The National Resistance Movement (NRM) has recently emerged from the exercise of electing flagbearers for Member of Parliament, Local Council 5 chairpersons, Mayors of Municipal councils and divisions and councilors. “Heated” is all one could use to describe these elections as captured in some media platforms.
The elections were largely successful albeit with fallouts on the basis of both real and perceived fraudulent actions which gave the wrong candidates advantage and consequently, undeserved victory. People are bitter but it could have been worse if the voting methodology had not been as transparent as queuing behind candidates or their symbols could get.
Whatever outcomes and whatever decisions are made concerning those who have petitioned, NRM proved that it is still the bull in the political kraal of Uganda. That enviable position is very delicate and we must be very careful if we are to stay afloat.
The explosive primary elections have revealed the weak joints in the party’s skeletal framework. When it comes to elections, people become something else! If primaries were held more regularly, the party may easily split because the appetite for victory and power is too much that brothers can turn against each other for votes. It is as if members are forced together because the running dispensation provides for belonging to organised groups (political parties). Isolationism for personal benefit is the name of te game. It is okay to build careers or vie to offer leadership but broad day thuggery and violation of applicable rules is, as Mzee would say, reprehensible.
NRM is a young political party. It was lucky to be founded on the block of a strong revolutionary body-the NRM which was a political wing of the famous National Resistance Army (NRA) which fought and defeated the Obote and Lutwa regimes. NRM, the civil organization, is supposed to maintain and uphold the culture, ideals and fortitude of its revolutionary “parent(s)”. NRM/NRA got Uganda from the depth of the abyss; how can NRM, with the people firmly behind it, fail to consolidate that achievement?
It is all about identifying the historical mission of the NRM(O) generation, setting goals, building a super structure and heading out to achieve the mission objectives. In that equation, discipline is paramount; NRA was very stern with matters of discipline, which explains why military culture under NRM is all about orderliness and maximum respect for civilians.
Why then is NRM, the party, on the brink as witnessed during the recently help primaries for MPs and the Local Councils? NRM/NRA succeeded because they never took chances with the enemy. Why can’t the NRM supporters operate on a similar principle much as we are talking of elections and not war?
Following wide-ranging disputes about outcomes from various constituencies and districts, there is concern that dissatisfaction on the conduct of the primaries may hurt NRM seriously for the benefit of the opposition. I believe that that possibility is not far off. It is better if we regarded the fallout from the primaries as an emergency issue even though not every constituency recorded major incidents. The few hotspot areas have caused the semblance of a total anarchy in the party. Whatever the size of the problem area, it is best to resolve emerging issues early so that we have a clear “way forward” as one family.
All those who could have had a hand in the mess should be attended to appropriately as an example to the rest that NRM does not condone manipulative games. Registrars who tampered with figures in favour of some candidates in exchange for bribes should be rehabilitated, just to use friendly terms. And mostly, justice should be served so that true democracy is reflected in the mass party.
Some registrars and candidates are said to have taken advantage of President Yoweri Museveni’s directive as NRM National Chairman to allow known supporters of NRM in their respective areas to vote even though their names weren’t in the register and started ferrying people from other areas to vote. As far as I am concerned, Mzee didn’t direct people to bring opposition supporters to vote for them, so nobody should blame party chairman for their indiscipline and impunity.
How does anybody who really belongs to NRM and wishes the party well ship in opposition members to vote him or her? Doesn’t that mean that the “offenders” have given a platform to the opposition to shape the internal agenda and structure of NRM to suit their goals? Why didn’t they mobilise them earlier during the registration exercise to formalise them as NRM members since by participating in voting they expressed willingness to join? What assurance do we have that they will vote the same people in the general elections since the “pact” with them was particular to voting?
I am not saying that opposition is taking 2021 or anything like that; I am only arguing that NRM is so firm and integrated with the Ugandan masses that it would take making mistakes on a super scale to overturn the advantage. Opposition has no organisational capacity to overpower or infiltrate NRM or ride on its back except if NRM is willing to give its back to its rivals.
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management