Facing the test. With less than a year to the general election, all eyes in Bugisu are on Sironko District that had all seats taken by the Opposition. But with Nandala Mafabi’s lukewarm participation in preparations for the 2016 race, a lot seems to be uncertain in the area.
In 2011, Mr Nandala Mafabi was a pain in the neck for the ruling party - and he still is. The man largely credited with promoting coffee production in the Elgon region led a massive campaign for the Forum for Democratic Change party candidates.
The result of this almost brought the entire Bugisu under the largest Opposition party in the country - FDC.
Mr Nandala, who in his own constituency outmuscled the strong state machinery that critics think was planted to intimidate voters, ensured that the entire Sironko District; Budadiri West seat, Budadiri East seat, the district Woman MP, the LC5 chairperson and most of his councillors and LC3 chairpersons fell to the Opposition.
This saw Mr Isaiah Sasaga [FDC], an economist and teacher by profession who had lost to NRM in 2006, beat NRM’s Mr Rogers Wadada to take the Budadiri East seat.
Having been propelled by the Mafabi wave to the seat about five years ago, Mr Sasaga now finds himself standing alone in the ring, if Mafabi’s political gestures is anything to go by.
Mr Mafabi, who represents Budadiri West, has now taken a low profile and keeps telling people: “This time vote the people you want; gauge them and vote irrespective of party affiliation. You can vote even NRM candidates as long as they are good; I don’t want to be party to any confusion now.”
According to political watchers, Mafabi’s current position is one of the odds stacked against the Opposition and they agree that it will be a tough season for FDC come 2016.
A former MP and NRM flag bearer in Budadiri East, Mr Cosma Busima, is taking his time. Across the border, Mr Rogers Wadada, who lost to Sasaga by 3,286 votes has already indicated that he will run again. He managed only 12, 094 against Sasaga’s 15,380.
“I had a mission for the people of Sironko, and particularly Budadiri East, even when they decided to vote for FDC, I am still determined to come back to accomplish the mission,” said Mr Wadada.
This suggests that the NRM primaries will have lawyer Wadada, social scientist Vincent Woboya and Mr Busiima.
The soft-spoken Woboya works with the Office of the Prime Minister as a principal disaster officer. His campaign agenda hinges on fighting poverty, improving social services, especially in public health, and fighting for the welfare of teachers.
“I want to promise to deliver Sironko to the ‘promised land’. Take my word, after every year I want the people to audit my progress in that direction,” Mr Woboya recently told Saturday Monitor.
However, Mr Wadada insists that he is the best choice.
“I know why I lost the elections in 2011 and I promise to work on this to enable NRM take the seat in 2016,” said Mr Wadada.
The Opposition will likely have Sasaga, Mr Robert Muzenze, who only managed 367 votes in 2011, and the Democratic Party’s David Waniala, an economist, who secured 770 votes in the previous election.
Although critics say Mr Sasaga has failed in what he set out to do, the legislator says he needs more time to accomplish his manifesto.
Incumbent under pressure?
For a politician, times change and they easily adjust. But one thing that stands in the way of Mr Sasaga is accusations of poor service delivery.
“He made many promises that he has failed to fulfill,” says Mr Simon Gidudu, a local leader in Bumalimba Sub-county.
Mr Sasaga, however, maintains that he has delivered to his people.
“Those who haven’t benefited from my projects are the ones who keep loitering in the constituency and expect to meet me to give them money but I am in touch with my people,” said Mr Sasaga, who boasts of owning two schools where he has allowed poor but bright children to study.
“I have given out sets, books, desks and provided lunch for schools in my constituency. Besides I have been available for consultation and attended all parliamentary meetings to legislate for Sironko,” adds Mr Sasaga.
Mr Busiima told Saturday Monitor: “My decision to contest for Budadiri East seat should not be confused. “I just want my people to know that I have been driven by the passion to serve them and develop them. I do not have any problem with NRM but I would not love to be part of their confusion in primaries that is why I am rethinking. I belong to NRM, I respect the party rules but there are a few things we need to sort in our party primaries.”
In the 2011 elections, Mr Busiima was first declared the winner of the party primaries. About two weeks later, the NRM district electoral commission declared Mr Wadada victor. The party’s national electoral probe team later overturned this decision.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Mr Wadada petitioned the party electoral commission in Kampala. Mr Wadada was finally declared winner. Mr Busiima contemplated running as an independent candidate but President Museveni intervened.
“It was drama and confusion. They would declare me winner and I would storm the streets to celebrate with my supporters, then my opponent would be declared winner the next day and they do the same. It got to a point where party members became uncertain of who the NRM flag-bearer was,” Mr Busiima recalls.
“The drama split the party supporters. Until now, we are struggling to reconcile the party supporters in order to form a strong front but I have heard that Mr Wadada is still coming back to contest,” says Mr Busiima.
This internal strife in the NRM could cost the party in 2016 .
“Besides infighting within the NRM party, there is nothing government has done for us as a constituency. We have had the worst roads in the country ever since NRM took over the constituency, we don’t have anything to show and this is what FDC inherited. Our target this time is to go for an individual, a good candidate from any party provided we find him development-oriented,” says Mr Ezekiel Maludye, an ardent NRM supporter from Bumalimba.
The NRM chairman for Sironko, Mr Sulaiman Lumolo, is optimistic that President Museveni will again intervene.
“We shall definitely forward this matter to the President to sort out. And I know that he will send someone or he will come himself to end this impasse for the sake of peace,” he says.
Mr Lumolo, however, says the perceived power struggle between the President and former prime minister Amama Mbabazi could be more of a factor in Budadiri East.
Mr Victor Wanyoto, a councillor representing Bumasifwa Sub-county, says it is time for other sub-counties to take the lead.
Role of other counties
“The people of Bumasifwa and Zesui sub-counties have been voting candidates from Busulani and other sub-counties religiously. This is the time they should also vote for us because we have our own child, Mr Vincent Woboya,” says Mr Wanyoto.
But like the NRM, the Opposition FDC does not seem to have its house in order either, with Mr Sasaga fearing that he is likely to face undue opposition in the party primaries.
“I have the quality which I feel I should bring to my people, but should the [primaries] have malpractices and I lose, definitely I will present my case to the electorate as an Independent candidate,” says Mr Sasaga.
FDC party president Mugisha Muntu was recently in the sub-region to sensitise residents about the new strategy and roadmap for building robust party structures to help it take power but many voters kept away from the meetings.
For a district that kicked up a storm in the previous election, Budadiri East will be one of the counties to watch in the coming months.
Mr Isaiah Sasaga
Born in 1976, Mr Sasaga is a teacher by profession, legal practitioner and proprietor of private schools in Sironko.
Mr Vincent Woboya
Born in 1971, the NRM aspirant is a civil servant working in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Mr Cosima Busima
An architect, he is the former MP for Budadiri East, having represented it in the 8th Parliament.
Mr David Woniala
Born in 1968, he has been working with APA Insurance and has been in the insurance business for 15 years.