With elections only nine days away, the two leading presidential contenders – President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga – are putting in place serious machinery to ensure they register a massive voter turnout in their respective strongholds.
READ: IEBC: 19.6m Kenyans eligible to vote
Both Mr Kenyatta (Jubilee) and Mr Odinga (Nasa) have enlisted bar owners, matatu operators, shopkeepers as well as private firms who would ordinarily not give their employees off-days even on public holidays to achieve maximum effect.
READ: Voter turnout key to winning elections
As such and from the look of things, the polls could register the highest voter turnout in the country’s history.
Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe said Nyumba Kumi initiative is their basic unit of voter-mobilisation.
“We have a total of 500,000 party volunteers from every village to help with this.
“This is an addition to the 45,000 agents in polling centres who are also charged with boosting Jubilee’s chances of winning,” he told the Sunday Nation.
The team of volunteers will each liaise with agents at around 2 pm to ensure that all those still in the villages, the sick or those physically disabled are assisted to come and vote.
On Saturday, Nasa chief executive Norman Magaya said each adopt-a-polling station committee will have a copy of voters’ register to ensure everybody turns out.
“In each of the committee, there is a person in charge of logistics who will organise how those in far-flung places or those who cannot make it to the station will be assisted,” he said.
READ: IEBC to seek consensus with Nasa on poll agents
Kisumu deputy governor and Nyanza regional adopt-a-polling station coordinator Ruth Odinga says the polling station adopter will work with five stewards and party delegates.
“Adopters will facilitate feeding of station watchers on the polling day. They target 100 per cent voter turnout in each polling station,” she said.
The ambitious plan will even see the sick assisted out of their hospital beds, a plan feared to likely expose them to danger.
A conservative estimate by insiders from both camps says about Sh5 billion will go into this undertaking.
While Jubilee has not publicised their strategy like Nasa has, the design and coordination on election day assumes more or less the same format as that of their opponent.
Already Matatu Owners Association has thrown its weight behind Mr Kenyatta’s second term bid.
Chairman Simon Kimutai on Thursday announced they will be ferrying the elderly and people living with disabilities for free to and from polling centres, a decision arrived at after a National Governing Council meeting.
The move was preceded by a State House meeting with Mr Kenyatta.
And just in case some bar owners fail to toe the line, the Interior ministry will reportedly be on the lookout to enforce the agreement in President Kenyatta’s Central Kenya backyard.
The region has borne the brunt of illicit liquor in the past and Mr Kenyatta personally led a campaign to stamp out the menace.
County commissioners have been put on high alert to crack down on unscrupulous vendors selling illicit liquor on or before election day.
The Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya (Perak) chairman Patrick Muia said that to avoid a blanket shutdown by the government, they were resorting to self-regulation to ensure members close early on Monday to allow people ample time to vote.
He said he will be writing to all Perak members to close their premises latest by 11 pm Monday.
“There is anxiety as members are concerned about an imminent closure by the authorities.
“We are however asking the government not to go that route as business will suffer; we have rents and bills to pay even on that day,” he said, adding the patrons coming on Tuesday will be required to show proof of having voted.
According to Mbele Iko Sawa lobby led by outspoken Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, each and every individual from Central and Rift Valley are expected to display IEBC’s ink on their finger before they can buy/sell any goods or take part in any social event.
The President’s men admit that a superior voter turnout from his strongholds will give their man an easy sail.
Anything less than 90 per cent will see the seat slip away from Mr Kenyatta, making him a one term President, they say.
To counter this, Nasa is on an overdrive to persuade the Luhya, the second largest community by the last census, to come and help “neutralise central region”.
Mr Magaya, himself a Luhya, says they will this time round overcome the long-held belief that they never come out in large numbers to vote.
Figures by the electoral commission show that an average of 40 per cent of potential voters from the former western province did not come out to vote in the last two polls.
The fact that the region is not fronting a presidential candidate of its own has been cited as a possible cause of apathy in a country where people only vote to a man when their sons or daughters are running for office.
The reality and high stakes has seen the opposition intensify its activities there.
But as it plots to stop Nasa in its tracks, Jubilee is alarmed by a unique category of reluctant voters who appear to have made it clear that they will not be voting.
The reasons they advance vary, with some citing the rising cost of living.
“What still poses some challenge to us are those who do not see a reason to turn out but, by the time we wake up on that Tuesday, we shall have won their hearts; remember you cannot force anyone to vote,” Mr Murathe expressed their frustration.
As a corrective measure, Mr Kenyatta is expected to make a last-minute whirlwind tour of his backyard to try and persuade them to not only save him the agony of losing, but also ensure that he decisively wins the tight race.
None of the leading contenders wants a run-off.
READ: State House race tight — Poll
Mr Kenyatta is expected in Kirinyaga on Sunday and in Manyatta, Embu, to somewhat rekindle the excitement his ticket attracted in the last poll in these areas.
The President will address a final campaign rally at Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi, on Saturday.
According to a source in Mr Kenyatta’s inner circles, he is also adopting a deliberate change of messaging to vigorously target the youth.
Jubilee’s internal evaluation suggests that Mr Kenyatta has not reached out to the youth as robustly as he did in 2013 when he ran on the platform of youthfulness (digital) and branded his opponent, Mr Odinga, analogue.
Although in hushed tones, party stalwarts admit that unlike four-and-a-half years ago when the criminal charges Mr Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto faced at The Hague-based International Criminal Court became handy in rallying support across the country, the duo has been struggling to get a central mobilisation subject onto which to ride to a second term in office.
They say development or projects implemented so far has not been as potent as they thought in wooing the masses.
Admittedly, ICC was the hipbone that joined UhuRuto and keen to save them the agony of being bundled away.
ICC is no longer a campaign subject after the cases were terminated three years ago.
Since this election is to them a bridge to State House since Mr Ruto hopes to ride on Mr Kenyatta’s victory for a second term to launch his 2022 bid, voters from Rift Valley are expected to cast their ballots in large numbers.