We must learn to carry our own Cross

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Early this week I found myself wrongly in the news being accused with other senior NRM and government officials of ‘disliking’ and ‘fighting’ the outgoing Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, which claims are contemptuous and shouldn’t pass unchallenged otherwise it becomes a tradition. Without repudiating President Yoweri Museveni’s counsel on handling internal contradictions, l hold that mutual respect must be accorded to all view points in a national discourse. Attempts to shift blame won’t do because local politics is delicious poison, and as the adage goes, the monkey up a tree leaves its behind exposed for all to see.

It isn’t the intention in this column to pour scorn on the Speaker as an individual or institution, but rather put records straight, and urge every leader to carry their own cross especially during difficult times. I respect Kadaga but disagree with her methods. The NRM must accept a vibrant, frank and disciplined internal ideological struggle to shape its leadership direction.

During the week Kadaga was reported or misrepresented in the media among other things to have told MPs from Busoga region at hotel Africana that she cannot accept any other position including Vice President because it is of little or no consequence, yet no such offer had been extended. The nudging by some MPs at that meeting wasn’t as helpful because while leadership maybe serene, it has its brutal landscape. After thirty years affirmative seat should shift to another woman.

Many will find this assertion from a lawyer and Speaker of parliament bizarre if not downright condescending considering that under the constitution of Uganda, the VP is number two in hierarchy of authority, and is vetted by Parliament. To assert that the VP position is useless and cannot deliver public goodies to the respective constituents is a journey through the sewer pipes. So, un-elected officials like Justices of Courts who have nothing tangible to deliver to Ugandans shouldn’t be respected!

Positions in government including that of President, Vice president, speaker and cabinet are collective and shouldn’t be used to feather personal nests. This type of mindset that government positions is for rewarding kith, kin and neighbours, and not the general public equitably is empty and betrays the grand standing. 

Also, if indeed the vice presidency is useless, many would expect that someone who has been a longstanding backbench MP since 1989, Minister, deputy speaker and Speaker over the last three decades should have sponsored an amendment to either strengthen or scrap the VP altogether. Currently there is a Constitutional amendment Bill by Wilfred Niwagaba (MP Ndorwa East) which MPs who really think the VP is a figurehead should take advantage of.

But in any case those who have been deputy speaker and speaker, positions said to be ‘powerful’ and can deliver tangible goods to constituents yet have recently cried loudly that Busoga is the third poorest region after Karamoja and Bukedi. After the recently concluded election they appeared on multiple television and radio stations saying that Busoga had gained so little under the NRM administration in which they have been leaders. And they argued that it is because of the poor roads, schools, health facilities, low commodity prices, and widespread poverty that President Museveni wasn’t given majority votes. It was an inadvertent admission that contrary to the claims of being powerful there isn’t much an individual leader had delivered for the Basoga.

For the record many of the intransigent who have benefitted most from President Museveni and NRM all-round magnanimity especially on account of affirmative action for women and regional balancing within government. Therefore, they should be the last to complain publicly when still enjoying pickings from the public trough.

Many of us value the support, counsel, and delicate balancing President Museveni has endured over the last three decades to build NRM as a formidable political organisation while simultaneously delivering tangible public goods and services. President Museveni has had to leave out many compatriots in the background to accommodate former adversaries on the front benches. Many cadres of solid repute have remained in junior positions so that the Johnnies come lately are accommodated to facilitate the building of a viable NRM and a stable, inclusive, and prosperous Uganda.

It is necessary for NRM leaders to always remember that they are only small pieces in the cog of the system. It has been so with many patriots who fell during and after the bush war. Some like David Ssejusa, Mugisha Muntu, Augustine Ruzindana, Bidandi Ssali, Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, Gilbert Bukenya, and Amama Mbabazi among others have stumbled along the away and we should remain grateful for their contribution as the revolution and indeed Uganda continue to roll forward.

As citizens, and specifically NRM cadres, it is our solemn patriotic duty to stand firm and demand that our voice is heard in the governance of Uganda by every leader including those topmost without exception. Any leader who believes they can ram their way against dissenters to their leadership style must be opposed and brought to appreciate that Uganda isn’t their private estates.