Will uncertainties of life in the run-up to the 2021 general elections lead to a life of uncertainty for many politicians? I think the answer is yes, basing on the definition of the word ‘uncertain.’ The pocket-sized Oxford English dictionary I have defines it in two ways. First, it means “not known, reliable or definite.” Secondly, it means “not completely sure.”
At no point since the elections of 1996 have I perceived so much uncertainty among our politicians. It appears that it is no longer enough for politicians to have one leg here and another leg there. They need three legs. That is why we are seeing some Opposition politicians with one leg in the Forum for Democratic Change, another leg in the Agenda for National Transformation and the third leg in People Power.
Even the “rebels” in the National Resistance Movement (NRM) have been bitten by the bug of uncertainty. They seem to have one leg in NRM, another in People Power and the third discreetly in some other pressure group. Wherever the wind of uncertainty is blowing, the common denominator is People Power, led by Kyadondo East MP, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine. Suddenly, even seasoned politicians are sucking up to Bobi Wine with an eye to taking advantage of the restlessness of the youth who are driving People Power.
Seizing opportunity as and when it arises is a great thing; but doing so unscrupulously is wrong and opportunistic. Indeed, like predators, many politicians are resorting to political opportunism to sniff the wind for prey (votes). Such people are desperately in need of character. What are the factors that can heighten political opportunism in the run-up to the next elections? First, many of the MPs who removed Article 102(b) from the Constitution may find uncertainty following them like their own shadows; 2021 may be pay-back time for the voters they betrayed.
Secondly, more young people will be voting for the first time in 2021, pushing the youth vote from about 60 per cent of the total electoral vote to nearly 75 per cent.
Young people are unpredictable; it is difficult to read their game. Consequently, they should never be taken for granted. The youth know they have the numbers to tilt the vote one way or the other. Many are smart, well informed and tech savvy. And they have potent weapons in the form of social media platforms where they practically live these days. Nobody should toy with them.
To that effect, I urge politicians to pay special attention to an August 2016 report the Aga Khan University produced after interviewing 1,854 respondents aged 18 to 35, spread across urban and rural areas. “The Uganda Youth Survey Report,” according to its authors, “offers reasons both for optimism, deep concern and the need for urgent action.” Personally, I find that the report reinforces my oft-stated position that the World Bank misled us to believe that the private sector would grow the economy and create plenty of jobs; the result has been jobless growth.
Unemployment now is a huge problem. But the report found that the youth are willing to be part of the solution by exploring entrepreneurship. Government must, therefore, stop dishing out cash to young people without first equipping them with appropriate entrepreneurial skills.
Faith, hard work, family and wealth creation are the values the youth prioritised, says the report. But it was also found that 74 per cent of the youth interviewed were vulnerable to electoral bribery, with 39 per cent saying they “would only vote for a candidate who bribed them.”
Unscrupulous politicians should stop bribing young people. Those opportunistically rushing to People Power must know that exploiting the youth vote in 2021 to achieve selfish goals will be injurious to the future of this country.
Dr Akwap is a senior lecturer at Kumi University. firstname.lastname@example.org