Lira- The race for Lira municipality MP seat is shaping up to be quite an engaging one. Going by the sideshows voters and candidates have embraced the allure of local music, making the campaign some sort of a lyrical contest.
The municipality has long been dominated by Uganda Peoples Congress, winning landslide victories over the ruling NRM party. That historical reality is, however, being tested by the current factional fighting in the party.
The leadership struggles between outgoing party president Olara Otunnu and Mr Jimmy Akena, the incumbent Lira municipality MP, have spilled over to the electorate.
As a result, some frustrated voters could shift their support to the NRM, FDC or Independent candidates.
But if modern political races are more about awareness than policy, then it should be no surprise that February 18’s parliamentary hopefuls are attempting to shape their images with focus-grouped campaign soundtracks that communicate their interest.
Candidates Mr Akena (UPC), Maj Pollar Awich Okwir (NRM), Mr Joel Okao (FDC), and Denis Blair Okello Odongo (Independent) are all using local songs to draw people to their campaigns.
Mr Akena was the first to introduce this tactic with his song ‘Joni owao wer, UPC keken’ (these people are nicely singing, ‘UPC only’). Joni owao wer is even played at various pubs within the town. Like Mr Akena, other candidates also use individual or party songs although those of the Congress seem to be more popular in the area.
Aside from crowd-pulling songs, the campaigns have generally been calm across the four divisions of Central, Ojwina, Adyel and Railways.
The Electoral Commission’s coordination of campaign schedules designed to avoid clashes between rival supporters has also been of great help.
Mr Akena is one of the sons of former president Apollo Milton Obote – something that always works to his advantage the two times he has been voted to Parliament. As one of the founding fathers of UPC, Dr Obote popularised the party in Lango.
And Lira municipality remains the hottest political chair in Lango, with voters this time sharply divided over the likely outcome of the election.
But UPC continues to be popular in Lango, with the party sweeping almost all the local council and parliamentary seats in 2011, money is being placed on the incumbent to retain his seat.
In 2011, UPC sent 12 people to Parliament, NRM six, FDC one and Independent one out of the 21 seats available in Lango sub-region. In the same election, Mr Akena swept 18,778 votes, beating his closest rival from NRM Francis Okello Orech, who polled 5,566 votes.
Five years earlier in 2006, Mr Akena, who spent a considerable amount of years of his adult life in exile with his father, won by 13,406 votes.
It will be remembered that he beat the incumbent by then, former UPC strong lady Cecilia Barbra Atim Ogwal, who tallied 2,501 votes, and Sam Engola of NRM, who got 5,610 votes.
Ms Ogwal has since abandoned the municipality where she was once the undisputed political leader and relocated to Dokolo where she is the Woman MP. Mr Engola, who is also the Junior minister for Housing, settled for Erute South, which he now represents in the House.
“The campaign spirit that the NRM candidate had seems to be no more,” said Mr Hamza Okello, a political analyst, also the Atek Okwer Ibuu clan youth leader. “Possibly, the ruling party has noted that some of their candidates cannot match their opponents when it comes to public speaking.”