They say that a week in politics is a long time. True it can be, because politicians are known to turn on a ten cent piece in the matter of an inkling. But then a five year cycle in politics must be an eon! Because at the end of one’s term of service they must seek the mandate of the electorate to continue serving. What the politicians forget is that while they have been ‘serving’ especially themselves, their wards have been watching and waiting.
And so we arrive at the end of such a cycle and the potential beginning of another. Some call it an election, I call it the silly season because of the drama that then enfolds. It is a both enlightening and embarrassing time because of what emerges out of the woods. I suppose one cannot have foretold before this moment what motivates the chaps who then nobly offer themselves up to be our elected leaders, beyond their proverbial bellies. In these unprecedented and turbulent times, the amount of courting we as voters are receiving mind boggling.
First up are the contenders for plot number 1. The ones who think that they can be the leaders of a country as diverse and complicated as Uganda. The first time I understood the problem with this category was back in the 1980’s when Milton Apollo Obote asked Mr Paul Kawanga ‘Chemwogerere’ to show him is generals. Prof. A. B. Kasozi has aptly explored the problems associated with this category of contenders. His main thesis, if I got him correctly, was that because of the inequity occasioned by colonialism and unfair distribution of national resources, our politics is bound to be violent and unforgiving. That because different ethnic groups to this day carry extreme unspoken resentment for each other, it is not possible to have a tea party around who becomes the occupant of plot number 1, Entebbe.. This is always going to be a violent contest. It is indeed intruiging that men schooled who were schooled in violence and had (almost) climbed to the top of the totem pole of our politics believed that there could be a non violent change in this position. Its not yet Uhuru my friends so get ready for the inevitable.
Up next is a mixed bag of sitting members of parliament, losers from the last election, out-of-favour civil servants, those who genuinely believe they can make a change. This is where the real food fight is. It is a fight driven by money, alliances, ethnicity and religion. It gets bloodier and bloodier with that passing of each year because of the failed demographic dividend and reduced opportunities for the ‘educated’ classes. Some commentators note that in some constituencies it is going to cost as much as a billion shillings or more to win the fight to be a member of parliament. The attrition rate here is over 70 percent. It is really difficult to discern any ideological differences among this crowd beyond blue, green, red and yellow.
Last in class but interestingly a growing band, are the clowns, the jesters, the musicians and the dramatist. An interestingly odd lot, who believe the erstwhile successes of their colleagues combined with their fame is reason enough to be a leader. And don’t dismiss them easily because they reflect where our society is today. The elections have largely been reduced to an eating contest to the extent that posters are appearing with messages like ‘give me a chance to eat too’! That’s where the salt, soap, and sugar come in. They will be packed and labelled with the names of the contenders and distributed for votes as ‘facilitation’. Nowhere will you hear any serious discourse on the issues that afflict us. Indeed it has gotten to a point where two foul-mouthed individuals can confidently offer themselves to chaperone the women in Kampala and we are happy with that. It is the silly season indeed!
Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Mat Abacus Business School. Twitter @samuelsejjaaka