“A week is a long time in politics,” former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said. This could not have been truer for last week.
At the beginning of the week we discussing such “mundane” subjects as MP Nandala Mafabi’s fall from grace.
The 11-day retreat by the NRM in Kyankawanzi while significant was not expected to throw up much different from the usual chest thumping.
But what started out as a morning walk on Saturday led by President Yoweri Museveni ended up as a lunch where a section of NRM MPS mooted the unopposed candidature of Museveni as party flag bearer in the 2016 presidential elections. Reports are MPs literally had to stand up to be counted on the proposal.
While we were still debating whether this was reflective of the party mood, no one underestimated the significance what had happened at Kyankwanzi never mind it was around a lunch of roast meat.
If we had doubts a resolution was passed on Tuesday, signatures and all that proposed Museveni as the flag bearer, urged him to offer himself as a candidate and discourage some senior leaders from trying to present themselves as possible flag bearers in the next election.
The last resolution should have raised eyebrows but probably didn’t.
There are still more formalities to go through before this resolution can be formally adopted by the party and executed but clearly the battle lines have been drawn.
For outsiders looking in on the party there are a few interesting things to note from this recent development.
That there was a near consensus that the resolution carries the day. Even if there is suspicion that some party members may be getting restless, clamouring for ventilation of the party that they publicly put pen to paper in support of unopposed Museveni candidature speaks volumes.
The naysayers were quick to suggest that while the MPs have shown support most of them in their hearts do not believe in the project. In politics when perception comes up against fact, perception often wins. A perception has been created that our very own representatives to parliament have given the project a greenlight it will be an uphill struggle to reverse that perception.
Secondly, the opposition who understandably are not keen on another Museveni run were caught flat footed and only managed the usual emotional tirades. They don’t savour another run against the president because they have a dismal record against him to begin with and secondly, related to the first for the opposition to have any chance they will have to field a single candidate. The dynamics of cobbling together such an alliance as the past has shown, leave the respective opposition leaders weaker coming out of the polls than when they went in.
And finally while we have all taken it for granted that Museveni will be the party’s flag bearer for the fifth successive presidential election, the president had made no comment on the matter as at the time of writing.
We might tear at our hair, gnash our teeth and cover our heads in ash at the turn of events but this is politics, away from the sanitised version you learnt in school.
Political parties are about winning and retaining power as means of advancing their own agenda.
Politicians and political parties by extension are not going to work themselves out of power if they can help it. In the resolution the NRM did not mince words about this.
The Democrats in the US or the Conservatives in the UK or Christian Democratic Union in Germany may couch their message in more flowery language but the bottom line is getting and retaining power.
Also it should be remembered that whereas Museveni may have his own political ambitions, each of the MPs is weighing his own chances in the next election and how a Museveni candidacy would affect it. Forget ideology this as much about self-preservation as prolonging the administration.
It has not been lost on some that if the president accepts a party nomination it will be his last term, given the 75 year constitutional age limits for candidates intending to run for president.
That would disqualify Museveni in in 2021 – barring a constitutional amendment, but would open the door to other potential contenders in the party.
Professor Gilbert Bukenya is the only one who has openly declared he will seek to be the party’s flag bearer in the coming election. With this Kyankwanzi declaration the other rivals’ hands have been forced they will have to declare their intentions one way or another before the momentum for an unopposed Museveni nomination gathers momentum and shuts the out of the running.
May you live in interesting times, is a Chinese curse. We would all be well advised to brace for interesting times ahead.