'Opinion polls lied to us', Bondo residents say after IEBC announcement

Construction equipment on site on July 31, 2022 during repair of the Bondo-Kisian Road that leads to Raila Odinga’s home. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The air of euphoria that had seeped into all corners of Bondo, Siaya County in the run-up to August 9, 2022 presidential election has worn out. Residents of the small town have returned to work. Politics and remarks of regret are commonplace in almost every conversation.

IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati on Monday, August 15 declared William Ruto the president-elect after getting 7.18 million votes (50.49 per cent) against Odinga’s 6.94 million (48.85 per cent).

Residents of Bondo, the homeland of Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga, were almost certain he was going to become Kenya's fifth president. 

The Standard went to Bondo to find out what residents feel following the announcment of the presidential results on Monday, August 15.

We found Millicent Ogina, a 34-year-old vegetable vendor at the largest trading centre in Bondo Town, Migingo market, busy chopping vegetables outside her kibanda. She appears deep in thought.

Dashed hopes

“I was hopeful, very hopeful of an Odinga victory,” she says. “I have supported his politics throughout my adult life, and I knew his presidency would give me satisfaction like no other.”

According to Ogina, all indicators pointed to Raila winning. “All the opinion polls that we read in the media placed him ahead of [Deputy President William] Ruto. I’m yet to understand how the tables turned. For a while now, I have been thinking maybe the opinion polls lied to us,” she said.

Despite Ruto being declared president-elect by IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati, Ogina still clings to hope that should Raila file a petition, the Supreme Court will give Raila another chance for Kenyans to vote and grant him victory.

“He (Raila) has said he will challenge Ruto’s win in court. I’m looking forward to his victory at the Supreme Court. I’m confident the judges will find his arguments convincing,” she said.

Blames IEBC

A few metres from Ogina’s stall is Beatrice Akinyi, a fish monger. She is busy gutting fish before tossing them into the stockpot, where they’ll deep-fry. The 38-year-old woman blames IEBC chairperson Chebukati for the results that did not fulfil her expectations.

“I wish he consulted and listened to the four protesting Commissioners before releasing the results. Had he done that, we’d be satisfied with the outcome, even if Ruto was still declared the president-elect,” she said.

Not far from Akinyi’s shop, another trader, Christine Aluoch, spreads out her vegetables for display. We approach her for comment, she gets animated, but the excitement fades almost immediately.

“We’d started celebrating his expected victory on Tuesday night after voting earlier that day (August 9). The results that were streaming on television indicated he was on a path to victory. I slept late that night when he was still in the lead. How things changed, and the deputy president caught up with him, remains a mystery to me,” said the 40-year-old Aluoch.

“The Azimio manifesto, especially the Sh6,000 monthly stipend for needy households, would have cushioned Kenyans against the adverse effects of a struggling economy,” she said.

Fears of being neglected

Aluoch fears President-elect Ruto will neglect Siaya County and the larger Nyanza region. “We never saw him campaigning in Bondo or other parts of Siaya. He actually confined his campaigns to Kisii parts of the greater Nyanza region. I hope he’ll change the way he views us. Yes, we voted for Raila Odinga, but that doesn’t mean he should neglect this part of the country. When he takes oath of office, he’ll pledge to serve all Kenyans equitably, and that’s what he should strive to do,” added the mother-of-three.

Across Migingo market, a garage is sprouting up.

Michael Oloo, 45, is a mechanic at the garage. He says he has voted for Raila all the five times he's run for the top job in 1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022.

“Jakom (Raila) has never been so close to the presidency than he was in the recent election,” said Oloo. “I hope Ruto unites the country and gives Nyanza good attention the way President Uhuru Kenyatta has done,” he added.

Hustler narrative

Peter Odek, a 28-year-old boda boda operator in Bondo Town, said Ruto first defeated Odinga in strategy before transferring the success to the ballot box.

“He (Ruto) knew what to do. For instance, he consolidated Mt. Kenya, made inroads into Raila’s strongholds, galvanised Rift Valley to turn out and vote, selected a campaign message that resonated with many Kenyans – the hustler narrative,” said Odek.

There are mixed feelings among residents in Bondo. But one thing is for sure, life is slowly returning to normal as residents wait to see if Raila will file a petition, and the grounds that he'd rely on to challenge the results announced by IEBC.