In both the 2006 and 2011 parliamentary elections, Lands and Urban Development minister Daudi Migereko managed to win back the Butembe Parliamentary seat, albeit by a hair’s breadth, after gruelling campaigns.
In both races, the main challenger of Mr Migereko was Forum for Democratic Change man, Mr Grace Kirya Wanzala, who cried foul and made futile attempts to have the courts of law overturn the minister’s victories.
However, the entry of the youthful NRM-leaning Nelson Lufafa on the scene is now making Butembe County, home of the largest sugarcane plantations in Busoga, much more complicated for the minister.
Writings on the wall indicate that Mr Migereko, who is the second longest serving legislator from Busoga sub-region, coming after the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, will this time round be fighting for his political life.
The minister has always had a foot in some form of politics right from his days at Makerere University. Soon after university, he worked as a personal assistant to the then minister of Transport in the UNLF regime, the late Yoweri Kyesimira.
It was, however, not until the late 1980s following the introduction of the LC system that he got a taste of elective politics, being elected a councillor in the LC4 Council of Jinja Municipality.
Mr Migereko’s first attempt at representing the constituency was in 1995 following the resignation of former Agriculture minister Victoria Sekitoleko from both the National Resistance Council and government to take up a job as the Food Agricultural Organisation’s sub regional representative to Eastern and Southern Africa, based in Harare, Zimbabwe.
That attempt, however, ended in defeat to the then Jinja District Delegate to the Constituent Assembly, Ms Faith Mwondha.
In 1996, Mr Migereko returned to defeat Ms Faith Mwondha, who was later to become a commissioner with the Uganda Human Rights Commission and later High Court judge and Inspector General of Government. One Moses Waiswa, a resident of Bugembe, who claims to have been one of those who voted in that election, insists that it was not because he was a better politician than Ms Mwondha.
Mr Waiswa argues that Mr Migereko was simply a beneficiary of having closely worked with Ms Sekitoleko. Because of Ms Sekitoleko’s endorsement, he argues, it was easy to rally her campaign team which was composed of mainly beneficiaries from the Heifer Project and other agricultural extension services and members of what was then known as Butembe Makerere University Students’ Association then under the leadership of Mr John Banalya.
The teams have over the years disintegrated and Mr Banalya, who was instrumental in the public relations campaign that helped tip the balance in favour of Mr Migereko in that first victory, has since turned into one of Mr Migereko’s biggest critics and political foes. He was actually one of the candidates who battled Mr Migereko for the constituency’s seat in 2011. Why?
Mr Banalya accuses the minister of reneging on several promises, including failure to find jobs for constituents and to nurture other people in what was Ms Ssekitoleko’s camp.
As if the headache causing troubles in his own backyard were not enough, in 2006 Mr Migereko found himself faced with the youthful Mr Grace Kirya Wanzala, who sought to tap into the discontent among the armies of unemployed and underemployed youths strewn across the various peri-urban centres of the constituency.
Backed by the ruling party’s machinery and lieutenants like Jinja RDC, Mr Richard Gulume, a.k.a “Perforator” because of his role in the events of March 5, 2004 when he led a rowdy group of Movement supporters into disrupting a public dialogue that had been organised by the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO), Mr Migereko did beat Mr Kirya in 2006.
Round two, which they slugged out in February 2011, was a different ball game. It was much more crowded as it attracted Mr Banalya and the then Jinja LC5 Chairman, Lt Hannington Basakana.
Lt Basakana, a veteran of the 1980s Bush War which brought President Museveni to power, who had until his entry into elective politics worked with the Internal Security Organisation, seemed to be on a mission to only ensure that Mr Migereko lost the seat. It did not matter to him who took it as long as the minister did not retain it.
“Even if he comes third, we shall be asking questions where he got the votes,” Lt Basakana said at various rallies.
Mr Waiswa insists that Mr Migereko is weak and was actually defeated in 2011, adding that though it was he who was declared the winner in the race, the MP for Butembe remains Kirya.
“Migereko must be some kind of magician. By the time we went to sleep, it was clear that he had been defeated, but we were shocked to learn the following morning that Wanzala had come second with 15,793 votes against Migereko’s 16,623 votes. The vote in Butembe has a funny way of changing. If you go to sleep without first ascertaining what the totals are you will be shocked in the morning,” Mr Waiswa says.
Mr Wanzala challenged the outcome on grounds that the election had been marred by several malpractices, including disenfranchisement of his voters, but Judge Billy Kainamura dismissed the petition with costs, which he is still fighting to pay.
Now, if Mr Migereko has mastered the art of beating Mr Wanzala, the entry of the Mr Nelson Lufafa, a pastor at Faith Christian Centre in Mafubira, is fast changing the political landscape.
In the last two years alone, Mr Lufafa who says an MP must do more than play a legislative and oversight function, has donated an ambulance, help put up a private hospital (known as Almerca), and a couple of schools, not to mention a charity that gives out scholarships to needy children, mostly those orphaned by HIV/Aids, probably prompting many a constituent to wonder why their MP of 15 years and counting had not done anything in that direction.
During the same period, the youthful aspirant has circulated calendars and car and bicycle stickers, distributed free solar bulbs to elderly persons in the villages, contributing towards the renovation of playing fields at several schools and holding consultative meetings with women groups and NRM supporters in the constituency to prepare the public for his candidacy. These developments have evidently unsettled the minister.
Towards the end of last year, he had Mr Lufafa summoned to the police’s Rapid Response Unit offices in Kireka to answer several accusations, including an allegation that he was planning to have him poisoned.
“It was of course absurd, but several people intervened and I was released without further charges. Such acts of intimidation will not deter me. We have to do something to change Butembe,” says Lufafa.
The challenge for Lufafa is to maintain the momentum.
The minister has in recent times been distributing coffee seedlings to whatever remaining part of the constituency that has not taken to sugarcane growing. When reached for comment, he accused this correspondent of bias.
“Every story you write about me is bad. If you want, you quit journalism and come and contest so that I know that we are political rivals” he said.
For now, however, it appears that Mr Lufafa’s entry could divide the NRM vote, possibly handing the initiative to Mr Wanzala.
The number of registered voters.
Number of polling stations.
Legislators since 1986.
Victoria Balyejjusa Sekitoleko (1988 to 1995)
Faith Mwondha (1995 to 1996)
Daudi Migereko (1996 to-date)