IGANGA – Iganga Municipality is buzzing with political activity as the race for the Iganga Municipality Member of Parliament (MP) gears up in what is billed the most competitive race ever witnessed in the municipality since its inception in 2010.
A total of nine people have so far shown interest to represent the fast-growing municipality in Parliament but the battle lines seem to be drawn between incumbent MP Peter Mugema aka Panadol and business Mogul Abdulrahim Ali Bawazir aka Toto. Both of them are fighting to represent the municipality on the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party card.
“The fight for the NRM party card will be a final before the final. Whoever wins that card will have one foot in Parliament even before next year’s poll,” says Isaac Baidha, the principal of Iganga Progressive Secondary School.
Panadol has represented the municipality in Parliament since 2011, riding on the support of women and the impoverished urban youth who consider him one of their own.
“He is a down-to-earth person who understands the plight of the common people. In fact, the moniker ‘Panadol’ was given to him on account of giving free panadol tablets to people who visited his mother’s clinic,” says Harriet Kisakye, a resident of Nabidogha.
However, in Toto, Panadol seems to have found a formidable opponent with all the necessary tools in his toolbox.
“Toto will definitely eat into Panadol’s constituency since he identifies more with the urban poor who have been Panadol’s fortress. He is born and breed in the municipality and his maverick nature makes him a very difficult opponent to beat,” says Mazamir Mudhiba, a resident of Igamba.
Toto was husband to former Iganga Woman MP Kaudha Hailat Magumba who succumbed to pregnancy-related complications in July 2017.
“Toto may get a sympathy vote from people who have fond memories of the late Hailat and look at him as a widower,” says David Mpandu, a resident of Kikongola zone.
Mpandu also accuses Panadol of failure to contribute significantly on the floor of Parliament.
“The only time I saw him contribute on the floor of Parliament was when he was nominating Kampala Central MP to the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament. We need a more serious and focused legislator,” Mpandu said.
He also said Panadol has had sufficient time in Parliament, saying there is need to elect a new person to represent the municipality in Parliament.
“Panadol has been empowered enough and he can use the resources he has amassed for the last ten years to invest in the municipality. I think it is also time we empower another person because politics is all about sharing resources,” Mpandu said.
It is also reported that Panadol has done a lot to burn bridges with the business community and the NRM leadership in the municipality who played a significant part in his election back in 2011 and his subsequent re-election in 2016.
“The business community threw its weight behind Panadol in the last two elections but the later has since fallen out with them. He has grown into a wayward child who insults his elders,” says Charles Makoha, a voter of Kasokoso B in Iganga Municipality.
This website has also learnt that the diminutive legislator is at loggerheads with the district NRM chairperson Hajji Abubaker Walubi who he accuses of malice and sabotage.
But when this website contacted Hajji Walubi, he underplayed the rift, saying that as the NRM, they are ready to support any candidate the voters will endorse.
“The party is bigger than individuals. We may have differences but when it comes to voting, we will support any candidate who gets our flag,” Walubi said.
Panadol in an interview with this website said he is more confident of victory than never before. He said he relishes being underestimated by the opponent, citing an example of the 2010 NRM primaries where supporters of Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) hijacked the NRM primaries and voted him on account of his being a weaker candidate who would easily be defeated by then FDC candidate Abed Nasser Mudiobore in the general election.
He, however, said his victory turned out to be a Trojan Horse for the FDC as he went ahead to defeat Mudiobore in 2011 and again in the February 2016 polls with 7,288 votes against Mudiobore’s 6,352 votes.
“I have done a lot for the people of Iganga Municipality and I am sure they will renew my mandate so that I continue representing them in Parliament,” Panadol said.
Panadol is credited for among others attending burials and dishing out money to the electorate.
Master of propaganda
Panadol allegedly employs a fully constituted propaganda machinery to man his campaigns. He has for instance used his physical condition of being one-eyed to appeal to the emotions of especially women who view him as an unfortunate child and pour out in droves on voting day to cast their votes for him.
“Mudiobore and his supporters are saying you should not vote for a blind person. They think I chose to be blind,” Panadol always tells his supporters as he kneels down to canvass their votes.
His team then goes ahead to narrate how Panadol lost his eye in an acid attack from a jealousy brother who envied the excess love that the former was receiving from the mother. Such and more tales endear Panadol to the women and make him their blue-eyed boy.
One of Panadol’s supporters who preferred anonymity narrated to this reporter how they one day got a goat and gorged one of its eyes and then carried it on the campaign trail draped in a ribbon that had Panadol’s name inscribed on it with the major aim of hoodwinking the electorate that it is Mudiobore’s supporters who had done it purportedly to depict Panadol’s appearance.
“Many people who saw the goat, especially the women were moved to tears and their love for Panadol increased,” he said.
The electorate is yet to see which propaganda tricks Panadol’s team will pull out against Toto, a half-caste with a formidable financial muscle and a block vote from a sizeable half-cast population in the municipality.
“I am coming to serve the people of Iganga and unlike the incumbent MP, I will not waste time on bickering,” Toto said.
Others in the race for Iganga Municipality MP race include Juma Ngobi aka JJ, Tonny Nabala (both of NRM), Francis Muganga of Power Power and Tom Naigubya who is vying to represent the municipality on the FDC party ticket. Naigubya will have to tussle it out with Mudiobore who has already contested twice on the FDC card.
Iganga Municipality has a total of 16,708 voters and has two divisions; central division and the northern division. Toto seems to be gaining ground in the Central Division while Panadol remains strong in the Northern division.