OFWONO OPONDO: NRM Members, don’t Treat Elections like a War Zone

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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo

In the past one month, the NRM has dominated news media and public discourse, mostly for very good reasons with its preparations for the nomination of the flag-bearers for president, parliament, district local government chairpersons and councilors, setting the stage for elections that are now underway. After the nominations, NRM convened a virtual National Conference comprising over sixteen thousand delegates to elect Central Executive Committee (CEC) members, which by all accounts went successfully.

The drawback was isolated cases of bad-mouthing between Mike Mukula who retained his eastern seat, and competitor Sanjay Tanna accusing each other of bribery and racial slur to sway voters. In addition, Rebecca Kadaga who has enjoyed the female affirmative seat for generations appeared to have been slighted that this time round, the race wasn’t a walk-over because a new entrant, Percy Namuganza vigorously challenged her and only the ballot decided matters in her favour.

Kadaga who won after a high profile campaign across Uganda, has been all-over the media crying foul that state agencies she hasn’t named didn’t tried to undermine her candidacy as if the CEC seat is meant to be on a person-to-holder basis. It ought to be embarrassing that Kadaga who has enjoyed the female affirmative elective seat as woman MP Kamuli district since 1989, and NRM CEC member from 2010 should be shedding crocodile tears instead of perhaps let go, especially to younger woman. Unfortunately many in NRM are treating elective political positions is if they were family investments not to allow in outsiders.

The only presidential aspirant, President Yoweri Museveni was declared flag-bearer unopposed after paying twenty million and no other candidate showed interest. Each MP aspirant paid two million shillings while those for district chairpersons paid one million bringing in close to five billion into the NRM party coffers.

A total of 2,051 aspirants picked nomination forms. Direct Constituency MP aspirants were 1,112 raking in 2.4bn/=, district woman MP, 584 bringing in 1.1bn/=, District Local Government Chairpersons 312 coughing 312m/=, and 46 aspirants for Special Interest groups of Youths, Persons With Disability (PWDs) and Workers seats brought in 92m/=.

These numbers of aspirants are significant in many respects particularly looking back to 2017 and 2018, the backdrop of constitutional amendment to remove the presidential age limit which many detractors had claimed would hover over NRM politicians and scare them away from seeking NRM election tickets. Now with the opposition parties in complete disarray, battering each other or being defeated by NRM in the ongoing special interest group elections, only NRM can spoil its solid and positive election trajectory. There is no need to treat elections like a war zone. The twenty-one MP aspirants who went through unopposed at the NRM primaries conducted last week provide good example of consensus politics. Three ministers opted out of elections, perhaps indicating the heat they were facing back in their constituencies.

It means, NRM unlike other parties, will be able to field candidates in every elective vacancy that will be competed for when the Independent Electoral Commission calls for nominations. It further demonstrates that NRM is the most preferred ticket to hold in the forthcoming general elections, opposition groups and their allies in the media and civil society can only envy. Opposition groups that behave like lazy magicians have unsuccessfully tried to frighten Ugandans with insidious threats to cause trouble if not elected, are between rock and a hard place. But they haven’t given up holding onto the credulity of their supporters who easily believe in lies. NRM needs to continually expose the mendacity, incompetence and lies that the opposition sells every day.

Also, NRM has demonstrated that contrary to opposition skepticisms, electioneering under the COVID19 pandemic can actually be conducted virtually, with adherence to standard operating procedures. Much of these campaigns, save for a few incidents have been through the media, gatherings of fewer people where sanitation and social distancing was effectively observed unlike holding large public rallies.

Usually, it is when NRM political conventions and primaries to select candidates for parliament are behind us and nominations for the general elections approaching, that down-ballot friction laced with intimidation, violence, other wicked behaviour, and melodrama kicks in.

At the start of the 2020 cycle, the parliamentary races weren’t expected to be all that exciting, with NRM prospective candidates largely in hiding and on defense especially in public spaces like at social functions and media.

NRM candidates ought to be grateful that Ugandans have during the last three and half decades given their party the trust to lead Uganda, and shouldn’t abuse it by the nefarious conduct including violence, bribery and tampering with voters register.

It has been evident, that it is NRM candidates including sitting ministers who flout government SOPs for COVID19 SOPs with impunity. It further embarrasses that those who claim links to the president or State House like in Sembabule, Bushenyi and Rwampara should be the ones found on the fault lines. After NRM internal polls are done, there is for introspection tonsure that the general election atmosphere is tranquil.

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The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre

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