The political season is with us. So the cliché like song of the season has begun to ring in the air. The melody urges the Opposition to unite and sponsor one candidate per electable position so as to surmount the NRM juggernaut.
I recall before the election of 2016, there was a hyped agenda to present a single presidential candidate under the The Democratic Alliance (TDA). FDC, DP, UPC, CP, Jeema and the pressure group, Go Forward plus the former vice president Gilbert Bukenya were in the middle of it.
We had an interview with NTV and Sheila Nduhukire was fielding the questions. I told her that TDA was dead on arrival. From her probing and her demeanour, I could tell she was very sceptical about what I was saying.
The notion of a unity candidate was popular. The former NRM secretary general, presumably a very powerful hand behind the NRM, had broken ranks and come to challenge NRM’s Yoweri Museveni.
Like drowning men clutching at straws, most watchers felt, ‘this time’ the proper messiah had come. No one in their right mind dared to raise questions. The former Super Minister as John Patrick Amama Mbabazi of Go Forward pressure group was the chosen one in the eyes of many. Common logic was that he would bring multitudes of disgruntled people from the NRM, add them to the perennially discontented Opposition groups and bring down the NRM. What he was given by the EC was negligible.
NTV did not run the interview. TDA collapsed. Mbabazi and Bukenya gravitated towards the NRM after the election. Lesson, a joint presidential candidate is like the proverbial basket in which all the eggs are placed. Imagine if it falls. The logic behind unity is good on paper, but the facts on the ground work against it.
You may start with the simple one of adding up what the Opposition candidates together are said to garner in the election. They never get anywhere near what the NRM Presidential candidate is given by the Electoral Commission. Chances are high that if you have one candidate, the diehards of the other candidates may stay away and make matters worse.
But the most important reason is the development of our politics over the last 34 years. Holding political office is a very lucrative job for which one is assured of huge pay cheques and other privileges for very little work. The altruistic motives of liberating the people has vanished. It is now about self-aggrandizement. Politics is a job. You don’t go to the interview and ask that the job be given to your competitor because he has the same thoughts and ideas as yourself.
Even at presidential level, if one puts a foot in the door and gets a respectable tally, their fortunes change. The international community, the Western world rates them highly. They are assured of funding, travelling and allowances for as long as they are viewed as playing an oversight role of holding the government accountable.
For the parties having MPs in Parliament is a source of badly needed funds to run their activities as MPs contribute part of their salaries to the party. So the more MPs a party has, the better.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip both of whom come from parties with the most MPs, having privileges almost equivalent to those of Cabinet ministers. They also run huge budgets.
It is notable that many political parties and individuals go into these elections with little hope of having a fair process. They believe that despite what they say in public that the election will be ‘rigged’ in favour of the incumbent. That the Electoral Commission, the security agencies and most government bodies bat in favour of the NRM has been seen very often.
So the best that parties can do , is to get something out of the bad situation. The party that sponsors them only serves as a pedestal for them to stand on and succeed as individuals.
That is why Opposition parties should cut out the crap and save us the drama. At the presidential level, let every party and group sponsor their own candidates because each has their own following. Push them to vote and deny the incumbent 50 plus 1 per cent then have a re-run where the strongest candidate in the Opposition takes on the incumbent
At the parliamentary level, outgun the NRM and get more MPs than they should then unite in parliament and manage the agenda. Have candidates in all the provinces and ensure that you spread out there. The foundation is the most important part of the political formation yet the Opposition is very thin on the ground. That should be the game plan.