No ministerial appointee has in recent times faced the wrath of the Parliament vetting committee than the youthful and flamboyant Ida Nantaba, the Kayunga District woman legislator.
The outspoken lady serving her maiden term in the August House was little known on the national scene until she was listed for a ministerial post. After her appointment as state minister for Lands during president Museveni’s recent cabinet reshuffle, Ms Nantaba’s troubles began.
She was rejected by the parliamentary vetting committee on grounds that there were inconsistencies in her academic papers. But after a spirited fight that saw the legislature petition the examinations body, Uneb, which later cleared her papers, the committee stood their ground, this time saying that her rejection was based on her lack of integrity and morals. They claimed that she had attacked the committee members claiming land grabbers in Kayunga District among them army generals had infiltrated and bribed them.
Who is Nantaba?
Despite all said about the youthful legislator, Ms Nantaba’s parents, teachers, constituents say they know her as a disciplined and God-fearing person. At Ndeeba SSS in Kayunga town, where Ms Nantaba studied from Senior One and Two, before she left in 1993 to join Light College Katikamu in Luweero, one of her teachers, Mr Dan Lwanga, describes Nantaba as a well-behaved young girl who left the school “without any scandal”. “We fear to talk about Ms Nantaba because whatever one talks now turns political,” Ms Annet Kabogoza, the school headteacher, says.
Though no records of her academic performance could be traced by the school administration, as all file report cards for all students that attended the school during that period had been discarded due to lack of enough storage facilities at the school, Mr Lwanga says she was one of the best performing students and was always among the first 10. “She was friendly and even after she left the school, she could sometimes come back here and freely interact with us and students,” Mr Lwanga recounts.
Mr Wilberforce Bamusubire who studied with Ms Nantaba at Ndeeba SSS echoes her teacher’s testimony. He says because of her good discipline and being bright, she was appointed a class monitor by teachers. “May be, she changed her behaviour but she was very sharp and disciplined,” Mr Bamusubire who works with Kayunga RDC’s office, says.
However, her 78-year-old mother, Ms Rachael Naluwooza of Ndeeba village in Kayunga District says, her daughter’s trustworthy, honesty and being down to earth has bred her enemies both in the district and in the whole country.
“Right from her childhood, she was hardworking, focused and honest, something people who cherish corruption have found hard to work with her,” she says adding, “Her only problem is that she is assertive and you will never change her position and make her do something wrong.”
Mother likens Nantaba to Jesus
Ms Naluwooza says that like Jesus Christ, her daughter is also being attacked and blamed for telling the truth. “She is very religious and even at school and university, she made many friends who even come here, some professors too, visit me. I even hosted the president in my house because of her good working relationship with big people,” a visibly happy Naluwooza says.
Ms Nantaba belongs to the Seventh day Adventist Church.
“How can they say she is not disciplined when people with sound mind voted for her? Do they want to say that the voters elected her without knowing her personality?” Ms Naluwooza asks. “Why does the issue of morality arise when she is appointed a minister?”
It is such things like good lobbying skills and open fight against land evictions that have earned her the name “Maama Kayunga”. She has fought illegal land evictions and brings us the president but her only problem is that she doesn’t respect fellow leaders and wants to work alone,” Mr Edward Mukasa, a district councillor and one of her political rivals says of the MP.
“We used to see Museveni in Kayunga District only during campaigns but she has managed to bring him regularly and out of his visit, many people and the district have benefited. She managed to lobby relief food items three times in one month for storm victims,” Mr Mukasa adds.
Ms Nantaba, though rare in the constituency, is also a darling of many of her constituents because of her persistent efforts to ensure that all health centres in the district have enough drugs and that what is there is not stolen by medical workers.
In May, Ms Nantaba who had made an impromptu visit to Kayunga Hospital telephoned the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and the National Drug Authority when she found out that the facility lacked drugs.
After the call, according to a source in the hospital that preferred not to be named, a truck full of drugs was dispatched three days later. Other residents say they love her because she listens to the grass root people and addresses their problems.
Nantaba won her ticket to Parliament on fighting unemployment and poverty. She is now constructing a soap factory at Ndeeba village and has promised to construct a juice processing factory in the pineapple- growing sub-county of Kagulumira.
On the other hand, she enjoys support among the locals (peasants) who are at loggerheads with the leaders in the district including fellow MPs. Ms Nantaba is faulted by fellow leaders in the district who accuse her of calling them crooks and sidelining them in whatever government programmes she does.
In fact, matters have been made worse by her open declaration before President Museveni, who was trying to reconcile her with the district leaders in both Kayunga and at Rwakitura when she openly declared that she cannot work with crooks. Because of the poor working relationship with fellow leaders, Ms Nantaba doesn’t attend district functions and opts to hold rallies where she is often escorted by bodaboda cyclist.
Ms Nantaba claims that the district leaders led by the district LC5 chairman, Mr Steven Dagada, fight her because she was against corruption and misuse of public resources. “They are fighting me because I refused them to steal the maize flour that had been donated to the poor people,” Ms Nantaba said recently.
Nonetheless Mr Dagada, who himself rides on being an anti-corruption crusader, denies the allegations, and instead faults the MP for being undisciplined and uncooperative. Ms Nantaba, who was running a shop in Kampala, joined elective politics in 2011. She is a graduate of tourism from Makerere University, and has two children.