Dear Proscovia Alengot Oromait, congratulations on your election as Member of Parliament for Usuk County. Many people have taken issue with the small matter of your age. They say that at 19 you are barely out of your nappies and are therefore untested in the important issues of national politics.
They wonder how you will be able to make informed contributions during debate on the national budget when you can’t score a credit in economics to save your life. They wonder how you will go from skipping a rope with your friends to skipping committee meetings in a space of two months. I say ignore the lot of them!
The people of Usuk must know something the rest of us don’t know. In electing you they have not only helped reduce the average age of the Parliament; they might have recognised that these days one needs neither experience nor brains to become an MP.
In fact, as you will soon notice from your other honourable colleagues, you do not even really have to attend parliamentary sessions if they clash with your classes, should you find a university willing to take your grades (many will be willing to take your money, thank-you-very-much). All you have to do is turn up in the morning, sign in, and then saunter off to the hair saloon or to the lecture room. In the afternoon, there is something called a plenary where MPs assemble in the parliamentary chamber to take a collective nap.
Every so often, one or two take to the microphones and go on about this and that. If the topic they choose to speak about is controversial, there might be many more who want to weigh in (which means to join in, not jump onto a weighing scale). This might cause some noise in the chamber and disrupt your nap. Don’t worry about Hon. Henry Kajura – NOTHING can disrupt his nap!
The plenary session is recorded and broadcast live on TV. It is a good opportunity to show all those ‘haters’ that you can also debate and speak English. Seize the opportunity and show them that you are not “a joking subject”. Resist the temptation to send greetings to your family members though!
Every so often, a matter comes up in the plenary on which you are required to vote. This is the only time you really need to be in Parliament and awake at the same time, according to your party chairman. And if you intend to catch a nap, do remind someone to wake you up to vote. You should be able to find a fellow MP who is awake to do this for you, unless you are appointed minister and have to sit on the front bench; in which case you will need to set an alarm for yourself and the rest of the bench. You will all need it.
Once in a while, you will need to make a contribution to the debate. The matter under discussion might be beyond your comprehension or you might have nothing useful to say or add. That is fine; that puts you in the majority in the House.
Remain calm and stand tall. Remember all those debates you had in primary school on ‘Mother is better than Father’; ‘Fire is better than Water’, etc? The debate here is whether the NRM is better than the Opposition. That’s what it’s mostly about. The rest is detail.
When you speak, use phrases like “the people of Usuk” or “ordinary Ugandans”. If that doesn’t help, play the age card; point out that there are more 19-year-olds than 39- and 49-year-olds and that the youth of this country deserve to be heard.
This will probably get you the attention you want, so you had better have something smart to say when the room falls quiet. Avoid putting yourself in this situation, unless you revised the night before and wrote down your main points.
Do not let your age intimidate you; you might be the youngest in the House but you are not the only MP with the mental age of a 19-year-old. And always remember; your election shows either your party is now radical enough to bring youthful change through the ranks, or has lost its anchor and is now drifting out to sea, a rudderless vessel chockfull with buccaneering ‘patriots’.
You do not have to be 19 to answer that question.