody ever doubted the Vice President’s qualification. He was a very intelligent man. He finished his primary and secondary schools several years ahead of his agemates. He graduated from the National University Law School with honors. He was the head prefect in both primary and secondary school. While at the university, he was elected Guild President, head of the student government.

After graduating from the university, Mr. Lobober founded Legal Aid Foundation, an organization dedicated to rendering free legal services. Battered wives, abused children, the unemployed, bankrupt businesspeople, victims of religious, racial, political persecution, and many others all benefited from his selfless efforts. Because of his reputation for fairness, he was always consulted by people from all social classes.

At the age of 35, he was elected to parliament unopposed and has never been seriously challenged ever since. While in parliament, he quickly established himself as a shrewd political tactician and strategist. He was always decisive whether he agreed with someone or not. He always took great care to ensure that his decisions were never misunderstood. He neither feared nor favored anyone.  His reputation in parliament earned him the nickname Mr. Double F which stood for fearless and fairness. He used his good reputation to promote many good legislations such as the Free Speech Act, Free Primary Education Act, the Primary Health Care Act, and the Freedom to Worship Act, just to mention a few.

Internationally, he was well traveled and well known. As a youth, he attended many international conferences in which he distinguished himself. For example, he was elected chairman and most congenial person at the 1965 Youth Conference in Geneva. As a parliamentarian, Mr. Lobober traveled all over the world. Outside government circles, he was well known for his work with the Legal Aid Foundation for which he won the 1970 International Lawyers Association Distinguished Service Award.

Unlike most public personalities, Mr. Lobober maintained a family lifestyle which was the envy of his peers. He always made time for his family. Despite his hectic schedule, he always made sure that his only son never grew up as a political orphan. He never abandoned his fatherly role. Similarly, he continued to love his wife of twenty years as intensely as he did before he entered public life. Many of his colleagues often wondered how he could find time for his family--something many of them considered out of reach.

By all accounts, Mr. Lobober was an excellent candidate for the presidency. He had the intelligence, the experience, the temperament, the commitment, and the drive to serve his country in the highest office of the land. All the people who knew him expected him to step forward with the naturalness of a born leader. That was why his failure to do so left everyone shocked, baffled, and wondering about this unexpected hesitation.

The Chairman stood up from where he and the Vice-President were sitting silently. He walked over to the window, paused briefly to survey the crowd gathering in the park below and returned to his seat without saying a word. He sighed and shook his head several times in disbelief. Finally, he broke the silence which hung heavily over them.

“Mr. Vice-President, we have always pulled together, haven’t we?”

“Yes, we have,” responded the Vice-President with his arms folded across his chest.

“Do you not recall that many years ago we pledged to serve the people and the country to the best of our ability?”.

“Of course, I remember. I can even tell you the place and the time.”

“Do you recall that you pledged to always stand by the people in their hour of need?”

“Yes. I do.”

“Are you also aware that the party and the people need a presidential candidate?”

“Yes, Mr. Chairman. I am quite aware.”

“Are you aware that the deadline for declaring candidacy is only hours away?”

“Yes. I am.”

“Mr. Vice-President, don’t you think that the time has now come for you to honor your pledge and commitment?”

The Vice-President shifted in his seat but said nothing.

“Mr. Vice-President, don’t you know that the party and the people of this country believe that you are the best candidate for the presidency and that they are behind you 100%?”

“I am very glad and greatly flattered to know that Mr. Chairman”.

“Has the party and the people of this country ever let you down whenever you needed their support?”

“No Sir”.

“Why then don’t you come forward and declare your candidacy for the presidency?”

The Vice-President kept quiet. His face looked blank as if his mind was not in the room where they were. Perhaps he was looking far into the future or far into the past. After about two minutes of awkward silence, the chairman spoke again. Though he had hitherto maintained a calm demeanor under the difficult circumstance, his voice began to rise and quiver, thus betraying his inner frustration with the Vice-President’s indecision. In a final moment of desperation, he pounded the table and said,

“Mr. Vice-President, we have been gentle with you, patient with you, kind to you, tactful with you in seeking your decision to run for the presidency. However, we are now tired of all that. Our patience has run dry. It is high time you stop playing games with us. We need your decision. We need it urgently. We need it now. Do you hear me? We need it now”.

By then little beads of sweat began to form on the Chairman’s forehead. Gesturing vigorously towards the crowd gathering in the park, he said,

“That’s it. I am going down to join the people”.

Without waiting for a response from the Vice-President, the Chairman stormed out of the room leaving the Vice-President sitting down seemingly at total peace with himself. A perfectly unexpected hesitation for reasons only he knew.

A story I wrote for a course in novel writing, a 1987 birthday gift from my wife (Editor).