Interview. FDC president Patrick Amuriat Oboi will in November make a year in office. Mr Amuriat won the election on the campaign of turning FDC into a party of action. However, FDC’s performance in the Local Council elections and elections in new municipalities has raised questions over his tenure. Sunday Monitor’s Solomon Arinaitwe talked to POA about FDC’s poor performance and the reshuffle of the Opposition leadership in Parliament.
You will soon be making a year in the FDC presidency, how would you rate your presidency so far?
In about three months from now, I will be making one year. As president, there have been really very good times when we have registered achievements, especially in the first 100 days. But not all has been smooth-going. There have also been bumpy times. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I think I have comfortably had about 70 per cent success in my work.
The 30 per cent that we would assess as failures are as a result of external factors.
How do your account for that 70 per cent? That is a very generous self-assessment
It is not generous. When you look at what we set out to achieve, we set out to achieve party harmony. It is true that although there are still a few dissenting voices, the party has achieved stability. This is the reason why we have not closed shop. We continue to tackle a few dissenting voices and that is key.
We have been able to bring back people who were hitherto passive as far as party activities are concerned. We have been able to mobilise across the country, we have succeeded in a number of elections, including LC1 elections which in our estimation we are second to the NRM from zero.
All these structures of LC1 were previously occupied by NRM people and they had turned them into NRM structures, owned them and used them for their own purposes. This has changed courtesy of the FDC mainly, although we do not have the numbers because these results are still being gazetted.
Again, this is our point of contention, where do we go in order to ascertain the results of the LC1 elections? We have moved around the country and mobilised. We have achieved lower structure elections. We now have more councillors from the parish to the villages. We even have LC3 councillors, mayors and division chairpersons. We are moving in the right direction of mobilising the country.
A more objective benchmark to use in assessing your tenure so far is to use the main promises you made during your campaigns for the presidency. You promised to turn FDC into a party of action that would regain the 2016 presidential election victory. What has been done in that endeavour?
It is work in progress. We have trained our membership. We have trained our networks. Some of the little actions that you see happening, are as a result of work.
Today, people are not just sitting back. When a road is impassable, because of a message that we have passed to the population, they act. So our message to the population has not been in vain, it has reached the population and the population is beginning to be more and more aware of what is going on around them and they are now preparing to demand. This is a good step in reclaiming our victory. In order to reclaim victory, you have to mobilise.
After mobilising and identifying the leaders, you train them so that they are able to pass on the message to the people. And then call for action. The call for action may not have come but preparation for a call for action is ongoing. It is like a hen sitting on eggs.
The chick is not formed on a single day. There are stages of formation for that chick. The few things that have been holding us back like the recent Constitutional Court judgement on the Constitutional Amendment Bill. Last year, we made a call in conjunction with the people’s government led by Dr Kizza Besigye. We as a party, after the Constitution was amended, we went on to call on the population to support and that call has been heeded. If anybody doubts, go to the record. The Speaker is quoted as saying that MPs cannot even go to the constituency because they fear the public. To get to that stage where the population stands up against people who betrayed them is no mean achievement.
Of course we have achieved this with other partners as a party but we made a call and that call was responsible for the fall of the NRM candidates in Jinja Municipality East and the Rukungiri Woman MP. And so, all this is work in progress. You do not just jump in and begin to act.
You are saying that the tangible gain you have made on the road of reclaiming victory is mobilisation, but the contradiction is that we just saw how FDC abysmally performed in elections in the new municipalities. Out of the nine Parliamentary elections that came after removal of age-limits, FDC has only won two
That is not quite accurate. We won in Sheema. Sheema and Nebbi are very contentious at the moment. We have not accepted the results that we announced and our teams are already putting together evidence to go to court. A decision is going to be made. We concede in the case of Bugiri, in the case of Kotido and Apac. In those three municipalities, we concede [because] in our view there is no way we could have won.
But in the case of Sheema and Nebbi, everybody knows that there were polling stations that were reserved for cheating and distorting the outcome.
In your assessment, what explains the FDC’s seemingly poor performance in these elections coming on the backdrop of public discontent over the age limit and new taxes?
The NRM dictators preside over poverty in this country. Everybody in this country should know that votes are influenced by cash and cash given to a desperate population. The first bone of contention is how the registers were prepared and who accesses the line in the case of LC1. Many would-be-voters were not even sensitised about the fact that they needed to register. They knew that they were going to use the old register and IDs and they would access the polling station.
This never happened and so a number of voters actually never voted. They were disenfranchised, systematically excluded from the register. It was by design. The NRM knew what they wanted to do. Secondly, the method of voting where you have to line up behind a person has the effect of creating conflict and many people shied away. And money was also used to bribe voters but also as a deterrent against candidates.
So we should look at the nitty-gritty. What happened was not an election and going forward, this is a lesson learnt.
Leaving the LC elections, there is the emergence of Bobi Wine. In Bugiri, there was a clear clash between Asuman Basalirwa/Bobi Wine and FDC/ Kizza Besigye
There was no clash whatsoever. Everyone agreed that we should go and support our candidate. When you go to an election, you either win or lose. In this case we lost and we are not grudging about it. Luckily enough, we believe that the winner is pro-struggle and so there is no contradiction. People will make choices.
We know that my brother Bobi Wine does not belong to any party. He is a freelancer. He can go wherever he wants if he is invited. Indeed he came to Nebbi to support our candidate. Unfortunately, our candidate was not declared winner.
He came to Jinja, he came to Rukungiri. Bugiri had its own complex nature and it boiled down to the type of candidate who was fielded by any party. We have had talk of considerations rather than competencies. And those considerations were sectarian. For anybody to reduce this campaign and election to just Bugiri is missing the point.
I have seen leaked notes from the NEC meeting you chaired on Wednesday which discussed results from the recent elections and there were concerns among members that FDC is loI have seen leaked notes from the NEC meeting you chaired on Wednesday which discussed results from the recent elections and there were concerns among members that FDC is losing out on its previous stronghold of urban, youthful voters. Are you concerned that the emergence of Bobi Wine has tilted the scales?
Bobi Wine has been in politics for maybe a year. That is all we know about his political history. It is too early to assess him and his influence on the young people. What do the young people follow? His politics or his music? My advice to him is that he should take a step backwards and reflect on what the young people learn about him. The people will like you for a number of reasons. In this case, they like his age-who knows. He is also an outstanding artiste. But what will happen if he says that one day he is standing for president?
That seems to be concerning FDC?
No. We have competed against Museveni and defeated him. You should note that this is not a free field for FDC and we are conscious of that. We are always going to be in competition with any opponent and in whatever form they come.
So are you conscious and concerned about the emergence of Bobi Wine?
There is no single day we have had a free ride. Never. The other day it was Amama Mbabazi who emerged out of TDA looking very strong and everybody was like FDC is a gone case. We said come on Dr Besigye, let’s go. We elected him as the flag bearer and you know the outcome even after our results were changed.
We will wait for any opponent coming. If they are not working with us, they are going to be our opponents and the earlier they are defined, the better for us because then we will work out a strategy to overcome anybody. FDC is not afraid of anybody.
Not even Bobi Wine?
No. Museveni has been around for more than 30 years. He has been through many elections but we have never stopped challenging him. So Bobi Wine or whoever it is, they are welcome to the field. Fortunately, we are already there. For us, the emphasis is on the struggle and not on the elections.
But by the time the emergence of Bobi Wine is discussed in the FDC NEC meeting that speaks volumes
Who told you that we discussed? We have official notes. Did you get the official notes? We do not discuss personalities. We discussed our experiences but also what we need to do based on those experiences. I do not know who brought those notes out to you but what we discussed was verbal and we are yet to compile our reports.
And finally, the uncertainty over the leadership at Parliament. It’s two and half years since the leadership of Winnie Kizza came into force and Parliament’s Rules require an assessment or even change has to be done
The public has to wait. We are in charge. There should not be any anxiety. It is not the first time that this has happened. Talking about change of the Leader of Opposition –there has been change a number of times. Office bearers have to be removed. There are going to be many people occupying that office.
As long as the rules remain unchanged, the LoP is going to be a position appointed by the president of a party in Opposition that has got a majority. So that will come. But it is unnecessary to make it an issue because it is inevitable.
This is becoming an issue because Winnie Kizza and her team did not support your bid for the presidency and still do not have confidence in your presidency?
We managed to work. If it was about being vindictive, I would not have taken these nine months without making changes. It was within my power to do that but I chose not to do that. So nobody should wonder or accuse my leadership of being vindictive or persecuting anybody. These are all members of the party and we will treat them the same regardless of whom they voted.
There is a school of thought that you have failed to make a decision on that because you are being held hostage by some senior party officials like Nandala Mafabi and Kizza Besigye who want change in the positions at Parliament yet you are not very receptive to that
I think we should leave Dr Besigye out of this. In the party, he is a mobiliser for Rukungiri District. That is his position. He does not sit in NEC or management committee. The same goes for Gen Muntu, he does not hold a position in the party but we hold these leaders so dear. Dr Besigye does not influence anything.
That said, my administration does not consider that these people are useless. They are consulted from time to time. We are forming an Elders Forum where these people will sit and be consultants of the party. Nobody is holding my hands. I am the leader of FDC. Where I have got to take decisions, I can consult but I am the final person to take a decision.
I am not held hostage by anybody. In fact, it is an insult that a person who won convincingly would be thought to be an appendage of someone.
Remember that POA is a seasoned politician. Nandala does not influence what happens. He can bring his opinion to the table but it does not influence what the president to a large extent does.