In spite of himself, Prof Gilbert Bukenya is a jolly good fellow with a bubbly element bordering on the comical. With this element, it is unanimous he was the star attraction in the Luweero District Woman MP by-elections.
Bukenya is a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and district party chairman in Wakiso. He is also a back bencher Member of Parliament who once held the second most important office in the land: vice president of the Republic of Uganda.
Now an aspiring presidential candidate, he needs to be visible in Parliament and out. And so the by-election for the district woman representative for Luweero offered him an opportunity for public relations, visibility and publicity.
That seems to explain his appearance in the wrong place at the wrong time and singing a wrong song (by campaigning for a candidate opposed to his party). As an instrument of publicity, controversy delivered with theatrical effect can earn maximum attention and interest. In fact, he managed to elicit the ire of President Museveni.
Enter the President’s men. Mr Richard Todwong, the minister responsible for Mobilisation castigated Bukenya for campaigning for a candidate opposed to the NRM. He even threatened to drag Bukenya to the NRM disciplinary committee.
What Todwong did not know is that he was also merely playing a part of the good professor’s script. Or in simple terms, Todwong was doing Bukenya a favour by keeping him in the news. Ever heard of killing three birds with one stone?
For strategic reasons, it is not wise to take Bukenya to the NRM disciplinary committee. To do that, the NRM would be gifting Bukenya with another platform on which to strut and stare down the party.
First, he could insist on going to the disciplinary committee accompanied by his lawyer. And such a lawyer, per chance, could be someone called Erias Lukwago. It is a scary situation that even I, a non-partisan bystander, would not wish for the committee. Some things are better ignored than pursued.
At the moment, it is undeniable that the NRM has issues. All of a sudden, junior members of the party are challenging Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, the man hitherto thought to be the most powerful politician in the ruling party and the country.
And it seems clear that the leverage the party has given these junior members is not informed by the party’s new-found love for ‘youth power’. It is the politics of raw power.
Bukenya has virtually left the party in a de facto way. Although it may seem necessary that he formalises his departure, his de jure exit (now) does not add any value to the party. Neither does it weaken his adventure to pursue the presidency in 2016. Some things are healed by time.
The NRM disciplinary committee recently dismissed some MPs from the party. In their excitement, the committee thought it could follow this with the expulsion from Parliament.
But this attempt by the party to dismiss the so-called rebel MPs from Parliament didn’t generate any value as the street (public opinion) clearly empathised with the members.
On the rebel MPs’ expulsion from Parliament, Prime Minister Mbabazi reasoned that the loss of party membership should be sequenced with loss of parliamentary seats.
Although he was merely executing the collective decision of the party top leadership, Mbabazi’s enthusiastic demand for the dismissal of the so-called rebel MPs from Parliament was telling.