We have once again arrived at that time in the tenure when we determine who will steer UIMSA’s ship for the next year. Unless you live under a rock, you must have seen the eye-catching graphics, glossy banners, social media posts and various political antics in the past few days. It is easy– too easy in fact– to be distracted by the noise and glamour. This is a call back to common sense.

Gender Politics and a New Dawn in the Offing

With the emergence of two female aspirants for the post of UIMSA President, it is perhaps safe to say that UIMSA is about to witness its first stewardship at the hands of a female president. This has been late in coming, and it is not surprising that mixed reactions have followed this development.

On one hand, some people in the name of “breaking the bias” are insinuating that UIMSA will, in the upcoming tenure, get its best President yet. For some, this spurious conclusion is based only on the premise that “what a man can do, a woman can do better”.

On the other side of the line, some UIMSAites are expressing thinly veiled alarm that so many women are again aspiring for seats in the executive council. More shocking are the subtle remarks that UIMSA will witness a terrible tenure simply because a woman is likely to emerge as President. It is interesting to note that in the erstwhile executive council, only three excos out of ten were male. And while some wail about the ongoing gender coup in UIMSA, one cannot but wonder, is something preventing the males in UIMSA from participating in politics?

It is concerning how much attention is being paid to gender. If there had been a male aspirant for the Presidency (or one emerges before the elections), will UIMSAites vote their President based on the gender they favour? I would like to believe that our intellectuality prevails over gender biases.

Political Apathy

If the voting data for the various leaders in the present tenure is anything to go by, UIMSAites seem to not care much who leads them. Surprisingly, the higher classes who should understand the association more, know the candidates better and hence make better decisions, recorded the lowest number of votes. Are we heading in the same direction in the upcoming elections? Though the number of registered voters in each constituency is encouraging, we can only hope that they vote when the time comes.

But before then, how are we engaging the aspirants beyond sharing their broadcasts and graphics? What discussions are we having, and what questions are we asking? It does not make any sense to detach ourselves from the process of selecting our leaders, only to point accusing fingers when things go awry. The Press and manifesto nights provide excellent opportunities to weigh each candidate and decide on who to vote.

Affiliations, Sentiments and the Need to look Deeper

It is only natural that we trust and like people we have interacted with more than people we previously had no dealings with. However, as the learned people that we are, we should be able to look beyond our attachments, focus clearly and think critically. That you have had a pleasant experience with an aspirant does not guarantee that they are the best for the job. That you attend the same social gatherings and move in the same circles should not be criteria for giving them your vote. This is not a game of proving loyalty.

On the subject of sentiments, I would like to remind you that it is perfectly ok for your best friend to support the opponent of your preferred candidate. Our differing political views and choices should be ground for dialogue, not divisive bitterness. By all means, campaign for candidates whose ability you’re convinced of. You do not have to prove non-partisan by campaigning for every person who deemed it fit to send you a broadcast of their intentions (unless you’re a pressman, in which case you should not campaign at all).

UIMSA’s government, as we always say, is a continuum. Of the members of the former executive council, four are running again. While a description of past positions held can be alluring, do not be swayed by the superficial, as leadership is not a reward offered for having an outstanding CV. Look at their actions and inactions in their previous offices, would you be at least comfortable with a repeat in the next tenure?

Lest we make the mistake of scrutinizing only aspirants for executive positions, we should look closer home. How satisfied are you with the representation of your senators and congressmen? For those who are re-running, have they taken on the interests of the class to the best of their ability? Do they possess character befitting of a leader? Maybe if we answer these questions truthfully and vote right, the Senate and Congress floors will witness much lesser disciplinary hearings than the previous tenure, making them much more productive.

To the aspirants, remember;

 Great leaders do not desire to lead, but to serve.

–Myles Munroe

May the best leaders for UIMSA emerge.

Aisha Ibrahim