Another theory of poll theft has Kenyans yawning

Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (centre) with other Azimio leaders

Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (centre) with other Azimio leaders during a media briefing at his Karen office on January 19, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Almost six months after the contentious August 9, 2022, General Election that was confirmed as legitimate by the Supreme Court, the last thing that tired, broke, restless and hungry wananchi want is this endless lament about who stole or who was robbed of victory in the elections.

Even those that should feel the loss most intensely — Azimio candidates Raila Odinga and Martha Karua — have accepted to move on even if they are on record as disagreeing with the Supreme Court decision.

The latest episode in this drama are revelations allegedly thrown up by a whistle-blower identified as an electoral official detailing how now happily retired former IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and his team presided over a fraudulent poll that, had it been done right, would have handed victory to Mr Odinga by well over a million votes.

The revelations triggered the expected excitement, with senior Azimio leaders unleashing angry statements condemning the results, and promising to release the full dossier that should “shake the nation”.

At the time of writing, Mr Odinga had not officially commented on the allegations although he is expected to echo the sentiments of Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni and Wiper leader (and partner in Azimio) Kalonzo Musyoka’s.

Apart from reactions from these leaders, the allegations have produced little more than a tired yawn from the general public. The common person is tired of the politicking that has had the country in an endless loop for far too long. We know that it will take a fundamental structural change in people’s thinking and lifestyles for them to be freed from the political grip that poverty has placed them, but this apathy is a welcome beginning.

It started even before they went to the polls on August 9. Pessimists had predicted chaos and significant social schisms because of the intensity and viciousness of the poll campaigns. But the day came, voting happened, and the verdict was waited for patiently through days of counting. Even when the delay was read as mischief by some leaders, wananchi were just not being enticed to violence.

The same stoicism was evident in the lead-up to the start of the election petition and even after the court ruled that President-elect William Ruto had indeed been elected properly and legally. Nervous eyes were trained on Raila Odinga’s Luo Nyanza strongholds, but even there his usually trigger-happy supporters remained calm.

Political maturity 

Apart from this political maturity partly born out of the horrible experience of the past and mature leadership from the losing side that encouraged people to stay calm, events since then have cemented the resolve to not take this politicking too seriously.

Politicians, being the consummate self-seekers, are already finding ways to collaborate and/or move on. Kalonzo Musyoka is angling for the Azimio leadership and hopes that Mr Odinga will finally cede space and allow someone else to lead the party. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters in Jubilee are desperate to redefine their spaces and relevance and feel that fighting for a cause that is going nowhere is eating up goodwill that is better harnessed.

Elsewhere, President Ruto, himself with eyes trained very firmly on 2027, is softening the opposition. Forays into Nyanza to pitch directly to the voters are complemented by bold moves within Parliament to set up a comfortable and rewarding space for Mr Odinga as the Official Leader of the Opposition, a move that the intended beneficiary seems all too happy to embrace.

But perhaps the most powerful disincentive for Kenyans is the punishing economic reality they are suffering through. The climate change-triggered drought and its attendant hunger and misery have effectively sidelined close to five million Kenyans. Those not threatened with death because of drought are nonetheless starving because the cost of basic food items has spiralled out of control.

One hundred shillings now is buying almost 40 per cent less than it was buying same time last year and this shrunken basket of goods is going to reduce even further by the end of this January when fuel subsidies that are still providing some cushion are fully eliminated. The pain gets worse with the knowledge that the taxman is likely to strike yet again in places that he had so far not targeted.

To borrow a trendy phrase, Kenyans are being seriously “character developed” by a combination of realities. As they grow up politically, thanks to the urge to self-preserve, the trauma of pain inflicted by a shrivelled shilling, an anaemic economy and the uncertainty of a hopeless tomorrow does not make for a mindset receptive to theories about cooked numbers that stole an election.

Mr Mshindi, a former editor-in-chief of Nation Media Group, is now consulting. [email protected]; @TMshindi