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NRM on brink of collapse?


NRM on brink of collapse?

President Yoweri Museveni with his NRM supporters

President Yoweri Museveni with his NRM supporters

Can there be NRM without President Museveni? I guess this is the question every right thinking person should be asking themselves right now. The chaos and anxiety within the party, treatment and by extension the whole country, have left us wondering what is likely to happen in the near future.

Who would manage or at least contain this chaotic national party without the pedigree of President Museveni? Would a party founding member like Kahinda Otafiire or a powerful newcomer like Nantaba allow a man like Tanga Odoi to declare them losers? By the way, is Museveni himself still in charge? Where did all this chaos come from? How did we get to this stage of confusion and apprehension?

I started writing this column back in 2006. Over the nine years I have written quite a number of pieces, some of which carried prophetic messages, although I never set out to become a prophet. On August 12, 2010, I wrote in these very pages a piece entitled, “Mbabazi won, NRM lost”. This was after the NRM party held their national conference at Namboole, similar to the one being held this weekend.

In my 2010 piece I stated upfront thus, “Failure to address the succession question has left us seated on a time bomb which undoubtedly got invigorated at Namboole!”

Below is what I wrote five years ago, with slight editing. Kindly read and see why all disasters have early warning events.

My prophecy 5 years ago

Mr President, in February 2007 I wrote in these very pages warning you against firing your guns empty to revitalise the political potency of a few individuals within your government at the expense of the pedigree of NRM and the future of this country.

My letter entitled, “The great Garuga summit” (see The Sunrise February 23rd – March 2nd 2007), followed an interesting incident when Prof. Gilbert Bukenya hauled you to his residence at Garuga to dispel a media rumour that you were going to sack him as Vice President!

Bukenya invited you to chair a caucus meeting for MPs from Buganda to discuss a sack rumour! All daily newspapers of Friday February 16, 2007 had, as their lead story, headlines along the lines, “Museveni dispels VP sack rumour”, or “I am not sacking VP, says Museveni”.

Whatever I wrote in response to that drama is on the shelves. But the reason I recalled this was because whatever I wrote has come to pass. I said, it was so un-Museveni to find you responding to media speculations, more so speculations engineered by a paper as abysmal as the one that published it. And as if that didn’t astonish enough, you had to travel to the residence of the person, whom you were rumoured to be preparing to sack, to explain yourself.

I found this very un-Museveni because the Museveni I knew enjoyed his power to the fullest, so much so that he owed no one any explanation especially in public. Also, the Museveni I knew detested sectarianism with relish that it was unthinkable for him to attend a caucus meeting for one ethnic group seating at the residence of his junior.

So, Mr President, I knew that it was Bukenya who, in his war against the “political mafias” he had identified in 2005, embroiled you in that useless fight to prove his mahogany stance to his rivals. And you surrendered your pedigree for one reason; you had great hope in your Vice President as a political ally. You were so much obsessed with Bukenya that you were ready to do whatever it takes to prove to him and his growing band of supporters that he was your favorite cadre.

Bukenya disappoints

We are actually told by those who know you better that this is one of your key weaknesses — once impressed by someone you fully surrender your all to them until they disappoint you.

And disappointment was all you got a year later when in June 2008 Bukenya penned a book, “Through Intricate Corridors to Power,” and invited Kabaka Ronald Mutebi to launch it at a time when Mengo, owing to the land amendment law debate, had declared “war” against your government.

In the book, Prof. Bukenya had written thus, “Buganda culture is very interesting and trying to erase it from people’s minds would be futile. It would be like trying to end a lineage…President Obote had tried his best to remove this living history, and his overthrow was the climax of getting rid of a reviled being.”

Readers of Bukenya’s book struggled to avoid relating the above-mentioned statement to coincidence because while delivering the State of the Nation Address on June 5, 2008, you had warned traditional leaders against “sabotaging the country’s economic development”. You said that traditional leaders failed to defend Africa against colonialism and that this was a direct vote of no confidence in them.

Mbabazi rides on Bukenya’s weaknesses

Then the bigger shocker was to come in 2009 when Prof. Bukenya went to Lubiri to attend the coronation anniversary of his ‘best friend’, the Kabaka. At the function, contrary to what you had announced on WBS TV that there were no more negotiations between Buganda and central government over federal system of governance, Bukenya assured the Baganda that he was ready to negotiate with them on the issue of federo and other grievances.

After that I knew the honeymoon between you and Mr. Mahogany was over. I also knew that Bukenya by getting closer to Mengo had restocked the armory of his political rivals, notably Amama Mbabazi. I knew that now Mbabazi had found it easier to persuade you to join hands and finish Bukenya off.

Lessons from Namboole

Well, Mr President these are some of the lessons you will go on learning about your “friends”. Namboole spectacle should have been a rude awakening to you that: (1) Not everything that glitters is gold; (2) Your failure to address the succession question has left us seated on a time bomb which undoubtedly got invigorated at Namboole; and (3) It is illogical to embroil yourself in revitalising the political potency of individuals at the expense of the pedigree of NRM and the future of the country.

Mr President, I thought the events that have occurred in the last couple of years should have given you perfect lessons to the three aforementioned issues. But wapi? After glorifying Bukenya for nearly a decade to the extent of alienating your bush-war comrades, you turned to Mbabazi.

The anger depicted by Gen. Otafiire during his campaign to unseat Mbabazi (in the 2010 race for Secretary General) was a signature position and feeling among his fellow bush-war veterans. The way you had elevated Mbabazi over and above them, whom many have always insisted did not fight to deserve the special treatment, was the reason you nearly saw Otafiire’s tears pouring.

Without you, we are dead

Mr President, like I have written in these pages before, you have put our generation in a deep tragedy. We cannot imagine a Uganda without you. And although I can guess the width of your smile as you read this, it is not because we shall miss you per se. No. It is because you have failed to do what Walter Lippmann called, “The final test of a leader.”

“The final test of a leader….the genius of a good leader, is to leave behind him a situation which commonsense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.” Lipmann said this 123 years ago.

Yet after thirty uninterrupted years in power you have not arranged for us a situation which commonsense can deal with to save the future of the country you fought so hard to liberate.

Recently, a friend asked, “Won’t these people kill us when Museveni goes?” He was referring to your NRM colleagues you came with from Luwero. Yet many of “these people” too feel the same way — they cannot rule out the possibility that they would kill each other if you left.

Mr President, I used to oppose those who hold the opinion that you are a very selfish person, but now I doubt my psyche. The writing is on the wall that your exit time is naturally closing in.

Even if you wanted to continue indefinitely, some factors are crystal-clear that you will be leaving power in the near future. For example, you are steadily ageing that even if you were to maintain your popularity (which itself is highly questionable now) you will find yourself leaving Fidel Castro style. Yet you don’t want to address the succession question.

Show us a successor

This is the very reason Ugandans have become so gullible to the extent of thinking that without you the nation would stop. This is not statesmanship. Statesmen, especially those compared with great leaders like Mandela, Nyerere, Lee Kuan Yew and other in that bracket, prepared other men and gave them conviction and will to carry on.

And they did this deliberately and openly to send the message across their countries. They let the country to confidently point at one or a couple of men who would take the mantle in the event of unlikely accident.

But look at us, we spend sleepless nights thinking what would befall our country in the event we woke up one day (God forbid!) and you are no more. Like I always tell my friends, and also written in these very pages on several occasions, no single human being has been as instrumental in Uganda as President Museveni has been.

God has been so good to you, Mr. President. He has given you good health and wisdom to lead this country for 30 damn years. And you are Christian. I hear the bible has a line somewhere that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Mr. President, emulate the great men you love to tell us about by addressing the immediate future of this country. Is that asking too much of you?




Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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