Since starting on the campaign trail for Uganda’s top job (the presidency) nearly four weeks ago, the eight candidates have composed songs, danced for the villagers, talked themselves hoarse and traversed the country. But in the eye of Ugandans, who has spoken? Who is really focussed on issues? And who could potentially be a better leader for Uganda? I want to attempt to look at the last 4 weeks for each of the candidates-needless to say- from my own vantage point.
The eight are: Incumbent(NRM), his perennial opposer Colonel Dr. Kiiza Besigye (FDC), Betty Kamya of the Uganda Federal Alliance, Democratic Party’s Nobert Mao, Uganda People’s Congress’ Olara Otunnu, Mr. Bidandi Ssali of PPP (sorry I don’t know what this abbreviation in full is), and Dr. Abed Bwanika (who I know and can recognise anywhere, but would fail if asked to name his party) and Mr. Samuel Lubega, who has stuck in my memory because of taking several days off, while other candidates are complaining how short the campaign time is. Let’s take them in that order-and that’s not necessarily the order of performance, thus far.
Anybody watching the on-going campaign will tell you that President Museveni’s composition of the song ‘’you want another rap’’ has been the master piece of his campaign. Within days it was a chartbuster in radios, YouTube and night clubs around the country. The President himself has been holding public performances of the song, alongside his rallies. It is not really that the song is a hit; it is just that it is funny having a singing President (especially a dry one of Museveni’s calibre) in a country where everybody thinks they have music talent; a country with a thousand and one budding artists. This song has facilitated the Museveni campaign to connect-especially with the youth.
That aside, the gusto with which candidate Museveni has hit the campaign trail is simply too energetic for a man who in a few years will be 70 years. Traversing the countryside, his snaking convoy and the way he gathers crowds is simply amazing. Just the fact that a sitting President doesn’t just sit in state House waiting to announce himself the winner and going on to swear himself in –a la-Laurent Gbagbo- is impressive. You see a man in the sweltering sun heat, working for his bread!
Besides occasional threats here and there (like arresting Nandala Mafabi of FDC, I hope he doesn’t do this by the way, because it will undo all his votes in Bugisu), candidate Museveni has stayed away from those amateurish things he did in the past-like arresting fellow candidates around nomination time, those things of saying others are HIV positive... He has largely tried to focus on issues; education, health, agriculture...
Mr. Museveni’s biggest undoing though is incumbency. First, there is nothing new you can say having been in power for 25 years. He has thought and talked himself silly on issues of education, incomes, health... There is simply nothing new. As a result he gets tempted to talk about eradicating corruption. If I were him, I would be silent on issues like these. Even a one day old in Uganda knows that neither President Museveni nor any of his governments can solve this problem. It is so entrenched in his people (advisors, ministers, family) and institutions (ministries) that removing corruption will mean removing his closest people, which is impossible. Eliminating corruption in Uganda needs a new beginning; a new government, a new bubbly regime dying to impress Ugandans. But corruption is a real serious problem in Uganda that can easily pale President Museveni’s achievements. For these reasons Mr. Museveni gets 65 points for the positives and 35 for the negatives (especially corruption).
Col. Kiiza Besigye has completed the metamorphosis from a military and militant leader of 2001 to a composed, happy-going and relaxed politician in 2010. That militant, belligerent and forcefully demeanour is gone. Dr. Besigye today is a likeable, joking, dancing and amiable politician. His strategic minders who advised him to drop that militant style have done a good job.
The drop in the belligerent style has left Col. Besigye more time to reflect on issues-both the content and their presentation. It has been pleasant listening to him; how he articulates issues is mature, impressive and touching e.g how he shot down the NRM pakalast show: remember’’ jiggers pakalast’’, ‘’poverty pakalast’’...NRM had to drop this line real fast!:).
And he has real issues; Dr. Besigye has really captured what has gone wrong in Uganda today and has packaged them for Ugandans. He has done a good job as an opposition politician. I am sure the NRM guys twitch in their stomachs when Besigye speaks, because there is all for all and sundry to see corruption, the sick health services, the non-performing education sector, the potholes....
He has also managed to cut himself out as the clean leader who has concern for his people. Remember that accident somewhere in Busoga, where the doctor in him must have ordered him to swing into action; delivering patients using his own transport to the nearest medical facility. That shows him as a feeling leader, a leader who mixes with people; not one who carries his own chair, mineral water, tea and what have you.
And yes, his latest branding of ‘’Change is coming’’ is a master act. I don’t know whether the strategy was to pull this one off somewhere mid way the campaign, but I think this is the bang with which he should have started the campaign; the concept, presentation and appeal of this brand is great. Am sure it will go a long way to harvest some votes. Col. Besigye gets 70 for his positives and garners 30 for the weaknesses-that he has really worked hard to stash away.
Betty Kamya is quite a formidable candidate. Being the only lady among men, she is conspicuous; leaving the likes of Samuel Lubega far behind in her dust. Mrs. Kamya is a modern politican, she approaches her campaign the way she used to approach selling Bell Beer-of which she was brand manager some years ago. You can tell that she goes out of her way to dress according to event and the statement she wants to make. Her dress is descent, smart and speaks for itself. Men without any strong political affiliation... you know what to do.
But more importantly, the manner in which Mrs Kamya has approached her campaign is great. She is probably the only candidate that has reflection of modern day parties. Modern day parties are not about championing everything the way NRM, FDC, DP... are; they are based on specific issues and particular slants. Betty Kamya’s Uganda Federal Alliance is well thought out (and this has no relationship with its popularity). For a first comer on the national presidential scene, Betty has done extremely well, even if we all know that she is not about to be the next President of Uganda. She gets 80 point for her design, campaign and presentation. She gets 20 for especially disparaging her former party (which will cost her some votes) and being a little bit tactless on some issues.
The Democratic Party’s Nobert Mao has been a long way coming. Mao declared already more than 5 years ago that he wasn’t going to stick to his Gulu Municipality Parliamentary seat for long. Indeed he left it and went to District Chairmanship; from where he has jumped into the presidential fray. An extremely intelligent man, Moa continues to deploy is intelligence to deliver his punches. Lately he has grown some grey hair (to remove the boyish look and the box cut, he had before). Mao is sharp on issues, only problem is that they are the same issues that people who have been in the field for long (read Dr. Kiiza Besigye) have been flogging for years. Even more, FDC has a bigger voice than Moa’s DP. Mao therefore tends to get shouted down by the FDC.
Besides, Mao is probably the only candidate who even at the current level of presidential campaigns is still having internal and domestic differences. There remains an active faction of DP that is actively fighting his campaign. Mao earns 50 points for his issues, intelligent presentations, but also earns 50 for failing to reconcile DP; to stand for a publicly divided party.
Olara Otunnu’s campaign has been simple as it is confusing. One day he is screaming about how the electoral commission should go, another he is campaigning vigorously and promising a UPC victory. Many people I have listened to think that Otunnu is an issue focussed politician (am not sure about this myself). One thing that Dr. Otunnu has done is to carry a graceful campaign. He has maintained his culture; he never makes ad hominem arguments (unlike a certain candidate who out rightly abuses others). However, it is also true that the hope and blast with which many Ugandans (even non UPC) had expected from Otunnu was never to be. In real life Dr. Otunnu is not as dynamic as his name (especially while at the UN) was. He is more a boardroom/classroom kind of academic who struggles to put in easy terms mundane things of everyday life. Dr. Otunnu earns 40 for his culture and 60 for that missed opportunity to rally Ugandans against NRM.
Dr. Abed Bwanika has been around for the last 2 political seasons. Clearly he is a young man who has successfully plunged his teeth into the political beef. He is articulate, intelligent and cordial. His main weakness is that he is a small loner. He shouts, but never gets heard. I wasn’t surprised to see him the other so cross with police; I saw him throw away his jacket in readiness for a fist-fight. That was good; he showed himself as a man of some mettle. For this he gets 45, but that being a political loner handicaps him-55.
Mr. Samuel Lubega-I can hardly say anything-apart from writing his name. He has tried to be and look like DP; but other than that I don’t think I have heard or indeed remember anything he has said. The other thing I remember about him is he is on and off; he takes breaks too many times a week. I have a feeling he is pushing on because someone gave him money he doesn’t want to refund; he would rather finish it and try accountability. He gets 10 for trying and 90 for wasting Ugandans’ precious time.