A group of ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) cadres has petitioned the party’s top hierarchy to stop promoting family rule in the party and country.
Led by one Job Richard Matua who is eyeing the party’s National Vice Chairmanship for Northern Uganda, the group wants the party to go back to rule of law by sticking to the party’s constitution.
These stinging calls are contained in a December 28, 2022 petition which Matua addressed to the party’s Secretary General Richard Todwong and copied the same to the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) led by the national chairman, Gen. Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa.
According to Matua, his protestations are premised on a media interview in which Todwong expressed support for late Serere MP Patrick Okabe’s son to replace his father in parliament.
Todwong made the remarks while reacting to reports that the children of deceased Teso region politicians Okabe and late Bukedea district LC5 Chairperson Moses Olemukan had expressed interest in replacing their deceased parents.
As per the reports, Okabe’s son Omoding had been endorsed by Teso bigwigs led by Capt. Mike Mukula, the NRM national Vice Chairperson Eastern region and Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, among others.
On the other hand, Olemukan’s daughter Loyce Akiror offered to replace her father before mourners during her dad’s burial on Tuesday, a gesture which reports say was embraced by Vice President Jessica Alupo, Bukedea County MP Bosco Ikojo and Teso Affairs Minister Kenneth Ongalo, among others.
And acting on such feelers, Todwong issued a supportive position thus: “If you lead a party you have to read through the emotions of the community. It’s especially very difficult in a situation where a constituency has just lost someone dear to them… if the district leaders agree, the late Okabe’s son Emmanuel Omoding will replace his father in Parliament as the Serere County MP, with the backing of the party.”
Todwong added that his position is rooted in NRM’s history of sympathy, rational and humane politics, which has seen the party take similar stands in previous by-elections concerning deceased cadres such as Patrick Oromait (Usuk County), Jacob Oulanyah (Omoro County), and Rehema Watongola (Kamuli Municipality).
Cadres not amused
But for all the humanitarian connotations in this practice, a host of party members, most notably Matua who describes himself as NRM Cadre Intake 2 of 2010, are not happy with it. This is on grounds that it is against the letter and spirit of the NRM constitution.
Matua also followed his damning petition with an opinion titled ‘Politics of favoritism sending NRM to the abyss’. In his opinion, Matua draws contrasts of the NRM with the Africa National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, which he says has remained stronger due to advancing party interests over emotional compromise and personal interest. Matua thus wants NRM to stick to the party’s constitutional provisions which dictate that elective positions must be filled through identification of competent flag bearers.
If the party constitution is to be evoked, then the mantle of tussling for the Serere County MP seat on the NRM ticket will fall on Philip Oucor who lost to Okabe in the 2021 general elections. Matua also wants the party to rally behind Oucor given that his mandate as party flag bearer is still valid.
“Be reminded that flag bearers’ term of office established under Article 41(1) of the NRM party constitution (as amended) is five years which are set to elapse in August 2025,” Matua says in the letter he also copied to President Museveni. He then tears into Todwong, accusing him of succumbing to grief and blackmail by supporters of Okabe instead of being guided by the party constitution.
“The reason reported for your support of emotions of the supporters of the late Hon. Patrick Okabe is non-existent in the constitution of NRM and cannot stand to be enough justification to abandon the party flag bearer Mr. Phillip O. ….The purpose of this petition therefore is to remind you about the NRM party constitution’s demand to support flag bearers and to request you kindly for strict fidelity to the law,” Matua writes.
Not very effective
All indications are that Oucor has all it takes to sail to parliament, having lost to Okabe (17826 votes) in second place with 12631 votes.
Incidentally, Matua received overwhelming support from some party members. For instance, Frederic Dongo supported Matua saying: “Guarding NRM’s constitution is as good as guarding Uganda’s constitution & parliament rules of procedure. No excuses whatsoever.”
Matua will also be vindicated by experience which has shown that not all relatives who replaced their deceased relations have been as effective as those they replaced through sympathy political arrangements; both in NRM and the opposition.
Typical examples include Proscovia Alengot who went on to be so much overwhelmed by the humongous political task of representing Usuk County that she was rated amongst the worst performing MPs in history.
Secondly, Butaleja woman MP Florence Nebanda has not lived to the billing of her deceased sister Celina Nebanda who was more of a nationally acclaimed legislator during her stint in the house.
It is against such a background that people like Matua believe it’s high time NRM left meritocracy to prevail in the party’s political dynamics rather than advancing ‘family rule’ based on emotional blackmail.
Watch this space!