How much do you trust opinion polls in Ugandan politics?
Me thinks we need an opinion poll on opinion polls. And one of the questions is, do they matter? But the most important one is trust, which is a question of relativity.
Stephen Harper served as 22nd prime minister of Canada from February 6, 2006, to November 4, 2015. This is what he had to say about opinion polls:
“This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of public opinion.”
Not so different from former US national security adviser and secretary of state in the presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford tenures, Henry Kissinger, who opined: “Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls, but for the consequences of their actions.”
So were Ugandans to cast their votes between December 19, 2015, and January 10, the National Resistance Movement candidate would have walked back to State House with just about 51 per cent of the vote, according to the Research World International (RWI) poll funded by Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform, housed by the Uganda National NGO Forum.
The five other presidential candidates; Dr Abed Bwanika, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Ms Maureen Kyalya, Maj Gen Benon Biraaro and Mr Joseph Mabirizi would scoop a combined harvest of 1 per cent.
Museveni has dropped from 55 per cent per a poll conducted in August 2015 by the same pollster and from 59 per cent per a poll commissioned by this newspaper.
In RWI’s August 2015 poll, covering 2,320 respondents, 17 per cent confessed they would vote Dr Kizza Besigye, meaning the three-time unlucky candidate has gained 15 per cent over the last five months and 12 points from the last rank the Monitor poll gave him.
A margin of error of +/-5 statistically means the President could have obtained 56 per cent or 46 per cent of the votes.
Dr Patrick Wakida, RWI’s chief executive, is a sworn Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) senior member allied to party president Mugisha Muntu’s leadership style. But the poll has clear methodology and, therefore, deserves respect.
Ugandans in the Opposition cannot keep watering down every poll using the prism of “Museveni has paid you”.
There are still men and women out there to whom integrity is a precious metal held so close to the heart that no amount of scheming can break it. But again, if a poll is conducted by men and women who have publicly sworn their mission on the political stage is to fight one of the candidates being polled, then it is only natural that a hole will be punched on the poll.
That does not mean any candidate should dismiss the poll, least the Opposition which keeps throwing the argument, not based on empirical evidence that Ugandans fear to say their hearts out, so opinion polls cannot be taken seriously.
Some will fear and take to the hiding, others will not. So to arrive at the conclusion that 35 million people randomly polled will be bogged down by the fear factor should be based on more evidence than sheer talk.
That poll, for instance, is an indictment on the Electoral Commission and Uganda Police Force whom respondents gave a trust level of 47 per cent.
That the umpire is not trusted mid-way to the game should cause Dr Badru Kiggundu, the EC chairman, more goose pimples and send police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura, back to the drawing board.
Dr Besigye is picking momentum, as Mr Sam Makokha, a passionate FDC activist who was quoted by Daily Monitor, said: “Every passing day, we can see it in the crowds and their outpouring of love to the candidates.
So 12 per cent for Mbabazi and 32 per cent for Besigye is a shot not so far from the sky of reality. Of course the fringe candidates, those men and woman we in the media are guilty of paying less attention to, have also dismissed the poll.”
It is healthy to doubt some of these things much the same way Mbabazi at a press conference this week in the western region expressed reservations on the biometric voting process of the EC and NRM defections.
We shall return to this later, but Dr Besigye’s insistence on getting to the bottom of unresolved massacres and deaths in the country stands out as one of the hallmarks of his campaign. The man is not laying wreaths of fallen men for nothing.
Yes, Mbabazi had former Defence ministry permanent secretary Noble Mayombo’s death at some point last year provoking a response from Museveni, and that was just about it.
Besigye promised accountability for the dead in northern Uganda, to “revisit this episode of our history” and bring perpetrators to book; the same in Teso sub-region with victims of the Mukura massacre and also the never resolved assassination of Uganda Freedom Movement leader Andrew Lutakome Kayiira in 1987, a year after President Museveni captured power.
“When I win the presidential elections, the first thing I will do is to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate how Kayiira’s death happened and even to investigate all other killings of other Ugandans that have happened,” Besigye said as he lay a wreath on Kayiira’s grave in Masulita during his campaign in Wakiso District.
A former senior commander in the Bush War that brought the National Resistance Movement to power, Col Samson Mande, now living in exile, told The London Evening Post in October 2013 that he knew some of the killers, but declined to reveal the names.
Some commentators on social media, described by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu as a bunch of idlers, raised a good point. Besigye was State minister of Internal Affairs and his boss was Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere.
The two were in the right place to find out what happened, much the same way Mbabazi was as Defence minister to find out details touching his permanent secretary’s death.
Do they know the truth and are only dancing on graves of dead men to reap political capital? Do we have to wait for them to be in government? These things are as complicated as opinion polls.
From other candidates
Maj Gen Benon Biraaro
The Farmer’s Party of Uganda presidential candidate said his government will usher prosperity to the country through boosting businesses.
Addressing a campaign rally in Adjumani Town on Wednesday, Maj Gen Benon Biraaro said West Nile sub-region had been neglected by the NRM government in order to keep the people in destitution.
“We have many things to do for you people apart from disbursing Shs30 billion annually for farmers,” he said.
He said business would be boosted by ensuring the agricultural sector is given priority because most of the agricultural products have markets both within Uganda and neighbouring countries.
Independent presidential candidate Venansius Baryamureeba told residents of Luweero Triangle to end the “mockery” the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has subjected them to by voting into power a new government.
President Museveni refers to Luweero, where he fought a bloody five-year guerrilla war that brought him to power in 1986, as his political Mecca.