In a recent article I wrote for this newspaper, I made reference to the Runyankole adage that whereas lies might set out early, the truth usually gets to the destination first.
In that article, I exposed the lies the Opposition had been peddling in their pursuit of demonizing Hon Raphael Magyezi’s Private Members Bill that proposes to amend Article 102 (b) of the Constitution among others.
On Tuesday, Parliament reconvened following a recess that enabled MPs to consult their constituents on the same subject of amending Article 102 (b).
As it turns out, majority NRM legislators received overwhelming endorsement from their voters to actually support Hon Magyezi’s Bill.
In the same period, the Committee on Legal Affairs, which has been studying the Bill, concluded their work and the report is ready for tabling.
Again, it is crystal clear that most respondents to the committee found no fault with Hon Magyezi’s Bill.
The tide is speedily turning against the Opposition as the false premise on which they based their opposition to the Bill gets exposed by the day and more Ugandans embrace the Magyezi Bill.
It is therefore not surprising that as the Bill moves closer to adoption; the Opposition is going into a frenzy of lies and deception about the motivation of those in support of the Bill.
But blackmail and mudsling have been their know trade for long and Ugandans have learnt to live with them.
I will cite two recent incidents.
On December 6th, 2017 as the Committee of Legal Affairs prepared to interface with President Museveni and seek his views on the Bill, a section of “cowardly” Opposition MPs called a press conference where the Hon Medard Sseggona made an outlandish claim that NRM MPs had received Shs300 million each ahead of their meeting with President Museveni.
It is a pity that the journalists at that briefing let him get away with what should have been a very easy lie to expose had they simply asked him to furnish evidence.
I continue to wonder why there is a growing tendency among our journalists not to interrogate issues on behalf their audiences but only prefer to regurgitate what some “posturing” politicians put out.
I hope the senior editors in the profession will need to do more mentoring of young ones and gate keeping so as to qualify assure what is written and broadcast for consumption.
Politicians craving for news must be put to task to make logical sense in their assertions and claims. Unsubstantiated rumors deserve no space anywhere in the media. This is standard professional work ethic.
I refer to the Sseggona group (Opposition MPs on the Legal Affairs Committee) as “cowardly” because the real reason for skipping the meeting with President Museveni was obvious—they could not match his intellectual prowess and he was obviously going to expose their pack of lies.
President Museveni’s submission to the committee has since been published in this newspaper and been aired on several TVs. It’s based on logic, facts and not emotions.
There is no doubt he makes perhaps the most logical and convincing arguments about why Uganda should not limit the leadership pool it can choose its leaders from through imposition of artificial technicalities like 102 (b) but also emphasizes the need for leadership to be anchored on a transformative mission, not seeking power for power’s sake.
I digressed a bit. Let me return to the second incident. On the morning of Tuesday 12th, 2017, as is the culture with the NRM Parliamentary Caucus, we met for a briefing from the caucus leadership since we had just returned from a recess.
It is part of the meticulous NRM whipping, planning and organizational culture. We also got a briefing from the party Chairman, President Museveni, who summarized to the caucus what he had told the legal affairs committee when it met him.
As the NRM caucus was going about its activities, the Opposition were again at it; addressing the press and again making an outrageous allegation that NRM legislators had been given Shs40 million each to support the Magyezi Bill.
Remember at the beginning of their Togikwatako campaign, they had alleged of how NRM MPs each was to get Shs 800m to pass the bill.
Later on, Hon Sseggona reduced it to Shs 300m and finally they settled with Shs 40m. Why reduce themselves to telling lies blatantly? One of them, Hon Anne Adeke, the National Female Youth MP, went to the point of Tweeting this hollow claim.
There is a pattern here. In football, when a team is losing to an opposing side, some desperate coaches tell their players “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg”.
The Opposition has missed the ball and is now hoping they can at least harm the leg.
Having failed to sustain their pseudo-intellectual arguments against the amendment of Article 102 (b), the Opposition’s last resort is character assassination and blackmail. That is where the narrative of a compromised NRM is coming from.
They are hoping, against hope of course, that if they cannot win the debate, at least they should leave their opponents soiled.
It is desperation at its worst. The facilitation for consultation over this Bill was provided for by Parliament. It is public knowledge that each MP was given Shs29 million to go and meet their constituents and seek their views on this Bill.
Hon Adeke is one such recipient—and even when some of her posturing colleagues of course, made the cosmetic show of returning that money, she did not. No NRM MP has received any money beyond this amount.
This renewed web of lies by the Opposition is meant to portray the NRM as simply involved in transactional politics but also meant to sow discord and suspicion among the NRM. Luckily, they have tried this so many times with the same result—failure.
At every election one would expect perhaps their propaganda to yield them some more seats in parliament; to the contrary their numbers keep on dwindling.
The recent by-election in Bushenyi where actually the major sentiment traded in by most candidates was the issue of age limit; one would have expected the FDC candidate to win with a landslide because of their much touted Togikwatako campaign.
And despite the deployment of their top-heavy gun Dr Besigye to Igara, their candidate returned a paltry 497 votes. Shocking for them. It was definitely not a good reception for my good combative friend Hon Amuriat as he takes office as their party President.
The NRM flag-bearer, My good friend Martial too lost to the NRM-independent-leaning Mawanda because of his lack of clarity on where he stands on article 102(b).
Hon Mawanda was smarter than him. He read the voters mind and purely made the age limit removal a serious campaign issue.
He promised to “touch it” once elected. What do such scenarios teach us- especially we the highly political elites?
The lesson to learn is; That while we think that popular narratives are those that dominate our social media platforms and get serious traction from the media, it’s high time to know that public opinion is not shaped by propaganda and opinionated media commentaries of political lobby groups.
It is shaped by what people think is key for their livelihoods and what they can trust. People form opinions and therefore make political choices based on the history of trust they have with a leader and political party.
This is what President Museveni and his party NRM managed to win, bad press, meddling of foreign forces and propaganda notwithstanding.
Now that the bill has finally progressed and finally made its way to the floor of Parliament, we shall separate the lies from the truth. We shall stand for substance and not form.
We shall “touch it” and do so with reason and not reaction.
Minister of ICT & National Guidance