President Museveni on Thursday excused himself from chairing the final session of the National Executive Committee meeting of his party after a challenge from the floor questioned his singular candidature for the 2011 elections.
Several sources told Saturday Monitor an uneasy moment followed after Dokolo MP Okot Ogong questioned a resolution by NEC to endorse Mr Museveni as the presidential candidate of the National Resistance Movement.
The resolution, Mr Ogong, reportedly said, ruled out competition and had come before the NRM Delegates conference, set for March. The decision of the Delegates Conference is final on who eventually becomes the flag bearer of the NRM.
This week’s endorsement by NEC was the second for Mr Museveni after the Central Executive Committee also gave him the green light last year. The delegates’ conference remains the only hurdle.
Mr Ogong, those present said, raised his hand when Local Government Minister Adolf Mwesigye read resolution Number 3 of the NEC that endorsed Mr Museveni.
“Motion! Motion! Excuse me Mr Chairman,” Mr Ogong shouted as many delegates grumbled and said he was out of order.
Ignoring the heckling, he reportedly asked why NEC had passed a resolution that would lock-out any other interested persons for the same position.
Kigongo assumes forte
Mr Museveni, who was chairing the session, calmly ruled that Mr Ogong should be heard. He later excused himself and walked out of the room citing “conflict of interest”.
“I am unhappy that the NEC is endorsing a candidate yet there are other interested members who want to come up. Let the resolution remain open to allow other interested candidates to come on board and stand for the presidency without fear,” Mr Ogong said.
Amid the din of protest, the Dokolo legislator got backing from his Kibanda County colleague, Mr Sam Otada, who said the motion was reasonable.
“Let us leave the resolution open to give chance to other candidates that intend to come up. We are barring them from standing” he said.
NRM Vice Chairman Moses Kigongo, who took over from Mr Museveni, then put the proposed motion, not to disbar other candidates, to a vote. However it was overwhelmingly rejected by the delegates.
Yesterday, a disgruntled Ogong told Saturday Monitor by telephone that the party constitution does not allow choosing a presidential candidate before the delegates’ conference.
“The resolution was just smuggled in during the reading of the resolutions because it was not discussed at all in the meeting,” he said, adding that the process had been “rigged” to favour Mr Museveni.
However it is unlikely that President Museveni would turn down the endorsement, said NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi. “He has no choice because he has been endorsed by all members of the NRM District Conferences,” Mr Mbabazi said.
Some delegates called the Ogong challenge a political stunt.
“It is very clear Ogong is a joker with a motive of causing media attention to himself,” said Dr Sam Lyomoki [Workers’ MP].
Mr Ogong, a former minister, contested against Mr Museveni for the NRM presidential flag bearer position at the last delegates conference at Namboole in 2005, where he posted a poor show.
Yesterday NRM spokesperson Karooro Okurut said downplayed Ogong’s concerns, saying the NEC decision was not final.
“Nobody is barred but members of NEC saw that President Museveni is still the best. Other competitors are welcome at the delegates’ conference in March,” she said.