Museveni should start grooming successor - Nagenda

Mr John Nagenda, the Senior Presidential Adviser on the Media. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Succession question. Senior Presidential Adviser on the Media, Mr John Nagenda, has, unlike other supporters of the NRM, urged President Museveni to retire when his term of office expires in 2021.
  • At the same time, Nagenda is calling on the NRM to identify someone to succeed Mr Museveni. Charles Odoobo Bichachi & Isaac Mufumba sounded him out on his latest stand.

Last week you wrote about your delight that the President had actually dispelled this rumour about the proposals to lift the presidential age limit, but if you watched him, he seemed to stammer a lot on that question
First of all, I have a huge amount of respect for Museveni and what he has done for this country. So now it is my duty to try and come and get him out of this position.

President Museveni is a very strong-willed person and you having worked very closely with him know how much he pursues his interests. Assuming there are some lingering thoughts about this, is this something from which he can step back?
I hope he might. Chances are he might not, but to start at the end, I get nightmares that while he is still on the seat he dies. I don’t wish him to die at all, but this is a natural thing. Immediately there would be wars here between the different people who see themselves as the most suitable.
If that happens, we would be thrown back 40 years. And to me for all the good that has happened, which I approve of, to go back there, it would be quite irresponsible.
So anything to forestall that kind of thing I am in favour of. People have said aren’t you going to annoy Museveni very much? I would be very sorry if I annoyed him, but it would never stop me from saying what I need to say.

You mentioned that there are people who have benefitted from corruption for whom it would be very good if the President amends the Constitution. What kind of people might be driving this? Are they at party level or family?
You could say it is party level. I have been told of people who have grown really wealthy. You see if you have so many things to do as Museveni has every single day, you get to some point where you need some slight relief and where you need to be amongst those people who might be saying what you want to hear, but which you don’t want to be the first person to say.
Secondly, I have never known a man who wants to be supported by rules as Museveni does. Somebody can say that “why doesn’t he just stand again?” No, because that would be illegal and he likes legality a lot.
So the way I see it is that these people are going to be unleashed slowly by slowly by whoever. They will not be stopped, but what I would hope for is that Museveni would tell them that this is his last term. That he would stick to it.

I even said in one of my articles that if need be let it be the wife before she reaches 75. For me it would be better for her and I never thought I would say this. She has done very well in Karamoja and is doing well in Education. I wouldn’t want her to be President, but if that is the price so be it.

People were very hot on Museveni’s son, Muhoozi [Kainerugaba], but I honestly don’t think that Museveni would push for that line, but then I wrote one day and said that if Muhoozi wants to stand I would not stand in his way, but I would find it ridiculous.

He didn’t want his wife to come into Parliament. Do you think he would want her to be president? Besides, even when he hadn’t wanted her into politics he still appointed her to his Cabinet
I honestly didn’t think that he wanted her to be in Cabinet. I think if she was to say “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I take it?” He might have said okay go to Karamoja thinking that this was quite far away and she wouldn’t take it, but she did a good job.

He himself might have been surprised by how well she did. Once she did it then he thought, “what about this troublesome (ministry of Education)? So I cannot say that he said one thing and did another in the case of his wife.

If Museveni said he is not going for it like he shouldn’t go for it (as the law limits him), if you look within the party and the national political landscape who else do you see?

I don’t see anybody. I mustn’t sound as if I believe that everybody who says he should carry on does it for a bad reason. The good reason you just mentioned. Who else is there? Offhand I can’t see anybody, but if I was Mr Museveni I would start developing somebody.

When you say so people say that the person’s life might be in danger! Rubbish! If he is being talked about like that and if the President wants him to be that then that person would be protected.

Presidents, when they are as powerful as Museveni or Nyerere, they can protect you and what I had wanted actually, at one stage, I would still like it very much, is if President Museveni stood aside at the end of this term and did what Nyerere did. He retired in heavy inverted commas.
President Museveni also would in my view very well play the role of the retired President, but while still being in the mind of everybody, including the so-called president. He would still be the number one person in Uganda.

You talked about him identifying somebody and trying to support somebody within the system, but former prime minister Amama Mbabazi was a president in waiting by tacit appointment! It turned out he was not!
I know that Mbabazi might have thought that he was the anointed person, but that was not the case. The President has his ear very close to the ground and he knew that the [then NRM] secretary general was doing a very poor job. Things were not running well and his daughter had been given a job for $4 million to the party register.

If he was not doing a good job, why is it that by some coincidence things have not been going well since he left government?
I don’t think the secretary general would affect the running of government, but he would affect the Movement for sure, but I will tell you what I think. Every single one of the people that I know and with whom I move was very much against Mbabazi. I don’t think Mbabazi noticed, but they were against him.
Museveni knew that Mbabazi was very unpopular and so for a moment I don’t think he ever wanted him to be his successor, but without mentioning names, I have to say that the people now nearest to the President in the Movement especially, you wonder why they were there.
Who today gives Museveni the kind of advice that Eriya Kategaya gave him both during the war and afterwards? Is there a single person who does it?

Why do you say that?
Because they are useless, they are self-seekers! How can people like that seem to run anything. Young! Inexperienced!

Then what does that say about the President. Because he is the appointing authority
Let me give an example of the one who was Press Secretary. How could Tamale Mirundi be the spokesman for anybody in this world and in the next world? It is impossible!
I have not asked my boss, but when the President has retired I will be able to say to him, “What made you give these people jobs like this?” You know, I will say it and maybe he will answer it because number one it makes him look so bad.
When you go overseas and there is Tamale Mirundi, badly dressed and speaking a language nobody can decipher, how can that be in your interest?

The other day, Otafiire was showered. What do you make of that incident in the whole scheme of things?
It took me entirely by surprise. To be honest, why shower the messenger? If you want go and shower the boss, but they are not going to do it, but again from the report that I read, those people who came to the meeting were not all Movement people.
So I could imagine a non-Movement person trying to pour water on Museveni via Otafiire, but I was very surprised.

You were working very closely with State House when the lifting of term limits was being mooted. There were all these subdued tones initially, but eventually it comes out. Looking back at that time and what you are seeing today, what are the similarities and how different could the end be?
All these things have been done for one person. Let us be honest, and that is Museveni. But I ask myself a question, as soon as Museveni, who is a one off in every way, is no longer in the battlefield for the presidency will people bother to close it again by bringing back term limits? It would be very interesting to see that. If I am wrong (that Mr Museveni will retire in 2021) and Museveni goes on, for how long? Will he become another Mugabe? I have no idea. Whatever we say here, my nightmare is if Museveni dies in office without a name of who takes over because then definitely there is going to be terrible fights in this country.
Therefore, would it not be better if Museveni who has been the one most important person in what we have had for 40 years, be at the forefront of choosing somebody because naturally the first people who will be at the mercy of whoever comes next would be his family.
All our families (will) of course (be at the next leaders’ mercy), but mostly his family and if that is the case and we cannot decide when we are going to the next phase (die) it would really be of paramount importance for whoever is in power, in this case Museveni to say that “what I have done I am very proud of, nobody else could have done it, by coincidence of different facts and reasons and therefore now that God has given me this life to be around for all these years, it is important that I don’t leave this world, whenever I will do it, but just in case it comes sooner rather than later, without having tried to solve the succession”.
When I talk to you now it is the question I am trying to answer for myself and it is the subject for which I want to give my advice for whatever it is worth.
Uganda has been in comparatively wonderful state because of what has happened with the Movement, would it not be a terrible thing to take the risk of going back to what things were because that is what usually happens.
If you have had a very powerful leader and he is gone things go back to where they were.

Do you also think the key in this whole thing lies with Museveni?
Yes it does.

And in your reading is he about to come up and say guys let us call an end to this debate. I am not interested?
I will be honest with you because after all why talk? I don’t know which way it will end. I would very much like what you have just said to be what happens.
I don’t want to discuss what we discuss with the President, but for me the best way is to tell you what I would like to happen. I would really like at the end of this (term) as promised, for the President to retire. That is what I would like to see and I think he is going to retire, but Monitor laughs at me when I say this.

We are also laughing at you
You are Monitor, but definitely he should do it. I am hoping he will do it. People say what is so different that he didn’t do it the last time he promised? Maybe it is wishful thinking on my part, but I would like him to do it. It is a subject that I have talked with the President in the past and he knows very well my thinking which I have just told you. He never said I will not do it. I will go on until I drop. He never said it. Never! Never!
I hope the Movement, I am talking really to the Movement people to think all the time, not just for five minutes. What would happen if the President died in office? What is to happen to Uganda? And this, if I could bewitch him, that is what I would be saying in his sleep.

When was the last time you engaged him about that matter?
That is my secret.

You talked about the fears, say what will happen to his family. Perhaps it really occupies his mind. Many Ugandans fear what will happen if Museveni is not around and perhaps in the army they also have similar worries. So from where you stand, how can we move forward?
Every single human being must fear for their safety if this thing goes wrong because don’t let anybody fool you, if Museveni goes without somebody known as the one who will succeed him, if such a person does not exist, it doesn’t take very much brain to realise the danger we will be in.
I grew up in a Balokole home. My father was a leader of the Balokole and he would have said, let us go and pray about it. Sometimes Museveni almost says he is a Mulokole. If he were to say that he is a Mulokole I would then address him in the language which I used to do with my father.
What will happen if he doesn’t listen? We shall not give up. I will preach the same gospel. That we have got to find somebody, the State has got to find somebody who will succeed Museveni because even if he hasn’t already succeeded, but it will mean that many people would have heard it and may be they will be ashamed to start killing or whatever it is.

Away from the politics, just what do you think of the state of the country today in terms of the economy, crime etc.?
The corruption is the worst I have ever known. The security is the best I have seen, but the economy stinks. I think we have failed to realise that agriculture should be steps ahead. People on every occasion talk about cooperatives, but I think the top leadership doesn’t really realise that the best way for people to have food in their stomachs and money is to go for cooperatives in agriculture.

There is a feeling out there that actually the reason why government seems to be offering only lip service to the subject of cooperatives is that Mr Museveni is not interested in seeing an economically empowered populace as it would be difficult to dominate
No. I don’t agree. It’s been said to me before, but if that is what President Museveni felt, it would be a terrible shame. For me it is sometimes very easy not to see things which are very obvious. You do it, I do it, Museveni does it, but I find it obnoxious to say that he wants to keep the people down so that they are easier to rule.
I know the person a bit and I know how proud he would be if people are not starving. It would redound to his credit if Uganda was to be up there somewhere.

What has your time working in State House been like? We hear of a lot of intrigue and that Mr Museveni is non-receptive when offered advice. It is also believed that some advisers have never met him
Yes there are many, but you see most of the advisers are put there for the sake of where they come from. So that people say I have a senior adviser.
For me I have found working with the President a fun experience because he has got a very good brain. In my view, and especially if you are one to one you can really say very much what you want to say, but even if you are not one to one, you can.
For me I was very lucky because we had many one on ones. I regretted when other people started sitting in. I preferred it when I used to talk with passion to him on things and he would also talk back with passion.
I asked the question, “Who gives Museveni the kind of advice Eriya Kategaya used to give him in times of battle?” Kategaya’s wife told me that they had a man who would make up between them because each would get so annoyed. Now when I look at the people who run the Movement, it is a shame and so many of them are not actually true Movementists.
Where they pick them up I have no idea. It is very disappointing and there is nobody so bright that they cannot take advice from people who are honest and truthful. So that I regret.

There is a row between Mr Sudhir Ruparelia and Bank of Uganda. The bank accuses Sudhir of theft while he asks the Bank where it was as the supervisor of commercial banks. What do you make of the row?
I was quite impressed by (Governor Tumusiime) Mutebile and his friends because they seem to have mounted quite a good case, but Sudhir had done more than one good thing.
The people (leading commercial banks) haven’t got sufficient power well as with Sudhir you went to the same and you borrowed money (in a short while). A lot of people lost their property the Sudhir way, but also a lot of people got business. So I don’t know what we will do with our banks.