In Summary

Her opponent in the Parliamentary race was a Minister for education, and had served as Member of Parliament for 30 years but Mariam Nalubega managed to beat her. Agnes K. Namaganda found out how she did it.

When I am ushered into her living room, she follows a few seconds later and finds me taking in its spacious, simple and organised ambience. Its centre piece is a beautiful smoothly polished wooden wall unit with a flat screen showing cartoons which her four-year-old son is watching intermittently while playing. It is a rainy morning and because he has a bad cold, his mother, Honourable Mariam Nalubega, thought it best that he stays home. To the chagrin of his mother however, he’s a constant disruption to the interview. At one point, he stealthily gets the car keys, goes to the car, and blares the car horn.

The current National Female Youth MP whose tenure is ending this month is probably perceived as tiny, beautiful and young but in this place, she is the woman of the home going by the family portraits displayed around. She thinks she’s not looking very appealing because her hair which she keeps natural is long overdue for the salon. She explains that she has been having a headache from a cold and her scalp has been quite sensitive. “I didn’t want anybody to touch it but I am now better.”

Born to Saidi Lubega and Jalia Nakayanja of Butamabala on November 27th, 1981, she describes her family as polygamous and peasantry. However, nobody knows better that pedigree does not determine destiny like Nalubega. She’s the newly elected Woman MP for Butambala, a dream for a girl who remembers running around for university tuition fees, in 2001.

Her family doesn’t know how she metamorphosed, almost overnight, into the positions she holds at the moment because it was a personal battle of sorts. And when her father heard that his daughter was gearing up to stand against the Minister of Education, Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire, he knew she was over-stepping her limits. “My father called me, they were worried about me,” she says adding that she simply re-assured them and told them she was fine.

How she beat Bitamazire to the seat
She summarises it in one sentence; “We concentrated on guarding the ballot even more than the campaigns after seeing what had happened in the primaries.”

Nalubega admits that she was totally unprepared for the vote rigging and result alterations that took place in the NRM primaries where the minister also contested.

The minister won at the primaries as the official NRM flag bearer but she decided to stand as an independent. “I was encouraged by my voters. My husband was very supportive egging me on and telling me I would win.”

By the time the general elections came round, her campaign team was prepared. They monitored the ballots right from the time they arrived at the district, down to the sub-counties all the way to the polling stations till the votes were counted. “When results started trickling in showing my lead, supporters started jubilating but I asked them to go back to the polling stations and follow the ballot boxes right up to the final time of announcing the results,” she recalls.

Did her beauty play a role in winning the election?
She was standing against seven contestants and heard that in some of their rallies, they used to urge people to vote issues and not beauty, in reference to her “but I never used it as a campaign strategy. I sold my ideas and I knew what to tell the people. I knew their challenges and I convinced them about issues beyond beauty. Maybe the way you look can give you some sort of advantage because I cared to appear presentable, in gomesis, at my rallies.”

My politics ends at the gate.
Nalubega says that her three children don’t know that she’s a Member of Parliament. “I want them to grow up like other ordinary children in a normal family. My seven-year-old asked me if I am an MP. I also asked him why he thought so and he told me he’d seen me on TV.”

Her children’s teachers too don’t know that their mother is an MP. She does not want them to be punished unfairly for behaviour that is typical of any child or to be treated with favouritism just because they are an MP’s children.

To give her family, the normalcy she wants, she doesn’t discuss politics at home. “We never discuss politics with my husband, unless he watched news, got interested in something and asked me what happened at Parliament. When I’m home, I am just a wife and a mother, not an MP; I leave my title at the gate.”

Nalubega jealously guards her Sundays and festive days like Iddi and Christmas being very careful to spend them with her family. “My husband makes breakfast, I cook lunch and we go out in the evening,” she offers.

However, Nalubega is afraid that her routine might change now that she’s an MP on the adult suffrage ticket which has more demands than the one of electoral colleges on which she represented the youth. The voters expect her to grace weddings and funerals, occasions that usually happen over the weekends yet her eldest son has already started complaining about her failure to fulfill the promise of spending Sundays with them.
“I’m afraid my weekends are going to be eaten up.”

Sexual favours in return for top positions
Apparently, the August House being full of young beautiful ambitious ladies like Nalubega, usually has the top brass demanding for sex in exchange for juicy positions. And now more than ever, with the president drawing up a cabinet list, giving in to demands by anyone in the small knit circle of advisors to the president on these issues could get you going places. Is this what happens?
The situation is exaggerated according to Nalubega. “When opposite sexes are together, mutual affairs are bound to happen, I believe they happen even at your office. You may get rumours that some two people are moving out but the situation is not alarming. I consider compromise in return for favours is very cheap. If God wants to give me a position, I will get it,” she finishes off.