First Son, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba opened the Pandoras box recently when he praised the President General of the Opposition Democratic Party (DP), Norbert Mao as the only intellectual opposition politician in the country.
Many Ugandans upon learning of Muhoozi’s praises alluded to the English saying that; There is no smoke without fire’ to insinuate that there is something going on behind the scenes between Muhoozi and Mao.
Others alluded to the big number of politicians who have left the opposition in preference for NRM to conclude that Mao could soon follow suit.
Before for current Inspector General of Government Beti Olive Namisango Kamya Turomwe left FDC for NRM, the grapevine had for a long time reported about her nocturnal visits to State House during which she would meet the President secretly. Kamya would respond by swearing by the heavens how she could never do such a terrible thing. But as they say, the rest is history.
The grapevine had also spotted Alhajj Nasser Ntege Ssebaggala (RIP) with the president for some time with the former Kampala Mayor rejecting all such talk as hogwash until the President chauffeured him in that memorable ride that broke the back of the camel.
In any case, Muhoozi’s remarks would immediately trigger memories of a dramatic comment made Betty Nambooze Bakireke. NUP’s iron lady in one of the memorable spats with Mao before switching sides to FDC, described the DP president as a pumpkin.
Nambooze was, of course, speaking in parables. What she wanted to say is that much as Mao wears DP’s green color on the outside, he is actually yellow inside – a figurative remark that Mao was in fact an NRM supporter!
The wordsmith in Mao hit back by labeling Nambooze as a watermelon. What Mao wanted to imply is that much as Nambooze claims to be a DP member, she is actually a member of Bobi Wine’s NUP party. NUP uses red as its official color.
But Nambooze has never denied her NUP membership. In any case, NUP was formed long after Nambooze had left DP. She openly asserts that she left DP because of Mao’s dealings with the ruling NRM party. Before going to NUP, Nambooze fraternized with FDC.
Moving on, Butambala MP, Muwanga Kivumbi who left DP and joined NUP is on record revealing how Mao in the last elections campaigned for President Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa in Gulu.
“We reached Gulu to canvass for votes for Bobi Wine. Everyone on the streets was telling us that Mao was campaigning for the President. We were shocked,” Muwanga said appearing on one Radio talk-show sometime back.
Mao hails from Acholi. He used to be a force to reckon with in Gulu and even in the entire Acholi region. He started national politics when he was elected the Guild President of Makerere University. In 2001, he was elected as a Member of Parliament representing Gulu Municipality, before he stood for Chairman of Gulu district, which he won and performed pretty well. In 2010, he was elected as the President General of the Democratic Party, replacing John Ssebaana Kizito.
During the last election, Acholi region uncharacteristically voted for the NRM party despite being a DP stronghold. The President as a thank you gesture handed leadership of the two arms of government i.e Parliament and the Judiciary, to the sons of Acholi. Jacob Oulanyah walked away with Parliament while Alphonse Owiny Dollo took the Judiciary.
Word in town is that the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah has for a long time been lobbying Mao to switch sides. Oulanyah used to be a strong UPC stalwart. He studied with Mao at University where they were tight buddies much as Oulanyah was for UPC and Mao for DP.
During the time Mao was Guild President after defeating NRM’s choice, Norbert Mayombo, Oulanyah was the Secretary General for the Students’ UPC Makerere University branch. Oulanyah would later practice law alongside Mao, but later controversially switched sides to NRM where he is believed to be plotting to take Mao.
Those who believe that Mao is an NRM agent have pointed at the way he has sustained battles against FDC defacto leader Dr. Kizza Besigye. Besigye was Mao’s target of attack before Bobi Wine emerged. To date, Besigye still doesn’t understand why the DP President continues to drag him into a war, as if he’s a man on a mission.
When Kyagulanyi stepped onto the national political stage, the DP leader refused to embrace Bobi’s Presidential candidature. Yet the NUP principal had appeared to be the strongest of the opposition candidates in that race. Mao didn’t offer himself or anybody from DP to stand for State House.
On the contrary, Mao spent a great deal of the campaign time lambasting Bobi as a ‘Muyaaye’ (lumpen) from the ghetto. The DP President in fact asked Ugandans to shun Bobi. Shun Bobi for whom? We shall never know!
The former guild president of Makerere University even long after the elections ended has kept his belligerent posture against Bobi and his party. As a matter of fact, he takes most of the time maligning Bobi and NUP as well as its leaders than the time he takes to promote DP which he professes to lead.
Now that Besigye is no longer the strongest politician he used to be in the past with the emergence of Bobi, Mao has since turned his guns on the NUP principal.
Source of new rivalry
The latest spat between the two arose from the fact that NUP refuses to acknowledge or even participate in the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) a platform that is supposed to bring all political parties with representation in Parliament to a common table for dialogue.
NUP refused to join the group, on grounds that the ruling party wants to use it to legitimize its criminal behavior. NUP continues to insist that the President cannot claim the moral high ground as someone who favours reconciliation, yet he continues to keep hundreds of their supporters in illegal jails across the country.
While meeting presidents and secretary generals of IPOD members, President Museveni expressed disappointment that NUP continues to get government funding without being members of IPOD.
Since then, Mao has launched a spirited attack on NUP, calling them corrupt hypocrites.
But NUP have admitted they receive money from the Electoral Commission not because they are members of IPOD but instead because the Political Parties and Other Organisations Act, entitles them to such funding from the state.
This not withstanding, Mao insists NUP must be part of IPOD. This has left many wondering what the DP President’s real mission is. Is he an NRM mole and hence a cancer that is eating the opposition from inside? Muwanga seems to know better than we do.
Mao says he fought Besigye and is now fighting Bobi because they are unprincipled politicians who court the opposition pretending to be principled people only to grab their members.
So those politicians who crossed to FDC did so to exploit its appeal to secure votes from the voters. Simply put, DP wasn’t appealing at the time to the voters. This is what Mao doesn’t want to admit because it would mean he has not built a strong party during his time as the president.
The other politicians such as Nambooze, Muwanga Kivumbi, Merdard Sseggona, and Alhajj Ntege Ssebaggala left because either they despised Mao as a leader or because he didn’t take the initiative as the president general to reconcile them following his divisive election in Mbale back in 2010.
Similarly the same politicians who have left DP for NUP have done so because Bobi’s party appears to them to be more appealing than Mao’s party. No wonder, many of them have ended up winning parliamentary slots which they wouldn’t have won as DP candidates.
Perhaps Mao needs to take heart. The bitterness and bad blood he’s spreading is not only sinking his party deeper into political oblivion, it will undermine his legacy.