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Rev. Bakaluba and the opposition that we need

The new Local Council 5 chairman of Mukono district, Rev. Peter Bakaluba Mukasa, has chosen a member of the NRM, Mr. Asuman Muhumuza, to be his deputy. This is a very commendable move and I thank Rev. Bakaluba for the brotherly spirit seeing beyond political differences. I believe it may have to do with his background as a clergyman, resisting the temptation to discriminate anybody and using his original NRM lenses to see the good in everybody.

The LC 5 chairman was formerly a member of NRM who served as a Member of Parliament (MP), and is known for having been developmental until he was disorganised by a ruthless opposition. I don’t think NRM minds having a person carrying an opposition party card who is blind to party colour affiliation and works for the people. The sign of unity in Mukono promises to bring good things to the district, and I appeal to all districts to work out an arrangement of unity in leadership in their areas.

I don’t know who else has extended Bakaluba’s gesture but when I get to know I will pay tribute to them.

The kind of opposition represented by Rev. Bakaluba is what we need; opposition not for the sake of opposing but opposition which looks on the brighter side of political differences. Once one wins a seat in government, the feature of being from a different party from that which has the majority mandate fades out. It’s one large institution of government serving together to implement the overall winning party Manifesto. Anybody who doesn’t know or accept this has no choice but to resign his or her seat. In fact, if the Mukono LC 5 boss had not co-opted NRM on his council executive, he would still be challenged with accepting the supremacy of NRM. In a way, he would find hurdles in providing good leadership since the NRM fraternity would sit back and let him shoulder the burden alone. Now, he has inoculated his tenure and Mukono could benefit greatly.

Some people wonder as to what the true value of opposition is. Is it to stop the ruling party government from doing its work, to fight government and get it out of power, compete with alternative yet complementary policy ideas or support government to fulfill its mandate? Personally, I think that the first two “roles” are a very outdated way of looking at things. The latter two roles are the way to go. The ordinary opposition attempts to stand in the way of a sitting government and even tries ways to disrupt its hold on power. In extreme cases, that can have a criminal element to it because government is Constitutional and protected by law.

In a democratic political system, a sound and reasonable opposition is an indispensable element. Opposition parties serve as alternatives for discontented voters and their function is more than just providing another symbol on the ballot in the elections. Opposition fills any gaps in information about the government’s policies, and point out their weaknesses. However, faultfinding is an old way of playing opposition politics. It’s redundant when it is the only “service on offer”. Faultfinding is not a preserve of the opposition because even within the NRM (in the case of Uganda), faults are identified inhouse and addressed. The modern opposition also looks at the positives (the progressive ideas, the good policies, the achievements to be built on) and supports them. There is nothing about “compromising with the devil”- as some extremists say- in that. I see great talent on both sides.

I, personally, do not see any problem with an opposition member joining an NRM-led executive and an NRM member joining an opposition-led executive. The purpose is not to sell one’s principles or democratic rights but to serve, and propose critical ideas when opposing adds value to the main objective of serving the people. Service delivery is not sensitive to one’s political shade of thought; we all need good health, education, security, infrastructure and general wellbeing. Opposition should not act alarmist or mislead the public on government programmes and should, in fact, help government deliver. If that takes exposing corrupt individuals and shoddy works, that is very welcome because government provides services, not “disservices”.

Then, to be credible, opposition should also show the good side of government and also talk about its own failures as opposition. If there is nothing to oppose, be honest and say so! It’s better than creating false stories to hurt the name of NRM. Let us see the opposition exposing its own members who are corrupt since many of them won positions and are serving in public office. I see a lot of middle ground for elected leaders on both sides of the political divide to work together without any side losing its character.

President Museveni has always set the pace by incorporating alternative party figures in his cabinet and most of them have not lost their character although I see that their people (voters) have failed to understand the wisdom in such alliances. With time, the message will sink. Confrontational politics is dying out. I urge all NRM leaders co-opted on opposition –led executives to be cooperative and only raise red flags when there are real issues deserving real attention. That way, NRM will set a good example for others to emulate.

The author is a Personal Assistant to the National Chairman, NRM

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