About 12 months for now we will be deep in the throes of the election season, understandably the politicians cannot wait that long to jump into action.
To begin with there will be the primaries, where every party will choose its flag bearer in the individual constituencies and of course for the presidency.
Due to certain quirks of our history our politicians will be shoring up their popularity by appealing to our baser instincts to win our vote.
Some people who every four years are enthralled by the US presidential elections, yearn for a day when elections will be “issue based” and away from the parochial morass of our local scene. My advice to them: don’t hold your breath.
"It’s being elitist to believe that the politics of sugar and salt is not issue based. For the majority of our people that is the only issue that exercises their minds daily...
Secondly, what does it take for a society to begin to appreciate “the issues” – democracy and its freedoms, government transparency and service delivery, the economy and improving living standards?
We appreciate all these issues in our own individual way. We may not appreciate them in the neat academic compartments that our US-poll-groupies do, but we do.
But let us say this elitist appreciation of issues is the ideal we should strive for, how do enough of us get there so as to swing the tone of our campaigns in that direction?
Before electoral politics western societies first grouped themselves into bigger groupings under one central authority for security and economic reasons. The monarchs however begun to lose their grip on the people with the increase in literacy and the creation of new economic players, who were not beholden to the ruling landlord elite but wanted a say in how their countries were governed.
This was important because if the land owners were the only ones making the rules, the industrialists would not have their interests reflected in new laws.
So they insisted that beyond leadership being bestowed by God, the people to be led must have a say hence the slogan, “the voice of the people is the voice of God” of course the monarchs and the landed gentry fought these changes, I mean who wanted to be pressing the flesh with unwashed masses in search for votes when it was already agreed that one was the ruler and his sons will continue after him without question?
The more obstinate ones paid the ultimate price like in France and Russia, but the rest were forced to compromise and survived that gruesome end.
So the elite of the various sectors of the economy then continued to sell their respective message to the public. It is a fallacy to believe that the average voter in the west is a better quality individual who understands the “issues”, it’s too much work educating them so the political elite even there appeal to their baser instincts -- bread and butter issues, to get themselves elected...
The difference is that the political elite in the west are better organised around recognised economic interests.
So back to our own primitive background. What is the dominant economic grouping in our countries?
The peasant, the poor small subsistence farmer. Easily four in five Ugandans can be described as this.
And even if their contribution to the economy continues to fall with the rise of construction, manufacturing and services, they are the overwhelming majority and politics is about numbers.
“The issues” do not drop from heaven. They are derived from the situation of the people. You may like it or not but that is the way things are.
So clearly for better politics there has to be transformation of these “peasants”. You do that by providing universal education, affordable health services, better infrastructure and of course general security. The hope is that as the population gets educated, remains healthy and employ the infrastructure to take advantage of the opportunities around, the quality of their lives will improve and their needs and demands on the government will improve too.
Some transformation is already under way. Every year thousands break away from their dependence on the land to join the workforce, the manufacturing and service industry. Going by history however the transformation takes time.
The smart politician takes advantage of the situation as it is and not as they wish it to be.
So if you in your air conditioned seating room, flipping between international news channels and surfing the net on your tablet want to see the change you want in your life time,you might want to start lobbying for better social service delivery, better infrastructure and national stability instead of heckling at your local bar.
I wish I had better news for you but that is as it is.