The Irony of Ahero’s Bank in the Bar

His voice is loud enough to be heard above the din at the Ahero bus park. He lacks any striking features. A pocket of people appear interested in what he may be saying while others go about their business unperturbed. Yet he appears not to take notice. In fact from afar one would mistake him for one of those deranged people found in most towns across the country.

This is until you crane your neck a little bit to get a whiff of his ranting, then, your intuition about his sanity start becoming a bit blurred.

How do you take all the earnings from your rice harvest and walk into a bar thumping your chest drink me (madhauru) am rich, he quips.

Some even think they have won the ultimate Jackpot and hurls abuses at everyone daring them to drink at his expense if they feel offended, he goes on, to the amusement of women vendors who can now be heard stifling a laughter.

With a solemn tone he proceeds; but the most deluded of all are our men folk who leave their hard working wives at home for the company of some salt-less plastics of human beings, which now send the women to an uproar thinking he was done, then he hits the high octane.

The pain in his tone unmistakable, he poses a rhetorical question how can a town of this stature, a rice belt, be without a bank? Smaller villages where they have never grown nothing have banks! before he sadly limps away in search of another spot to carry on with his trade.

Ahero town can rightly be referred to as the economic hub of Nyando Sub County. The national census (2009) places the population of Ahero town at above 10,000 and that of Nyando sub county at over 140,000 residents.

According to the Chair of the body that oversees matters dealing with local development also known as Kano Dongruok Riwruok Manyien (RIDOKAM), Abel Kitoto, the town was at one time the host of an active branch of a local bank but which closed shop when operations became unsustainable.

The dwindling fortunes in rice faming hit our people hard especially due to lack of market that was also exacerbated by flooding with foreign rice, which brought doom to our people, Kitoto recounts painfully.

Unfortunately when the bank closed shop, he recalls, they turned the place into a bar and called it, The Bank!

But the Chairman Kisumu County Chamber of Commerce, Israel Agina, believes there is more to it than what meets the eye and says that the rice issue aside local residents are spongy on matters saving.

There is no denying that Ahero experienced an economic slump as a result of the declining returns associated with rice farming, but we cannot pretend that this region has no potential in terms of resource, so if you ask me then we have the capacity to have several banks in this town, opines Agina.

Ahero Jua kali Association Chairman, Silas Kungu, has similar sentiments and says what ails the town is the poor saving culture among most of the residents.

Our people are gifted with a more than larger life propensity to consume; most would rather die poor but proud, Kungu mules and the cost of this malady has been heavy especially on the business community operating within Ahero town as witnessed with constant robbery of MPESA shops.

According to Nyando sub county Deputy County Commissioner, Joseph Satia, and the rampant attacks on the MPESA shops because they are the major custodians of monies within the town.

The DCC notes that criminal gangs have become brazen in raiding the MPESA shops because they are certain of making away with sizeable loot.

The administrator has since appealed to local banks to set up branches within Ahero town in a bid to curb the robbery incidences.

So next time you are in Ahero town be careful. You may just find yourself depositing money at The Bank at your own peril, for it may be the wrong bank.

By Milton Onyango