So people are raving that in these lean, mean days of the coronavirus lockdown, MPs quietly ‘kept away’ some Shs10b to help Parliament fight Covid-19.
It is often said that wise people should never let a crisis pass them by. At least they should come out wiser by taking lessons that will change their lives.
The years I have followed politics closely, it is notable that many people look at politicians as well intentioned noble men and women who are at times tempted by the devil to be greedy and wayward. It is in times like this that we get
a clearer picture by learning new things and unlearning old ones.
The Greek word ‘plutocracy’ or ‘plutarchy’ is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income.
Now great wealth or income may either be inherited, earned or stolen from other people. It may also be ‘attained’ by denying it to other people to keep them under the shackles of poverty. This keeps them in constant need and creates a power relation where a few people with money have all the power to determine the destiny of the majority.
In this arrangement, you have no distinction between a politician allied to the ruling party and one in the Opposition. They are all the same. They go into politics to look for money at the expense of those they lead. Or claim to lead. That is why they will spend an arm and a leg to get in and give the other arm and a leg to stay in there.
Ask yourself why this sort of money is not used to equip the empty health centres across the country. Why must it be given to men and women to stand high above the others and patronise them with handouts of their own money?
In this arrangement, the politicians with the ruling party are more honest in their behaviour.
They do not pretend because they are clearly for the system that upholds the plutocracy.
They shout no change and use the power of numbers plus the NRM caucus to extend the power and reach of the ruling government with all sorts of laws and pronouncements.
The Opposition serves the same purpose but in a more subtle way. They will speak out against the excesses of the regime and pretend to fight for those who oppose it. Then like Nicodemus in the Bible, they quietly collaborate with the rulers away from the prying eyes. For this, they get rewarded in heists like the one currently making people angry. The Opposition in Uganda is no different.
It is what you call a friendly Opposition in the set up. Their job is to give the impression that there is contention with what is taking place.
They draw lessons from the groups of thieves downtown. It goes like this one member of a huge team robs a purse from a helpless woman. She raises an alarm and they all come out pretending to give chase. She relaxes and hopes for the best. The whole group disappears and share the loot in safety.
In this case, the man who would go out on the streets to oppose an autocratic arrangement is somewhat disarmed, pacified and appeased that there are ‘powerful opposition figures’ fighting for the people.
For this role, there is a reward that comes in the form of money and other trappings. All members of parliament earn good money on foreign trips as per diem for bench marking and all sorts of ridiculous things claiming that they do this on ‘behalf of the people’ they represent.
Many people never get to know this side of things because we have been told from childhood that democracy is the rule of the people, by the people for the people. The truth, however, is that it is more about a group of people getting together, using money to make themselves more money by hoodwinking them into believing that they are serving them. We are not dealing with the legendary mother goose who is fends for its young ones.
It is one group of people who have come into politics to make money.
You will sleep better and make good decisions if you keep that at the back of your mind.
Still on the 10 billion shillings. Being angry with the MPs reminds me of the scenes in Kampala when a pick pocket is running with his snatch. When people are about to catch them, they will toss some money in the air.
This diverts the attention of those in hot pursuit, divides them with many taking their eyes off the ball.
Many know that parliament passed the 10 billion, but do not know that it was only a fraction of big money that was approved. Not many will ever get to know where it went and for what purpose.
Never underestimate the wisdom of the street.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org.