A few months ago, entering the Opoda farm, the home of Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga in Bondo, and one in Riat that overlooks Kisumu International Airport was as easy as visiting any other homestead around. You didn’t need a prior appointment.
That is not the case anymore. Today one has to clearly state the mission and the person to be seen, and the host must give the greenlight before the mean-looking security personnel at the gates allow entry.
Whereas the state has provided all presidential candidates with security by the state, with officers deployed at their homes and escorts wherever they go, it is the recarpeting of the roads leading to Opoda a while back that generated much interest.
Locals read this as confirmation that power was eventually coming home after Mr Odinga’s four unsuccessful attempts at the presidency.
They are waiting with bated breath for the historic moment, if it happens.
To residents, the heightened activity, and the interest by the international press, might foreshadow an Odinga presidency.
The Nation in Kenya is pursuing reports that a number of neighbours of the Opoda farm may have been approached for possible compensation so as to be relocated. The intention, our informers say, is to create an adequate security buffer zone if he wins the August 9 elections.
The homes of presidents are treated as security installations, especially for the period they are in power. The President is the commander-in-chief of the defense forces.
The major difference between now and Mr Odinga’s previous stabs at the top job is that unlike before, the state is perceived to be rooting for his ticket, with retiring President Uhuru Kenyatta actively on the campaign trail to drum up support for him.
In the past few elections, Kisumu and its environs would at a time like this be witnessing massive deployment of state security to pre-empt any election-related violence. And what would follow was a brutal crackdown that led to death and destruction. Baby Pendo and tens of others lost their lives in the riots that followed the announcement of Mr Kenyatta’s victory in 2017.
Mr Reagan Odindo, a resident of Bondo, told the Nation that this was a good sign ahead of next week’s elections.
“We are hoping for the best, the wind of leadership is blowing in our town. We have never witnessed anything of this sort for the past four attempts that Mr Odinga has run for President,” said Mr Odindo.
He added: “Contrary to other elections, when we saw military tanks deployed to his strongholds, this time around we are seeing our son getting VIP security services instead.”
Mr Odinga’s Opoda home is located off the Bondo-Kisumu road.
Besides beefed-up security, Bondo town has undergone a complete metamorphosis in the last three years, with some projects being initiated and other sections upgraded.
First was the last-mile water project that was supposed to benefit 4,000 households for KeSh250 million. It is to be completed and the services of the Siaya Bondo Water and Sanitation Company extended.
The town also benefited from major road projects that were supposed to be upgraded to bitumen standards in order to ease movement and open up business opportunities.
Owners of business premises built on road reserves have been ordered to remove them so as to allow room for upgrading the town.
Work on the 27km Bondo-Uyawi-Liunda road that will consume about KeSh2 billion is ongoing and it will connect the town to other smaller towns and trading centre. The initial arrangement, according to the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU), was for President Kenyatta to launch the road before leaving office this month.
Other feeder roads in the town that also got a facelift include the Opoda farm-Bondo one and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University Road, which was tarmacked by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority.
The road connecting Bondo to Kang’o Kajaramogi also received a facelift after it was refurbished; Kang’o Kajaramogi is the home of Kenya’s first vice-president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Mr Odinga’s father, and is gazetted as a national monument.
All these were abandoned until after the rapprochement, or the “handshake”, between the President and Mr Odinga in March 2018.
Siaya County also received a modern fish-landing site that is part of the presidential flagship projects in Nyanza and it is ready for official launch, according to Francis Owino, the principal secretary in the state department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy.
The site, located in Luanda Kotieno, Rarieda sub-county, was set up for Sh140 million and will serve 2,000 fishermen.
“The modern facilities are essential in ensuring that the fishermen store their fish as they look for a market. For decades, fishermen have had to sell fish to middlemen at throwaway prices,” said Dr Owino during an inspection tour of the site.
He added: “This is one of the projects that is so dear to the President and soon they will be launched to begin operations. For decades the fishing community in Nyanza was forgotten and to them now, the construction of the landing beaches is a sign of inclusion by the Jubilee government.”
Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo lauded the project, saying it will change the lives of fishermen.
“It is a new dawn for the fishing community in Rarieda. This facility will allow fishermen to sell their product at a favourable price. There will be no hurry in selling fish to the middlemen,” he said.
Before the handshake that ended political enmity between the ODM leader and Mr Kenyatta, the Nyanza region was perceived to have received few projects from previous administrations. With the truce, the region received other flagship projects.
The other projects that were earmarked for unveiling by the Head of State are the KeSh3.8 billion rehabilitated Nakuru-Kisumu metre gauge railway; the KeSh3 billion refurbished Kisumu port; KeSh350 million ultramodern Uhuru business park; Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK grounds; Ugunja-Sega water project; Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex; Inland Container Depot at Kibos; and a 400kV power project by Ketraco.
The refurbishing of the Kisumu port was meant to open up the lakeside city to East Africa as a business hub and create over 100,000 job opportunities for locals in the regional blue economy.
Compared with previous heads of state, Mr Kenyatta has visited the Nyanza region many times in his second term. This prompted politicians like Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria to lament that the President had forgotten about his Central Kenya backyard and that he had focused all his attention on a place whose residents did not vote for him.