Four months of recruiting, two weeks of campaigning, five candidates, 8,858 total votes, and one MSU President.
The students have spoken: Ehima Osazuwa is the 2015-16 MSU President-Elect.
He can’t keep the tired smile off his face.
“[I feel] emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted, but I feel very happy obviously because we won. It’s still surreal. I still don’t believe I won,” said Osazuwa.
Although it was a long two weeks of campaigning, the end of elections was the bittersweet coda to a much larger undertaking that spanned months. On the night of the results, Osazuwa and his team were still in the Student Centre long after they had packed up their tables, huddled around computers, refreshing the MSU website and other social media outlets.
It took until 10 p.m., but Osazuwa finally received a call from current MSU President Teddy Saull. As soon as he received confirmation he had won, the Student Centre echoed with the cheers from his team as they celebrated their hard-fought win.
“When we got the phone call, we all went nuts and everyone was so happy, we were crying, my whole team, everyone,” Osazuwa recalled.
After a night of celebration with his campaign team that lasted until 4 a.m., Osazuwa was back up at 8 a.m. The President-Elect took a walk around Les Prince, where he serves as a Community Advisor, and finally gave himself a chance to take a breather on his own to appreciate the moment.
“I was thinking, we put so much effort into this, [but] we just got to the start. For me and for my team this is just the beginning – winning was just the first step. I made promises to [20,000] undergraduate students and I intend on keeping my promises. They voted for me because they believe in my vision, and I need to make sure I keep working hard for them.”
Following their initial celebrations, Osazuwa’s first calls were to his family; first to his two older brothers, both studying here in Canada, and then to his parents, who live in Nigeria, his home country. Due to the time difference of six hours, his parents were still sleeping, but when they returned his calls, they were more excited than he was.
“My dad was shouting, ‘I’m so proud of you! I’m so proud of you!’ because my family really got emotionally invested in this,” he said.
“[My mother] kept liking the Facebook pictures, commenting and texting me, encouraging me to keep going, keep going […] my dad was more laid back, but he was so happy.”
Osazuwa is the youngest of three boys, and was the last of his brothers to arrive in Canada when he came in September of 2009. He finished Grade 12 at Great Lakes College before deciding to come to McMaster, a decision he considers one of the best he’s ever made. The change in environment was a big transition for him, but Osazuwa is happy and grateful to be here.
“Canada is a second home to me, McMaster is like home to me now,” he explained.
“Good thing I didn’t go to Waterloo,” he joked.
Osazuwa’s campaign was one that certainly seemed to have drawn upon his experience of being in a new and unfamiliar place and culture. Unlike the platforms of his competitors, his unique focus centered around the accessibility and diversity of the campus, with the idea that students of different interests and cultures would be able to co-exist in a meaningful way.
Even with Osazuwa differentiating himself from the other candidates, during the two weeks it seemed like the race was wide open for any of the candidates to steal the spotlight.
But in the end, the students were overwhelmingly in Osazuwa’s favour; in the first round of votes, Osazuwa was up over his closest competitor by nearly a thousand votes. The final round of voting was a decisive margin of 4,298 votes for Osazuwa, to second-place candidate Tristan Paul’s 3,335 votes. In total, a record 8,858 votes were cast, representing 42.2 percent of the 20,977 eligible voters.
A number of factors could be attributed for Osazuwa’s success, but what was immediately most apparent was his team’s preparation. From his platform to his posters, Osazuwa exuded the kind of professionalism reminiscent of a business executive; for that and for his success, he gave credit to his campaign team.
“My campaign managers, Kalia and Syed, my senior advisor, Salah, my whole campaign team, [they’re] all amazing people,” Osazuwa said. “When I was tired, they were like, ‘no, no, keep going, keep going.’ I really appreciated that.”
“[They] always made sure I was on point. They made sure we were always ready.”
Osazuwa gets to take a bit of a breather and catch up on school before he takes office on May 1. In the transitional months until then, he’ll be working closely with Saull and the Board of Directors, learning how to inherit the responsibility of his new obligation.
“I know a lot of eyes are going to be on me, but that’s the job of the MSU President. I know if I ever get lost, there will be people I can go to.”