In the horizon I can hear boda boda guys urging a sleepy town to wake up and go vote. I am on Wanyee Rd, heading to Toi Primary School, just off Ngong Rd, one of the main arteries that feed the heart of Nairobi CBD.
Ngong Rd hardly ever slept but then again Ngong Rd hardly ever sleeps. The road is teeming with voters who are headed to exercise their civic duty — vuvuzeleas, firimbis and vigor in tow.
0610hrs: Toi Primary School: Commotion as voters tear the polling streams from the wall. I meet a Vincent who was up at 3 AM but is rather relaxed. “Hapa hakuna jam,” he assures me as a small line of agitated voters starts to assemble.
0629hrs: I access Polling Station 1 at Toi Primary School. Constitutionally a polling station is not to have more than 700 voters, the askari informs me. I want to see the average time it takes for a single voter to finish the exercise. Six minutes.
The Deputy Polling Officer, Rogers Ogutu informs me that there is assisted voting, with assistants being required to sign an oath of secrecy.
0644hrs: A voter, Duncan O., 52, causes uproar in Polling Station 2 complaining that the IEBC have refused with his ID. After a standoff, he is escorted out of the premises and assured that “ID haijapotea mzee.”
Officials claim he may have inserted it with his ballot papers. As he leaves the premises with the assurance of a callback, I trail him and head to St. Joseph’s Kangethe Primary School, in Kibera Constituency—barely a stone’s throw away from Toi Primary School.
0655hrs: At St. Joseph Kang’ethe, they have six streams each with around 620 people per polling station. However, there are complains of lack of assisted voting/access for people with disability who most have either turned away or been directed to wait. Othewise “mambo ni shwari“, as Dennis, the DPO tells me. Off I head to Jamhuri Primary School.
0704hrs: Tight security as a GSU truck ferrying soldiers on Joseph Kange’the Rd is received by the “firimbi movement”. According to the firimbi-wielding voters, once you vote, you blow the firimbi. This is the sign that you have not only voted, but you have voted for you-know-who.
07:13hrs: At Jamhuri Primary, the queues are hardly long with voters well organised and are helping each other to verify their details online.
There are several agents, with the voting process taking longer as the officials are confirming with both the manual and online verification. However, other polling stations still at Jamhuri Primary, are not using the manual voter verification, cutting polling time to not more than two minutes per voter. With nine polling stations, this happens to be one of the busiest and most populous polling centres.
0742hrs: Ngong Rd is less busy than usual. We are heading to Riruta Primary School, and Kinyanjui Primary School, Dagoretti South Constituency. Usually silent, the loud matatus that ply the route from Kawangware and Ngong are passing by only in minutes.
0756hrs: At Kinyanjui and Riruta Primary Schools, voters woke up to find new posters of candidates splashed on the walls. However, that did not seem to inspire them to vote early as only a handful of people are streaming into the polling stations.
0827hrs: “Watu hawana pesa! Wako hivi hivi.” Small business owners and “mobile hotels” are feeling the pinch of low voter numbers. Boniface Mwenda, 26 and Peter Mwiki, 32, woke up at 4am to sell coffee (Kshs 10) and mandazis (Ksh 10).
1020hrs: “Tunangoja Baba!” I arrive at Old Kibera Primary School and I am met with a standing ovation. Only, it’s not for me. But for Azimio Presidential Candidate, Raila Amolo Odinga. This is his polling station, among his people, and you can almost taste the hysteria and delirium in the air. Baba fever, they call it. If Baba has not voted, no one else can vote. Railamania at its absolute finest.
1051hrs: It’s impossible to catch a glimpse of Raila at Old Kibra Primary School. Many have been forced to go on top of trees, buildings and cars to see the presidential candidate.
1054hrs: If you’ve read Isaac Otidi Amuke’s profile of Raila Odinga, you’ll remember how the term Railamania came to be.