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NRM Members, Let us Embrace After Primaries

By Ofwono Opondo

Oct.21, 15

Tomorrow, 0ctober, 26, 2015, will be NRM primaries to select the candidates for MPs, chairpersons of district local governments, and municipality mayors. But by the end of the day, many candidates will be counting their political loses, uncertain future, and even possible financial ruin as they mortgaged family assets in an attempt to become leaders.
Yet going by the previous two primaries of 2005 and 2010, it is fair to anticipate that almost 120 MPs, some 20 ministers and chairpersons could lose their seats to complete novices, something they cannot prevent happening. Unfortunately judging by the prevailing anxiety, tensions, and isolated incidents of violence motivated by un-controlled political greed, it is safe to sound caution. We appeal to them to graciously learn to accept defeat even where possibly the political ground may not have been fully leveled, because, after all, they can contribute meaningfully elsewhere.
As the NRM Election Commission concludes the primaries for flag bearers for the various political offices of government, there is need for every contestant to act graciously especially those unsuccessful. Over and above, the NRM Electoral Commission has conducted transparent, free and fair elections, and the few cases of irregularities should be useful lessons to organise better in future, rather than killing the chicken that lays the proverbial golden egg. Indeed, mechanisms for redressing irregularities are available, although not as robust as many would like it to be.
NRM has conducted successful primaries in most parts of the country for over 57,000 LC chairpersons, 7,500 parishes, 1,500, Sub-counties, and now due on Monday, final round of nearly 400 parliamentary constituencies, 126 district woman MPs and LCV chairpersons. This last round for MPs and LCV chairpersons attracted close to 4000 candidates.
While we know that some candidates have staked all they have, the few bad apples should not be allowed to derail the NRM’s democratic foundation. We may all love to be winners, however, we ought to know that there can be only one winner in a political contest, and hence the need to show magnanimity especially to those who concede defeat. Excising magnanimity by winners, and conceding defeat by losers, is a virtue that has eroded most of us because we usually enter politics with the stubborn mindset of winning, and taking nothing less.
To this end we need to commend the new team at the NRM Secretariat, Electoral Commission, and the NRM members for expressing such interest and support for internal party activities, which have truly put our loud opponents to shame. Some of the incidents of hooliganism, arson and destruction of purported NRM cards and t-shirts bordering on criminality while regrettable should not demoralize our collective spirit. Some of those incidents were planned and carried out by the opposition in the futile belief they could tarnish the NRM’s image. But even if those cards and t-shirts were indeed genuinely from the NRM, destroying them should not in any way crack NRM’s strong political base, because cards and t-shirts don’t vote, the members do.
Losing candidates should learn to thank their supporters for their valiant efforts, and point to the non-electoral successes of the campaign in building party strength and raising issues to attention that would otherwise not be in public discussion. It is good practice, unless the campaign has been exceptionally bitter; to congratulate the winning candidate and wish them well in office, perhaps even offering a parting word of advice.        
The NRM has established a credible appeal mechanism to those candidates that will feel that there were irregularities that denied them victory. This office is equipped with persons of good repute and it would be wise to utilize that mechanism.          
Concession, per se, is entirely optional, and candidates sometimes refuse to concede defeat in spite of the vote count being against them, especially if they suspect electoral fraud.  In that case the candidates will likely demand a recount of the votes or other investigations into the alleged fraud. This route however tend to yield double jeopardy.  Not only does the complainant lose more money and time, they often tend to come out more bruised and angrier. Therefore, it is wise to concede and congratulate your opponent and then move on. Have enough time to heal and forge the way forward.    
Sometimes concession may be denied not because of any specific fraud allegations, but simply because of ill will accumulated over the campaign period and bad advise from unhelpful and opportunistic supporters. It is necessary for the candidates to demonstrate leadership by overruling the egos for their supporters.
And like President Yoweri Museveni has always advised, there are many rooms’ in the house to accommodate everyone. This however requires discipline and patience for the party to find avenues to provide the accommodation. Threats of joining the opposition or standing as independents after losing in the primaries are childish and sometime may ruin political careers of those who attempt it. It will be failure on our part as NRM to go into full national campaigns in November when still bickering and name-calling each other. We need to begin campaigns very united and energized than ever before because NRM is more organized and focused than it was few years ago.