BARE KNUCKLES: Where Nagenda, Mirundi and their lot are played like pawns

A lot of feedback is still coming through following Presidential Adviser, John Nagenda’s barrage or what Tamale Mirundi, himself a spokesman of State House, described as a “jilted lover’s” deluge published by this newspaper last Sunday.

Most of the feedback is in praise of the veteran spin master’s ‘courage’ to attempt to “bell the cat”, a ritual that could bring fatal consequences to the performer. Some of it raises questions about President Museveni’s style of governance, the dependability of his Cabinet to deliver on national issues, yet others question Nagenda’s own credulity – why, after decades of dedicated service to the President, he chooses to pour his heart out even on matters that he has pulled under the rag before.

In his column, Ear to the ground, this week, Onyango Obbo, said both Nagenda and Mirundi had received a knock-out from New Vision CEO Robert Kabushenga, an emerging whirligig handler of the President, by delivering the President on record time, where the other two had failed miserably. But Obbo also warns the likes of Mirundi and Kabushenga to watch that all the footsteps of the animals entering the cave where the lion is lying are facing one direction – towards the cave.

Nagenda is known for his philosophical enunciations using the power of the word to season his message but in his interview with us last week, he did not hold back his words describing his boss as “more autocratic” and a man who is all too powerful, even for his own good. That Nagenda wants the President to relinquish some of his powers to his ministers means the President, despite his successes, has become his own enemy and an enemy to the country. Systems and institutions have become dysfunctional because ministers and technocrats have to take detailed notes from the President to move a finger on anything.

For all practical purposes, a lot of what Nagenda said in the interview is drawn from an old notebook, written over the span of Museveni’s rule and manifested in dysfunctional institutions, a “supine” Cabinet, religiously sycophant individuals nurtured by the President himself through patronage – Mirundi’s own ‘confession’ on Monday revealed how Museveni appoints his advisers “for welfare purposes” - and a collapse of governance systems, which explains why you might not find basic medicines at your local hospital.

But what Nagenda says of Janet Museveni, the President’s wife, is even more intriguing. She is the lone voice of opposition at Cabinet meetings and seems to stand up to the President on matters such as Mabira. Nagenda believes she might just be the ‘chosen one’ to “bell the cat” after all and perhaps, in not so far a future, engineer change at the top.

As one who has been this close to the First family, Nagenda knows one or two things of the brewing undercurrent at State House. There has been more talk about Museveni grooming his son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kaineruba, for the seat than the First Lady’s ambitions of becoming Uganda’s first female president. The young gentleman spoke his mind this week, declaring that his dad is “not grooming me for presidency”. It is a dense point to make because nobody expects him to say the contrary. It is also unlikely that his dad would tell him what he is doing.

The twist on Janet, however, should be tied to the WikiLeaks revelations this week. Capt. Mike Mukula told the US ambassador that Muhoozi is on his dad’s radar as a successor. If Nagenda believes that Hanet has the spine for the job, how come her husband is looking elsewhere? Is he a aware of Janet’s ambitions? Or could it be credible that the President then decided to bring Janet closer to the “resources and perks” and yet try to keep her detracted by appointing her Minister for Karamoja?

These are not fire prattles being told by men under the influence of alcohol. It just points to the pseudo façades of democracy that, as a country, Museveni has brought to bear on us. The same reason that kept Nagenda silent all these years before last Sunday is the same that has kept all the subsequent Cabinets mute on matters they should have spoken when they still had something to lose. Now with nothing to lose, there is security in speaking one’s mind, which is where the greatest hypocrisy of Uganda’s so-called ‘well-bred’ is found.

Nagenda, might have some level of decency to protect and so his outburst, but like Mirundi, whom he says does not have “first class brains”, both of them and the whole lot that sits on Cabinet are only pawns on Museveni’s board of chess; used and discarded at the whims of the player.

Mr Masiga is the Managing Editor - Weekend [email protected]