SIRONKO-The former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, has declared that he will again offer himself as a candidate for the Budadiri West seat in Bugisu sub-region, a constituency that was hotly contested in the 2011 election.
Early indications are that the 2016 race here is building up to be another bruising battle.
“There are already people moving around in the constituency to replace me, I am now telling them that I am still around and I will stand to represent my people in Budadiri West again in 2016,” Mr Mafabi told the Saturday Monitor in a recent interview.
Mr Mafabi ran away with the seat in 2011 on the promise of salvaging the rural people in Budadiri West from poverty; improving social services, especially in public health, and fighting for the welfare of the common man. There will likely be an audit of his progress in that direction in the coming campaign.
In 2011, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party lined up Dr Beatrice Wabudeya, the then Sironko District Woman MP, to take on Mr Mafabi. But despite heavy deployment of State resources, including using the security forces, Mr Mafabi trounced Dr Wabudeya in the race. Mr David Livingstone Giruli, a contestant, stepped down in favour of Dr Wabudeya.
At the end of polling, and after hours of anxiety and tension, Mr Mafabi was declared winner of Budadiri West constituency with 23,702 votes against Dr Wabudeya’s 9,336.
Mr Mafabi portrays himself as a man who turns things around. His most prominent reference points include Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) which he rescued and returned to profitability.
The others are his well-documented work as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and his eventful time as a Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP).
His trademark in-your-face style has already shown itself at the several rallies he has recently addressed in the constituency.
“I have come to cut down the mango tree again; your work is to eat the mangoes, because you do not have to hassle climbing the tree this time,” he said at one rally.
“If President Museveni comes here that he is campaigning for an NRM candidate, tell him that Mr Nandala Mafabi is waiting for you in Budadiri West. He should not waste his time here because I am still around and my people still want me to represent them. I am ready to show them that it’s not about their money,” Mr Mafabi said.
The MP’s record as chairman of PAC and BCU benefitted from experience acquired as a tax assessor at Uganda Revenue Authority. That he holds a degree in Statistics and Economics and a Master’s in Economic Policy and Planning (all from Makerere University) would obviously helped.
His confidence may have taken a hit after he lost to Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu in the November 2012 campaign to replace Dr Kizza Besigye as president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
He unsuccessfully petitioned the party, observing that Maj Gen Muntu had not won fairly. Months of acrimony down the road, the new party president shook up the internal leadership, dropping Mr Mafabi as LoP whom he replaced with Bukhooli Central MP Wafula Oguttu.
“I actually have a lot of time now with my constituents and anybody coming to stand against me must prepare well, for dropping me from the position of LoP was a blessing in disguise and now that I am the chairman of BCU [again], this keeps me in touch with my voters,” said Mr Mafabi.
Although he once saw himself as the president of Uganda’s most powerful opposition party and even a president of Uganda, he seems to have revised his aspirations, putting off higher ambitions to the future.
“And for now, I am going to support Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu for the presidency. I am going to be quiet; to concentrate in my constituency but I will again show up at the right time. For this failure was a lesson to me,” he said.
Mr Mafabi’s popularity is closely tied to the fortunes of BCU where he was recently returned unopposed in vote to choose a new chairman.