Writing Competition 2022: Damn Me if I Trust Again

Q logo.jpg

Article by: Editor

Publication date:

Maybe struggle is not out entirely to destroy us, but to reveal us to ourselves in amazing ways.

Photo by Ronda Dorsey on Unsplash

Written by Ouma Don Collins

Sitting by myself, sometimes I wonder out loud what courage is. I say ‘wonder out loud’ because that is what I would do if I didn’t have a piece of wood with which I could scribble my thoughts on earth, or on the dry skin of my arm. In the comfort of my house, I would jot them on sticky notes and paste them on the wall until I had none left. With a marker pen, I would continue on the walls without caring how I would clean up afterwards. Often, my thoughts would stray from the innocent walls to the white tiles. The tiles would scream as I write hard and fast on them. It was no longer just writing, it was war. War with my thoughts, my pen, and still, the tiles would scream. 

When my thoughts would take a break, I would sit down and look at all the mess I’d made, trying to make sense out of it, battling tears at some point – men don’t cry, don’t mention this – only to turn it from a heap of chaos into a beautiful piece of poetry after a few days. Sometimes, a poem of only three lines. Poetry is easy to write, I tell you. Were it not for poetry, my thoughts would have crushed the walls of my being. But, here I stand. 

Betrayal is evil. I invested three years, exclusively, in a political mission that was to rebuild my county in ways that would place it on the pedestal of political envy, locally and internationally. Ambition, determination and sacrifice were concocted into an unstoppable drive that swept through the county in a cyclonic bandwagon that wooed along men and women, young and old alike, in an inferno-like movement for change.

We pulled the rug from under the Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) feet, so far off that the mention of the party’s name was a call for pity. If you know the dirt that is politics, you know what I mean when I say that for the first time in history, the ODM chief was unable to campaign for the ODM candidate, in the Nyanza region of Kenya, against an independent candidate. 

However, actions have consequences. We escaped death from unknown quarters innumerable times. And so, to maintain our political operations without losing ground and time, we lived like squirrels. This was the hotly-contested senatorial by-election of 2018 in Migori. The sitting senator had passed on barely a year after the 2017 general elections where we had come in second. 

It was a team of only five young men, supporting a fellow young person, pulling together the support of like-minded individuals to achieve a goal greater than ourselves. We planned for contingencies, whether we won or lost, we were covered until we would be on our feet again. So, we gave it our hearts and minds, day and night. When we walked like zombies from days without sleep, we felt no loss. We gave it our all. Did I mention the ‘goal greater than all of us?’ Bullshit! A big and ugly lie. Three sunken years. 

Betrayal from people closest to us is the most painful. The goal greater than all of us turned out to be for the benefit of one person – our candidate. Everything ours became his, and all worthwhile networks were destroyed. Every good thing was suddenly covered in mischief and deceit. We pursued our fair share to our own destruction. 

While we were getting thrown out of our tiny cribs for inability to pay rent after the elections, he sampled new properties in the leafy suburbs. While we languished in depression, he shopped for new investments. He bagged everything from our labour and vanished. I was left trapped in utter despair. No money, no house, no job. A decorated political planner now a pauper. Suddenly, I am a child of fate, eating by grace. A life of shame.

I wanted to hide yet I needed help. Friends called my bluff when I asked for jobs yet the other day I was campaigning on a chopper. I was making a fool out of them, they said. To whom can you go to, you fool who made arrangements based on trust? I was torn between destroying him and everything associated with him in anger and frustration, and sucking it all up, accepting loss and starting afresh, however painful. Courage chose the latter. I can’t tell what would have become of me if I chose destruction instead. A life sentence maybe. 

Pain from that betrayal felt like a bullet to the heart – plucking it out is a relief that could lead to death, but leaving it there is too harrowing a pain to bear. My world crashed with everything in it. I hit rock bottom. And from the thud, my soul turned numb. With feeble hands I picked a tiny stick, dipped it in tears and with bloody, bruised hands, I wrote poetry. 

I don’t know what courage means. I know, however, that it took courage to trust myself again, to settle for lessons rather than revenge. It took courage to dare greatly, to pursue those things greater than me knowing very well that I might fail but still, I dare. The collection of poetry was published into a book called Morning Shall Come. In it, I share the message that maybe struggle is not out entirely to destroy us, but to reveal us to ourselves in amazing ways. Through the book, many lives have been touched positively and so, life goes on. Today, I run a start-up that I hope will revolutionise the way public participation is carried out in democracies across the world. 

It is said that people don’t care about our stories unless we are rich, famous or dead. Still, I pick courage to tell you mine. In the fragility of my pride, I cross my fingers, hoping that you read it after I have done something worthwhile with my life again. That way, my story can be an inspiration. If not, I risk it remaining just that; a lamentation.


Ouma Don Collins is a Social Entrepreneur and a Writer. He is a writer of African Poetry and the author of 'Morning Shall Come'.

In 'Morning Shall Come', Ouma talks about human struggles while advocating for humanity. He furthers the idea that everything else is vain to humans if, in pursuit of everything else, they lose their humanity. He argues that as struggle is the nature of humans, so should humans toil, not to escape from it but to make themselves better, that every time they are faced by it, they are best fashioned to handle it. He calls for authentic solidarity in handling human struggle.

Ouma Don Collins is a founding member of the Moonlight Meet of Poets and the convenor of Nairobi Poets Meet.