Opinion: President Yoweri Museveni, firstborn son of Amos and Esteeri Kokundeka Kaguta (R.I.P), was at his demonstration farm at Kawumu in Luweero district a fortnight ago. While there, after a particularly busy day mulching his crops and showing off the leafy benefits of his bicycle drip irrigation hack of a few months back, he spoke to the press.
Asked to comment on reports that the upcoming retreat of ruling party legislators would dwell on gearing up efforts to lift the age limit clause from the Constitution to permit him succeed himself in 2012, Museveni referred to the matter as ‘small things.’
“Right now our focus, my focus, is eliminating poverty. When the right time comes, we will talk about those other things,” he counseled. That’s what the press captured and from the tone, they were disappointed as they preferred him to say “Yes it will be discussed” or “I am interested.” But Museveni is a wise man.
He knew that if he made that declaration, all news media would go for that story and skip what took him to Kawumu – showcasing practical methods of cultivating an organized, highly productive and efficient farm. He needn’t be at Kawumu to speak about 2021.
Kawumu is for things agronomic and, therefore, to ask questions on politics of years ahead when someone needs something to put to the mouth or a coin for their livelihood didn’t tantamount to wise consideration of the venue on the part of askers. It required psychological ambush to get him to talk.
The Museveni we are used to dislikes being part of news frenzies – discussing topics everyone is engaged with. He prefers standalone subject matters. But the President’s dismissal of the juicy subject as a ‘small’ matter is where the message, for those who must know what 2021 holds is.
For Museveni, getting over impediment to 2021 is a small project, indeed. By the end of 2020, the coast will be all clear. Recall that we already have the 2005 precedent when article 105(2) on term limits was taken care of; then in 2015 when he guided his NRM faithful to surgically amend the party constitution to accord him more say, sway and authority over their affairs and many other exercises where simply raising numbers or personal clout to break ground is the business at hand.
It is also recalled that Dr. Besigye did the first warm up for term extension when in the early years of the regime and as National Political Commissar (NPC) he masterminded the extension of the NRM rule from the initial four years. By the end of this article, you will know why he is still the man who will clear the way for Museveni to run again.
As we speak, there are many ‘Besigyes’ in NRM dying to uplift Museveni past any bar; we have Kafeero Ssekitoleko (MP Nakifuma County), Col. Abiriga (Arua Municipality), Odrek Rwabwogo (son-in-law) – and please read above the clouds on the latter. Then several youth groups now working under cover and other names in strategic places I will not name since I have not sought authorization to name them.
What is so objectively true is that Museveni is not short of loyalists to, if need be, ‘impose’ continued stay and service on him. In NRM at present no substitute has gained face to take on from the President and as I said earlier, in Uganda newbies have little chance. For NRM to bring a newbie at this stage would be to hand the gauntlet to a common substitute unless Ugandans are ready to drop their traditional sophistication and go with any ‘to-whom-it-may-concern.’
The exercise of expressing interest in the Presidency in 2015 attracted up to 80 Ugandans who picked forms but only a handful made it past nomination. The eligibility mark would attract millions but there is no one with noteworthy traits to be a threat to Museveni or the familiar faces. At most, the 2016 formation will remain or with minor alterations.
Besigye is not going anywhere. Mbabazi, too, is warming up. Recall that he promised to “speak soon.” Do you think he wants to speak about popcorn or the latest hit song on YouTube? Abed Bwanika is coming back. There will be a throng of fringe candidates, so-called page boys and flower girls.
If Museveni were to drop all ambition, many Ugandans would lose interest in the coming election as there is no new face to draw their interest in any significant way. Ugandans don’t sell their conscience to newcomers; they associate with familiar faces.
That’s why both Museveni and Besigye’s figures at the polls keep rising and falling intermittently… it’s about the temperature of a campaign and how particularly eventful it is that more voters turn up for each candidate.
The two men are in a syndicate by default which will take developments of ‘Trump’ magnitude to break. People who don’t like Museveni do greater to keep him in power than those who do. They may be few or numerous but they only serve to strengthen his resolve and to consolidate his guerilla gifts.
Some may wonder why the President went farming on a day when AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi was being interred in Kitwekyanjovu, Lwengo district! In Nkore culture, there is an observance called ekyoosi where nobody goes to the garden when someone is dead or is recently buried on the village. It’s done to honour the deceased.
Of course national affairs work differently from community taboos but Museveni was sending a very strong message to Kaweesi’s and other killers – that Uganda would go on and not kowtow to disruptions, tragic and all; and that he would remain an outstanding player in a different way than most people think or wish, surpassing any obstacle in his wake like a seasoned gladiator and Ssabalwanyi.