By Don Wanyama
Raila Odinga, Kenya’s opposition leader who lost in the country’s presidential elections last year to President Uhuru Kenyatta, says he will swear himself in as the “people’s president”, although he has postponed the so-called swearing-in several times.
Asked by the media whether his new claim that he will swear himself in on January 30th should be taken seriously, this is what Odinga had to say, “We now have a plan. It is not about carrying the Bible alone. We must have a plan after the Bible. We don’t want to be like Kizza Besigye, who took oath without a plan.”
Shortly after, Odinga’s on-and-off ally, Miguna Miguna, who recently contested the Nairobi gubernatorial seat and lost, while appearing on a Kenyan TV show, said, “Raila is not Besigye. Anyone dreaming that Raila is Besigye is deluded.”
In the build-up to the Ugandan 2016 presidential elections, as our generally disorganised Opposition was trying to cobble a united front to face President Museveni, one of their key advisers was Raila Odinga.
In fact, he hosted the now-buried Democratic Alliance comprising Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi at his Karen home in Nairobi—and reportedly coached them on how to defeat President Museveni.
With this background, one would generally expect Odinga and his allies to be a little respectful when talking about their friend Besigye. Instead, they have turned him into the butt of their jokes, making fun of the video released by FDC in May 2016 where Besigye reportedly swore himself in as president.
In their eyes, Besigye is now the poster child of political cluelessness. Odinga and group believe Besigye has no plan—and seeing how well connected the two groups are—we would be at pains to disagree with them.
When Odinga’s remarks about Besigye went public, several Ugandans, feeling slighted, mainly from a nationalistic front, feebly took to social media to try and rebut the sting. However, I noticed nearly all went mute shortly after. This is why.
Last Thursday, a few days after the Odinga comments, Besigye addressed the press, announcing a new campaign dubbed “Tubalemese”. If there was ever need for evidence of Besigye’s political cluelessness, here it was.
The campaign, reportedly aimed at isolating NRM MPs who voted for the recent constitutional amendment and gradually collapsing the NRM government, has ingredients like boycotting businesses of NRM supporters.
It is no surprise that those who were trying to defend Besigye in face of the Odinga attacks immediately retreated after the announcement of the “Tubalemese” campaign. It is the most laughable anti-government crusade ever.
To understand its comic effectiveness, one needed to look at the cast of those accompanying Besigye at the presser.Ken Lukyamuzi was the other key speaker, backed by Lord Mayor Lukwago and Hon Mubarak Munyagwa.
Recently-elected FDC president Amuriat Oboi was relegated to the margins, perhaps confirming claims that he is a mere Besigye puppet. That the TV humour show “Point Blank” drew most of its Friday content from this press conference says a lot about its seriousness.
“Tubalemese” is obviously bound to fail and join the long list of Besigye and Opposition-engineered campaigns that suffer a stillbirth immediately after their launch on TV and getting a few headlines with an accompanying picture in the print media.
A few weeks ago, the same group launched “Kogyikuteko”, apparently a sequel to the failed “Kogyikwatako”. If you look back, you will notice this heap of failed campaigns has others like “Red Tuesday”, “Black Friday”, “Blue Thursday”, “Defiance”, “No Reforms, No Elections”, “Walk to Work”, among others. One could easily think the most active unit of the Opposition is the department of creative slogans!
On the Thursday, while Besigye and company were posturing with empty threats and getting their few minutes of fame on TV, a parliamentary by-election was happening in Ruhaama County in Ntungamo District. The FDC did not even bother to field a candidate (or perhaps no one of the over 70,000 voters was willing to be an FDC flag-bearer) in the election that was won by NRM’s Moses Kahima.
A few weeks ago, another by-election in Igara East in Bushenyi had seen the NRM-leaning Independent Michael Mawanda (who by the way voted YES on amending Article 102) win the seat, where the FDC candidate garnered a paltry 497 votes, placing her in tight competition with the 589 invalid votes.
This begs the question; when Besigye and his cast of actors sit in Kampala and claim to speak on behalf of “the people” while announcing these dead-on-arrival campaigns, which people do they have exactly in mind?
Is it Ugandans or some other forces whom they could be hoodwinking to bankroll their activities? Indeed, the joke is on Besigye and the Opposition.
The writer is the Senior Press Secretary to His Excellency the President.