SIRONKO – The PML Daily this week looks at Budadiri West constituency, where incumbent MP and chairman Public Accounts Committee of parliament Mr. Nathan Nandala Mafabi will tussle NRM and other contestants to retain the seat he won in 2016.
Although it is already clear that Mr. Nandala is vying for the seat for the fourth term in the constituency where FDC has been getting about 77% in every national election, the new NRM entrants DR Kosea Wambaka [PHD] Pound man], Mr Jackson Kisoro [Dollar man] and Mr Paul Wokou, are crowding around him, all claiming he has overstayed his welcome and should quit.
It is now official Mr Nandala Mafabi and his political nemesis, Dr Wambaka, are going for each other’s jugular in their pursuit of supremacy in Budadiri West, a few months to the 2021 general Election.
A major battle pitting the two Bagisu leaders is fast shaping up, with each seeking to exploit the other’s weak points to score points as they eye control of the hundreds of votes in Budadiri East in Sironko district.
For the last 20 years, the Forum for Democratic Change [FDC] has run the show in Budadiri East, pushing the ruling party to the periphery, but the complications Covid 19 has brought and the money from the ruling NRM party could elevate an NRM candidate to the top.
The co-operation deal between NRM and its grass root party leaders has given Dr Wambaka’s bid to wrest the constituency from the FDC’s grip fresh impetus where he seems to have already secured the NRM ticket. But how the two will fight it out will be determined by how much “Bundizi”, “Dollars” or “Pounds” one will give out to the voters.
At best, Dr Wambaka has the ruling NRM government on his side, but at worst, he might run into turbulence among Mr Nandala Mafabi’s supporters and “Bundizi” if he does not equip himself so well.
With the scales suddenly tilted in his favour, Mr Nandala Mafabi plans a charm offensive tour of the constituency next month that promises to be full of goodies, including launching various key projects aimed at boosting his influence.
Right from 2001 to 2016, Mr Nandala Mafabi is referred to as “Bundizi” whenever he appears in any race; “Bundizi” [short, chubby bright yellow sweet bananas] by voters in Budadiri West.
Why? He usually tells them he is going out of the country in his garden to bring for them “Bundizi” to share with them his sweat as an MP.
Although in this case he refers to money and usually whenever he comes back, he lines up people and gives them each Shs 2000 to Shs 10,000 depending on how old you are, this has worked wonders for him in the constituency.
“And whenever we see him coming, we know that we are going to receive “bundizi” and this has helped us survive and learn that whoever wants the seat of an MP in Budadiri West must be able to give us some money as voters,” said Mr Stephen Makafu, a voter in Kigulya parish in Buteza sub-county.
It is this type of politics that has made others who want to unseat Mr Nandala Mafabi to also start giving out money. When Dr Wambaka came in 2016, he declared himself “Pound man” an indication that instead of giving out “Bundizi” he was going to give out Pounds to his people.
That Mr Nandala Mafabi has used “Bundizi” and the row within NRM party district leadership — and political troubles surrounding the ruling party — to entrench himself, has not been lost on observers.
And besides having “Bundizi” Mr Nandala Mafabi is popular in the constituency and has become a regional darling too, because of his duties in Parliament as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee where he has won praise for fighting corruption, exposing the dirt in the NRM regime.
Some circles in Sironko district and at Budadiri West constituency in their own wisdom are increasingly obsessed with the idea of returning Mr. Nandala Mafabi whom they believe is, precisely speaking, not a piece of political cake.
This is because he has commanded a formidable and nearly consolidated support following his performance at both constituency and parliament levels.
Mr Nandala Mafabi’s right-hand man, Mr Johnson Wabulo, told the PML Daily on Monday there was no turning back in their partnership with NRM but that they were now looking forward to a growing relationship now and beyond the coming elections.
Mr Amon Nandega, an elder from Bubeza in Sironko says even when it is obvious that goals can’t be reached, they will don’t adjust the goals nor the goalkeeper [Mr Nandala Mafabi] but that they will adjust the action steps.
The ruling NRM government has tried three times to oust Mr Nandala Mafabi by also giving out colossal sums of money in Budadiri West constituency but failed even when they have beaten, deployed army, military equipment to scare off the voters.
“Politics here has been monetized, so I need to give out Pounds if my friend is giving out Pounds, this is basically just to outdo him,” said Dr Wambaka but unfortunately when he gave out money, the voters did not vote him but voted the “Bundizi man” Mr Nandala Mafabi for Member of Parliament for Budadiri West.
Mr Nandala Mafabi maintains that despite being held in high regard within the international community, President Museveni will nonetheless go down in the books of history as a freedom fighter who betrayed his people, and a leader who knew what needed to be done but still chose to look the other way.
“And currently, uncertainty looms with regard to where the country is heading, there is rampant corruption in virtually all government institutions that continues unabated, the judiciary has lost its sanctity and police brutality is at its peak,” said Mr Nandala Mafabi.
He added that more often, police and the army have unleashed brutality on peaceful demonstrations, but take their time showing up in the case of an emergency and that tear gas has been imported in large quantities, while hospitals still lack beds and necessary drugs.
“I would like to leave parliament when all these things affecting my people have ended and when the government has accepted that they are on a wrong path,” said Mr Nandala Mafabi.
Mr Zubairi Makwasi, an elder and opinion leader in Budadiri West constituency says a look at all the constituencies that voted for president Museveni in Bugisu sub-region reflects there is nothing done in the last 35 years, do the people want to tell us that Mr. Nandala Mafabi is the one blocking delivery of services in the entire sub-region?
“If NRM has failed to deliver and solve the problems of the people in the last 35 years, do they want to tell us that when Mr. Nandala Mafabi is out of parliament, they will solve them in 5 years?” he added.
He told those struggling to oust Mr Nandala Mafabi from the constituency seat to know that the removal of Mr, Nandala Mafabi from parliament will not end the problems of their constituency and entire Bugisu sub-region.
“Those who are keen here know that the constituency is doing well, our children are sponsored at Universities and colleges, our sick old men have been operated of hernia, we have seen Muslims go to Mecca, we are encouraged to go to farming and grow traditional Arabica coffee to sell at BCU, what is this? Is there any other MP we need apart from this one? NRM should advise their MPs to keep off this constituency,” said Mr Makwasi.
Mr Jackson Kisolo, also a 2016 aspirant for Budadiri West constituency is described by the voters in Budadiri West as ‘Dollar man’. Why? He told people that if there are those giving out “Bundizi and Pounds”, for him he will give out ‘Dollars’ to take the seat.
According to a former MP for the constituency Mr David Livingstone Giruli in the constituency when the money starts pouring in, it is difficult to know who has more and who has little.
“At one time an aspirant remarked “Injuka ijuka, injuka ujuka, wacukoko oti Bangibile”loosely meaning while I was pouring money, you were also pouring and then you turn around to claim that you have been cheated,” said Mr Nandega.
Like Budadiri West while the nature of politics varies significantly between different regions and districts, there is no part of the country in Uganda where money does not matter in a political decision-making process.
The candidates who have so far shown interest in running for Budadiri West constituency are looking for money to spend here and this is likely to make the Budadiri West race as usual to be a race of “Bundizi, Dollars and Pounds”.
A mini-survey by PML on voter bribery tendencies by PML Daily in the constituency revealed that a deeply entrenched habit, with more than half of the respondents confessing that their choice of candidate is easily influenced when they are bribed.
Dr Aaron Mulyanyuma, a Uganda Christian University Don, a political scientist and researcher says that majority of Ugandans today would not mind voting for political aspirants who splash money and promise them rewards during election campaigns.
“At the centre of it are the voters who have no problem giving their votes in exchange for “something small” and this is likely to happen in Budadiri West because it has been there in terms of “Bundizi, Pounds and Dollars”,” said Dr Mulyanyuma.
Dr Mulyanyuma added that money in politics, or political finance, is linked to key aspects of any modern society and that Management of political finance is necessary for credible and genuine elections and electoral campaigns because it has the potential to skew competition between contestants.
He said all politics involves distribution and that indeed, many would claim that politics is at its heart about controlling distribution: who gets what, when and how.
Mr James Gyabi, an advocate of high court and lawyer says by splashing money during campaigns, politicians are sweeping the real problems of the constituency under the carpet for their own selfish benefit rather confronting them head on.
“The people of Budadiri West are still very desperate and poor, and as long as the situation remains like that, people will continue to be manipulated by petty cash and the one who will give more will take the day,” he said.
Meanwhile many potential voters also remain stuck in the individual merit mode, expecting candidates to give them “something” in return for their votes because they do not expect to eat their programmes.
Although expectations of being paid for votes is more or a rural phenomenon than an urban one, it pervades politics in the more deprived parts of constituencies in most rural areas and suburbans.
Dr Kosea Wambaka [PHD] who stood against Mr Nandala Mafabi in 2016 knows that money really plays a big role in politics of Budadiri West.
Dr Wambaka referred to as “Pound man” for his decision that if they are giving “Dollars and Bundizi”, I will give out “Pounds” adds that while “one person, one vote” is an established principle of elections across the worldwide, differences in resources can make some voices heard more loudly than others.
He said those with money can influence politicians and political decisions in ways that are problematic for democracy.
He revealed that besides the traditional roles of an MP, he would go an extra mile to regulate policies that would help his people by traditional checking and evaluating their relevance to the common man.
“I would also do appropriation and budgeting because I know that the budget is passed every year but how much is used to benefit the local person by having his local bridge in Kilayi, Giboni and how much is being used on the local roads like Nalugugu-Nakiwondwe to Namagumba,” said Dr Wambaka.
He explained that his plan for the constituency is to empower girl-child through Education to be able to stay in school and postpone marriage, empower farmers through sensitisation to add value to Coffee and other agricultural products before selling it, improve storage and marketing and lobby government to give us another machine for processing Coffee in Bugisu sub-region.
Mr Paul Wokou who is also aspiring to take Budadiri West constituency says that he is looking for money to ensure that he goes through to get the NRM party ticket to stand against Mr Nandala Mafabi.
He revealed that his strategy is to help people come out of poverty such that they don’t beg money from politicians but are able to make their own money but elect good leaders to represent them at all levels.
No service delivery
Dr Wambaka who is back again hankering to oust Mr Nandala Mafabi– and on the NRM ticket for good measure says apart from giving out money to the voters, there is nothing Mr Nandala Mafabi has done for the people of Budadiri West.
“For the last five years we have only heard about government programmes over radio and when president Museveni visits us but we have not seen them on ground, that is why I come to this race,” says Dr Wambaka.
Mr Wambaka says that Mr Nandala Mafabi has failed to deliver, he has been a good player for FDC and himself but not for his constituents; I am coming to score for my constituency. I am the only one who can score for everyone,” said Mr Wambaka.
What Dr Wambaka intends to do for the people of Budadiri West:
Dr Wambaka says he would lobby the ministry of water and Environment through National Water and sewerage corporation to have Bukulo connected to the main water grid because it is dry throughout without water and boreholes.
He said although the youth fund [ YLP] and women fund [UWEP] have been given out, it is still too low to create any change and that he would champion research into how it is used to ensure that it is increased to do the right thing in ground.
“I will prepare the women and youth to receive this money, have HCIIIs in the constituency operate expectant mothers, give an ambulance to LCIII health centres to quickly refer expectant mothers,” said Dr Wambaka.
But Mrs Annet Nagwandala, a local voter in the constituency says although not much is physically seen of Mr Nandala’s contribution to Sironko and Budadiri West, he has aided a number of students to access scholarships in schools as well as University education.
Mrs Fatina Nambafu [Buteza] says Mr Nandala Mafabi has given out iron sheets, blankets to the poorest of the poor and extended school fees of Shs. 200,000 and 300,000 to 154 students in the constituency pursuing diplomas and degrees at various institutions of higher learning respectively from his own personal funds.
The Budadiri West race will be hotly contested as Dr Wambaka is now also supporting village women savings groups and SACCOs to help people kick out poverty at their homesteads.
Dr Wambaka whose team has started traversing villages for support, says she hopes to promote reconciliation, unity and provide effective leadership that will not seek selfish interest at the expense of the people.
“Our MP has failed and this is why I have to rescue my people. I am not against Mr Nandala Mafabi but he has failed to score and overstayed his visit,” Dr Wambaka explains.
Mr Kisoro [Dollar man] another contestant says the NRM’s image in Budadiri West has suffered because of opposition and he has pledged to unite all people towards development and fighting poverty.
Mr Kisoro has also promised to promote girl-child education in the Budadiri West and bridging the gap between the poor and the rich.
“Only about 63 per cent of girls have attained education in Budadiri West. I want to ensure that women are given priority in education,” Mr Kisoro explains.
He added that he will lobby for more health centres to be established in the constituency so that the health of the constituents is improved.
Mr Wokou says he is asking the people of Budadiri West to elect him as a way of redeeming the image of the constituency which has been badly tarnished by FDC before the rest of the country.
Mr Wokou said he intends to invest in poverty eradication, an area he believes the incumbent failed to deliver.
“I will establish low-income generating activities, like poultry keeping, brick laying to fight household poverty among women and youth,” Mr Wokou adds.
With Bugisu cooperative Union as another factor working for Mr Nandala Mafabi, it makes this race not only a dream contest between the FDC and NRM but also could end any hopes for NRM ever taking this constituency as long as Mr Nandala Mafabi has political interest in retaining it.
With “Bundizi” and all other odds against his opponents, Mr Nandala Mafabi is a sure deal back to parliament come 2021l.