MRM bigwigs, including Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah, and junior Tourism minister Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi, have thrown their hats in the ring in the race for topmost NRM party posts.
The big three want to run as regional vice chairpersons in the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).
CEC is the topmost party organ of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
With declared interest in the race are also Mr Dan Kidega, the former East African Legislative Assembly speaker, who is challenging incumbent Sam Engola for the Northern Region seat, and Mr Felix Milly Kabyanga, who wants to wrestle the seat away from Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza.
The junior Finance, Privatisation and Investment minister Evelyn Anite, who was also reported to have expressed interest in the seat for northern Uganda, although she was quick to write a disclaimer, discredited the information.
“This picture currently doing rounds on social media is spreading wrong information. It could have been work of well-wishers who want me to contest for which am grateful and humbled for but at the moment, I have way too many obligations that need my attention,” she wrote.
“I still have to push for more industrialisation, which holds the key in creating decent employment opportunities,” Ms Anite posted on her Facebook page.
While Ms Anite’s intentions to contest for NRM party vice chairpersons for northern region and Mr Kutesa for western region have been widely shared on Parliament’s social media forums, Mr Oulanyah opted for Facebook, a more open public forum, to declare his intentions.
The Deputy Speaker has since received largely encouraging prompts, urging him to go for the top NRM seat in northern region.
But some of his political fans are prodding him to even aim higher for national chairperson slot. The NRM vice chairpersons from four of the countries regions deputise national chairperson Museveni in ruling NRM party politics.
Mr Oulanyah on the morning of January 20, posted on his official Facebook timeline his full campaign poster, announcing: “The time is now!”
The poster also describes Mr Oulanyah as “Man of the People,” and “Your choice, your voice.”
Mr Oulanyah’s offside sprint would seem to indicate that he is more than prepared to take on anyone with eyes on the northern seat to deputise President Museveni, the national chairperson. This ahead-of-time announcement would pit Mr Oulanyah against incumbent chairperson Sam Engola, who in 2015, outsmarted him, Second Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali, and his archrival Hilary Onek, the minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees and also Lamwo County MP.
Oulanyah is now likely to find himself in bruising face-to-face battle with two senior Cabinet ministers Gen Ali and Mr Onek, and former speaker of East African Legislative Assembly Dan Kidega, who has also declared his intention to contest.
But the NRM party electoral commission chief, Dr Tanga Odoi, warns that Kutesa, Oulanyah and many more NRM party candidates have begun their races too soon.
Mr Odoi says the party has yet to announce any dates for their NRM party internal elections. Nevertheless, he says the offside campaigners could have opted to take advantage of the delegates to popularise their bid even without any time table set for the elections.
The NRM party last elected its national leaders for the party’s top decision-making organs, the National Executive Committee (NEC) and Central Executive Committee (CEC) in February 2015, in the run up to the 2016 general election. The next delegates’ conference is likely to be held in the next two months, latest May.
Mr Sam Kutesa, the Foreign Affairs minister, from posters widely share on social media forums, is vying to replace Mr Abdul Nadduli, the current vice chairperson for central region. He is tussling it out with Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi, the State Minister for Tourism, who also challenged for the same position in 2015.
Mr Kutesa premises his campaign on strengthening the NRM party in central Uganda, while Kiwanda says the party needs an energetic, proven and experienced leader and a person not tainted with corruption allegations, ready to take party forward. We were unable to secure a response from him despite our repeated attempts to reach him by phone.
In western Uganda, Mr Felix Milly Kabyanga, has offered himself to wrestle the seat from Kyaligonza, the incumbent, who last tussled it out with Odrek Rwabogo, who is President Museveni’s son in law.
At the time, Brig Kyaligonza went on offensive, accusing the First Family of attempting to personalise the party. It took the intervention of Mr Museveni, the party chairperson, to convince his son-in-law to opt out to save the family from such accusations.
Mr Kabyanga premises his contest on need for young leaders to take over the mantle. “NRM is generation of young leaders to ensure continuity,” his slogan on the poster reads.
On his Facebook post, Mr Kabyanga on the night of Friday, said: “Time is now that we get mentored as a new generation of young leaders that will ensure continuity of NRM. I am no longer just a candidate, I am the in-coming national vice chairperson western Uganda. Now is the time we redefined ourselves and the future of Uganda and our mighty NRM,” he said.
In eastern Uganda, though the aspirants challenging the incumbent, Capt Mike Mukula, are cagey, Mr Mukula who is the current vice chairperson, has burst forward and has said he is back in the race. In 2015, Mr Mukula contested against former Kibuku County MP Saleh Kamba, Simon Mulongo, Micheal Werikhe Kafabusa, Moses Balyeku and Michael Okiror Otai.
Mr Werikhe has said he will not contest again for the regional seat.
Potential candidates speak out
Sunday Monitor was unable to reach a number of candidates who have shown interests in contesting for the vice chairpersons from different regions. Captain Mike Mukula, the NRM vice chairperson for Eastern Uganda said he is ready to tussle it out with whoever wants to contest.
“This delegates’ conference, we are going to discuss a number of party issues, but elections will be in June. However, definitely I am contesting and I will come back. You know the party vice persons have a big responsibility in managing the party affairs and it needs someone who is strong, innovative and ready to carry out mobilisation and I am the right person for that. Whoever wants to contest is welcome, but must know that he or she is coming up against a formidable challenge,” Mr Mukula said.
Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi, who is contesting for the central region vice chairperson, also sounded buoyant about his chances of winning.
He said he has served as a minister and a Member of Parliament for long and has experience.
“You know I am premising my campaign on NRM core principles. For you to be able to take this parry forward, you need to have energy, knowledge, integrity and experience. I have all these. Some of my colleagues might have the experience and knowledge, but they don’t have the energy. Others have tainted reputation which is not good for our party,” he said.
President Museveni, who is also the party chairperson, is known for talking some members out of contest. Asked what his response would be if he is asked to step down in favour of other candidates, My Kiwanda said he would put up case as to why it should be others to give way for him.
“I will explain myself to him [President Museveni] and tell him what the party will be missing if he asks me to step down. I am the best qualified person to take this party forward in the Central Region. I have served as an RDC, served as Buganda NRM Caucus chairperson, served as a minister and legislator. I have what it takes,” he said.
Jacob Oulanyah: Omoro Country MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
• Attended St Josephs College Layibi, Dr Obote College Boroboro, and Kololo SS for his O-Level and A-Level education.
•Joined Makerere University in 1988, studied agricultural economics and graduated in 1991.
•That same year, he joined Makerere University law school, graduating in 1994. Served as speaker of the university students’ guild during his stay at Makerere.
•Joined Law Development Centre (LDC) in 1995, obtained a postgraduate diploma in legal practice.
•Worked as lecturer at LDC, later on started a private law firm, Oulanyah, Onoria & Company Advocates.
•In 2005, he chaired the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee that lifted the presidential term limits.
•In 2006, he lost his re-election bid and quit the UPC and joined ruling NRM.
•In 2008, he was chairperson of Commission of Inquiry into the controversial sub-lease of Kisekka Market.
Godfrey Kiwanda: He is MP for Mityana County North.
•State Minister for Tourism
Dan Kidega: Former speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly
• Member, NRM National Executive Committee.
• Private Secretary to the Vice President from 2000 to 2001.
• Member of President Museveni’s national campaign taskforce in 2001 and 2011.
•National Youth representative in Parliament from 2001 until 2006.
• Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly 2014-2017.
Mike Mukula: Pilot, and businessman.
•He Was MP Soroti Municipality from 2001 to 2016.
•Member, NRM NEC.
•Pilot, trained at Kenya School of Flying at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, and in United States.
• In 2005, awarded a Master of Business Administration, Nkumba University.
•In 2009, awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the Latin University of Theology, based in Torrance, California, USA.