Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta
Eligible voters in Luo Nyanza do not register as voters in large numbers Even when they do, they still fail to show up in bigger numbers on voting day as opposed to those in Central Kenya

One needs numbers to be elected and numbers, at least in our ethnic driven politics, are determined by the fertility of women and the ability of the elements to support large populations in a region.

It is, therefore, not surprising that leadership in Kenya has revolved around Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley, with Western Kenya, Nyanza and eastern, to some extent, looming in the shadows.

Nonetheless, our voting patterns, even from past elections, reveal astonishing consistent behaviour by different Kenyan communities, with Central Kenya and Luo Nyanza remaining the most robust vote conscious regions.

The Kikuyu and the Luo account for the largest in voter registration and turnout largely due to their cultural and language hegemony, unlike Luhyas and their fractious sub-tribes.

While they understand their place in the socio-economic vortex and the role of state power, they don’t suffer the differences exhibited by the Maasai and their various clans or the Kalenjin and their sub-tribes which leads to political sectionalism.

Historically, the Kikuyu and the Luo also share in Kenya’s political journey. Prophesies from seers like Mugo wa Kibiro prepared Central Kenya for political resistance fulfilled by warriors like Waiyaki wa Hinga and freedom fighters like Harry Thuku and his Kenya African Union (KAU) party.

The Lari massacre and other deaths suffered at the height of the Mau Mau war of independence cemented the shedding of blood for ithaka na wiyathi (land and freedom) translating into thirst for political power which is fiercely guarded with the vote.

The Luo, on the other hand, were socialised into mainstream politics through political formations like the Young Kavirondo Association while the entry of Tom Mboya into trade unionism and eventual national politics as did Jaramogi Oginga Odinga through KANU only increased their political equity.

It is this heritage of colonial struggle and subsequent jostling for state power via political feuds in post-independence Kenya that make the two communities fierce competitors for State House.

The other regions in Kenya have exhibited consistent lackadaisical attitude towards voting suggesting that some communities and voter groups understand political power and its relationship to their local circumstances differently from feelings of actual alienation or perceived marginalization that spurs political nonchalance, civic education and voter registration drives, notwithstanding.

This partly explains the divergent behaviour in the high voter turnouts in some regions implying that political parties and candidates for the various positions need to apply different strategies for voter mobilization, depending on which strongholds geography slotted them.

A sample of these behaviour patterns in the last three elections also tend to debunk political scientist, Mutahi Ngunyi’s, ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ hypothesis suggesting that the ‘problem’ (tyranny of numbers tends to cast the democratic principle of majority as somewhat sinister) or the ‘difference’ may not be in the tribal numbers per se, but in the mind-sets and attitudes of the different voting communities in Kenya.

A sampling of key strongholds reveal bases loyal to Raila posted dismal voter registration, compared to those loyal to President Uhuru, a pattern that also seems to repeat itself in voter turnout on voting day. Put mildly, eligible voters in Luo Nyanza do not register as voters in large numbers, and even when they do, still fail to show up in bigger numbers on voting day as opposed to those in Central Kenya.

And it is not just in Luo Nyanza. While key bastions of Nasa political support in Kakamega and Bungoma Counties in Western Kenya and Coastal counties of Mombasa and Kilifi have comparable population numbers with Jubilee Party’s strongholds of Kiambu and Nakuru Counties, the former posted drastically different voter registration and voter turn outs in the 2002 and 2013 elections with the trend replicating itself in the just concluded 2017 elections.

These trends in voter behaviour are replicated across the board (barring Nyanza region and Nairobi County) and indicate drastic differences in political consciousness and the dynamics of political power such that, at the end of the day, many votes in NASA strongholds were not harnessed to enhance Raila’s campaign and his eventual numbers at the ballot.

The trend also shows the so called tyranny of numbers is not a preserve of Jubilee Party regions only, just that the two political formations, Jubilee and NASA, mobilize their strongholds differently.

The patterns are especially critical given the thin margins between the winners and losers in 2013 and the neck to neck projections captured by pollsters in the 2017 elections.