Posted Saturday, February 16 2013 at 02:00
Exciting. There is something exciting about Ssekikubo’s character, something edgy, something unpredictable, one that disables you from second guessing his next move.
It came out of the blue, like a lightning bolt. One day he was in his characteristic disposition of defiance against the state, spending a night in jail for refuting government’s explanation of Member of Parliament Cerinah Nebanda’s death. Next, there he was, in a seemingly off the cuff remark on his graduation party, stating that he is qualified to do the top most job in the land.
Theodore Ssekikubo is the third senior member of the NRM to declare his intention to be President, though many more are known to harbour ambitions. The only other people to do so are Mike Mukula, who is in jail, and Felix Okot Ogong, the Dokolo County MP.
And just like that, assuming that the Lwemiyaga County legislator was not speaking in jest, the prospect of a President Ssekikubo squarely fell upon us. Ugandans suddenly have to contend with the possibility of a situation where one day, Ssekikubo would be the man standing in Parliament, delivering the State of the Nation address, the Commander-in-Chief, the overseer of national growth and development.
It opened up doors for your mind to ponder on what a presidency run by Ssekikubo would be like. It is a prospect that many observers who have watched him work found tantalising. And if the character he has displayed is anything to go by, then there is no doubting that a Ssekikubo presidency would read like a page torn straight from the middle and exciting bits of a drama play.
For there is something exciting about Ssekikubo’s character, something edgy, something unpredictable, one that disables you from second guessing his next move. This leads many to pass him off as either chaotic, un-composed or even a joker.
The date Monday August 2, 2010, stands out prominently here. It was the NRM district primaries, and Ssekikubo, together with his chief political nemesis, Sam Kutesa, had descended on Sembabule District, seeking election.
On prime time TV news that evening, Ugandans watched a Ssekikubo they had never seen before. Gone was the suit-and-tie well-groomed smiling legislator who had made a name for himself, trying to fry government officials in the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
What they saw was a man jumping onto the scene and transcending into something akin to commando mode. With jacket flaps flying, he tossed basins and buckets this way and that way, yelled at election officials, then pushed and shoved police officers to the side.
The election ended prematurely, tear gas filling the air, and bullets flying through the air, dispersing crowds and injuring some. The newspapers then had a photo of him, busy pulling away voting basins, jacket flying, and a pistol holstered at the waist. Ssekikubo, the commando, had arrived. For this, he earned himself the nickname, Jackie Chan, among fellow NRM MPs. His public image has not quite been the same since that day.
This was a very excited form of Ssekikubo on show, a man who revealed a hitherto unseen extremely temperament side to his character. It showed him as a man who may not always choose to walk down the diplomatic path of dialogue, but may instead choose to grab the very horns of the law, taking them in his hands.
And in that tantalising prospect where Ssekikubo would be the country’s Commander-in-Chief, and he had the entire country’s military personnel and arsenal to summon at his whims, you are left wondering whether the plastic voting basins used at elections would survive a conflict between the President and his challenger.
For a man who has been accused of drawing a gun even way before that August 2010 incident, what would his behaviour be like if he had a whole army to himself?
This explosive character has made some dismiss him as un-presidential, and unable to control himself, especially when the judgemental public eye is watching.
Others, however, dismiss him on what they regard as laughable and unserious acts. There was that moment in August last year when together with fellow ‘rebel MPs’, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Raphael Magyezi, Wilfred Niwagaba and Michael Mawanda, called a news conference and before watching cameras, chose to tear into pieces, newspapers that carried a story of President Museveni saying he wanted to appoint a new Secretary General for the NRM. It made Ssekikubo come across as a man who plays for the gallery, a man who can do even the comical to get the media’s attention.
This can also be seen in certain use of words, which do not even fit the situation he is commenting on, while talking to the press. When the NRM’s disciplinary committee summoned him for hearings after the violent primaries, he told journalists thus: “I would have thought the committee would have been (pauses for three seconds), you know, thorough, would have been surgical in nature that it averts such recurrence.” It left you wondering what surgery had to do with the NRM’s attempts at disciplining him.
But maybe, the Sembabule fracas was only an extreme outburst from a strong willed man, one not given to quickly changing his mind, or letting others have their way as they step on his shoes. Journalists covering Parliament speak of a man who on many occasions lives up to the mantle, “The strongest man is he who stands alone.”