NRM MPs Shouldn’t Fall for Opposition Blackmail

By Ofwono Opondo

Dec, 14, 17

Two separate political events in the US and UK attracted attention this week, when, US Today newspaper in an editorial blasted President Donald J. Trump as ‘Unfit to clean toilets’ in Barrack Obama’s library, or shine the shoes of George W. Bush. Trump’s offence was, he tweeted “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!” The editorial called the tweet sexist, and implied Gillibrand would trade sexual favors for campaign cash. A day earlier, Gillibrand had asked Trump to resign over multiple allegations of sexual assault.
Meanwhile, in the UK, eleven Tory MPs rebelled and joined Labour party to inflict defeat on Theresa May in the Commons as they backed an amendment against her flagship European Union bill over parliament’s right to vote on the Brexit deal. As May prepared to meet fellow EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, a series of last minute concessions by her ministers and intense pressure from Tory whips failed to deter the eleven MPs from voting against government.
Backers of amendment seven, tabled by former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, had former education secretary Nicky Morgan, former business minister Anna Soubry, and Cambridge MP Heidi Allen. MPs cheered and waved their order papers as the result of the vote was read out, revealing the government had lost by 309 votes to 305, which was her first Commons defeat over Brexit.
Back here, we are facing a controversial debate and vote expected next week on four constitutional amendments to change the date for general elections, and age eligibility for presidential and district chairperson candidates. Although opponents have concentrated on age limit clause, it has emerged that the legal and parliamentary affairs committee has recommended that general elections be held on December 3, every after five years rather than in February. It also recommended that presidential re-run be held one hundred seventy-two days after the initial one instead of twenty as currently stipulated.   
In the past three months, debate has been toxic, and leaders who we ordinarily presume enlightened couldn’t withstand modest criticisms from colleagues, opponents or media. One wonders what they would do, if they held executive powers with the law, intelligence services, police and army behind them.
But fortunately, President Yoweri Museveni has for thirty-one years withstood vile insults. Now as decision day nears, we should ponder if indeed the ‘rebel’ MPs and their allies will break the dam, and defeat Raphael Magyezi’s bill! Since Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has accorded all sides ample time and resources to consult their constituencies, we hope MPs won’t descend into hooliganisms during debate and voting. The threats to attack families, businesses and gardens of proponents to the bill, and the recently declared ‘red ribbon week’ have all collapsed because the opposition didn’t understand the public mood well. Ugandans are enjoying democracy, want peace and stability, and economic prosperity. Opposition’s false rumours that NRM MPs had received huge cash inducements fell flat once those making them couldn’t prove their gutter claims.
Reports that there is agreement to extend the term of sitting MPs to seven years appear to mellow political hearts across the aisle, although the mainstream opposition won’t admit so publicly. Those claiming that debate and vote have been delayed because NRM lacks the requisite two-thirds majority to carry the day, may be proved wrong. We believe these statements are meant to demoralize NRM supporters while assuaging the opposition.
The NRM MPs still dilly-dallying over this issue should ask Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) older generation what losing state power through carelessness, complacency, or adamant refusal to listen to their leaders means. Rebellion by a few misguided fellows if tolerated once, gives a taste for it and emboldens, the reason a few from the ninth are so boisterous even when we know they are motivated mainly by greed and ill-will, and the democratic pretentions they posture.
Those defying the NRM majority especially through insults ought to know they have been offered broad opportunities to engage peacefully through the many available democratic platforms that are available to find a compromise over several issues. But, the blunt reality is, and I’m sorry to say, that time and opportunity could be running out.
Detractors have tried to play the pseudo ‘bi-partisan’ line to hoodwink the NRM, we, must insist that there comes a time when on principle we firmly abide by party loyalty particularly when correct, honest and done transparently on issues under discussion.
While the opposition and their allies know how solid NRM is, they continue to gang-press NRM MPs, including offering financial inducements in an attempt to persuade them change minds. An MP described opposition approach as “bullying” especially to new MPs. It’s a major test for the new NRM caucus leadership to deliver, even when claims are that the votes are too tight. By next weekend, NRM shouldn’t regret.