Norbert Mao, also famously known as chairman Mao is a man known for his intellectual wit, balanced debating skills and one of the few Ugandan orators blessed with very good idioms. But the former district chairman and Member of Parliament for Gulu District and Municipality respectively, has endured a very chaotic reign as a leader of the Democratic Party.
The Ping-Pong between him and a large section of DP members has dragged on for long without getting settled until it resulted in a mass defection to the recently formed NUP. Out of the many DP members of parliament who have deserted, he has only remained with four! And all the twelve members of The Grand Old Party have defected to the newly born Party and swore allegiance to its President, Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
As a former Guild President of Makerere University, Mao surprisingly doesn’t seem to have gained enough political experience to thrust him into a successful leader at the national level. He was expected to play his cards with a lot of caution to avoid what befell him.
How he missed it all
During a television program on the Thursday night, in a bid to water down the mass defection of DP members, Mao said that Bob Wine has a slogan which says that ‘’Bikwase Kyagulanyi’’ which literally translates that ‘’handover all your excess baggage to Kyagulanyi.’’ He therefore qualified the statement by saying that all the DP members who had defected were part of ‘the excess baggage’ that had left DP and handed over to Kyagulanyi’.
But one strong DP member who also happens to have defected to NUP, the Mukono Municipality MP Hon Betty Nambooze quickly challenged him to also handover his wife Naomi to Kyagulanyi, (Mao also had a bitter divorce with his wife Naomi recently). Mao, was shocked to the marrow and couldn’t handle the rest of the proceedings of the debate as he pondered on how to disentangle himself from the mess he has found himself into.
Later on he made an honest statement when he said that he believes that someday, Ugandans will look for him and recognize his relevance. That was an admission of guilt in itself that denotes that perhaps his time in the politics of the Democratic Party in particular and Uganda in general had come to an unexpected end. He had thrown in the proverbial towel!. He is clever enough to know that his fate has been sealed.
Mao’s political deeds
But we need to cross examine how Mao has played his political cards in the most recent years to determine where it all went wrong. He had been one of the most consistent members of the opposition who has opposed President Museveni for close to three decades. He has contested for the Ugandan presidency and registered miserable percentage votes and knows how it feels. He also tried his hands at forging an alliance with the then overhyped former Ugandan Prime Minister Hon Amama Mbabazi in the TDA in the run up to the 2016 election-but evaporated without any impact. When TDA failed to take off, Mao ran back to DP and tried to consolidate himself as the party president but was faced with very hostile forces within the party.
He made mistakes of resorting to insults to address his detractors like Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago. This constant bickering has eventually resulted in a political disaster with almost the entire DP senior hierarchy deserting him. But Mao should be blamed for failing to read the political temperature in the country today. Almost every tom, dick and harry knows that this political season is largely dominated by political rookie Hon Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobiwine.
Mao knows and has witnessed that almost the entire country has embraced the candidature of Bobi Wine and NUP. If half his brain was at work, he should have found a way of working a smart alliance with the Ugandan musician cum politician, just for the critical sake of political survival and floating on the radar of Ugandan politics.
Instead of acknowledging the reality of the political waves in the country, Mao chose to ridicule and even malign Bobi Wine’s pressure group, the People Power Movement. During one of the talk shows, Mao made a statement which buried his chances of remaining relevant in the fast moving political times when he stated that ‘’pressure groups like People Power are like schools without center numbers. When it’s time for exams, they run to schools with center numbers’’.
Mao was trying to state the dominance and political advantage the Democratic Party had over the People Power group. He was therefore naively saying that when election time arrives, the People Power Movement and its leader Bobiwine will have to run to the legally registered DP to gain access to the ballot paper. While the statement had a lot of legal sense, it made no political sense at all. Why?
Because while DP has the legal requirements to posture as a political heavy weight, it doesn’t enjoy the mass following that Bobiwine enjoys around the country. With all that in perspective, Mao should have been the one to lead his people to NUP and not the other way round. He had overestimated his political weight – a mistake that precedes the fall of many arrogant leaders.
Now that he has lost over twelve MPs and thousands of his party members to NUP, he has no choice but to either join them, which seems to be already late, or lie low like a ‘virgin’ envelope. It’s high time someone reminds him that he is like a principal of a very big school with a center number but without students.
The end of an epoch
It’s inevitably obvious that his political career as an individual has literary come to an end. The only option is to seek the tentacles of another political force. But is it feasible for him to join the President Museveni’s NRM? Not at all, because his twenty five year fight against Museveni will have been in vain. I don’t think that he can afford to join Museveni because he will vindicate those who have long considered him to be Museveni’s spy.
Does he possess the will to join forces with another political group within the opposition? Yes he can probably join the other political forces but they will have no impact given the fact that the same forces are not as powerful as the NUP group. If Mao, for instance, joins FDC, he will be running away from the proverbial frying pan to the fire itself. Why? Because the FDC itself has run out of ideas and is looking for ways of floating in stormy waters.
The FDC are in a dilemma of having the monotonous candidature of Dr Kiiza Besigye who has already contested and lost four consecutive times. You don’t need rocket science to deduce that Besigye’s time in Ugandan politics is virtually over. The FDC had tried to unveil Erias Lukwago, but the lord mayor calculated and realized he had no chance of making any meaningful impact on the national scene and picked forms to contest as Kampala Mayor again.
Mao can only resurrect as a king maker by supporting the emerging forces, but that possibility also points in the direction of NUP yet he blew that chance already. Hon Betty Nambooze actually told Mao that they (the defecting DP group) had left the small DP faction he leads to join more feasible forces that can beat Museveni at the polls.
This means that Mao should swallow his pride and lead that small faction and join another political force like that of Maj. Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation party. Muntu is moderate in his political actions and is a more welcome political option for some members of the ruling party. He therefore resonates very well with the moderates from the opposition and the ruling party.
But the problem with Muntu’s ANT is that while he has got a rational message of preparing a more peaceful transition from Museveni, he has got no political grounding with Ugandans. Joining Muntu is as wasted an effort as a man who runs and climbs a tree to evade a leopard-which is a more seasoned climber.
As of now, Norbert Mao can only resign to the fate of licking his political wounds. If he is not very careful, his political career is as good as done and dusted. The reality is that Chairman Mao maybe a good orator, good at idioms with a language for press conferences but he lacks the magical political touch to propel him to the Ugandan presidency. He should swallow his ride and contend with the fact that he can do better as a kingmaker than seeking to be a king himself. Maybe time will be kind to him in the future.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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