SIRONKO – Sironko district will be a battleground as the incumbent Member of Parliament Ms Florence Nambozo fights to retain her Woman MP seat against 26-year-old Ms Asha Mafabi Nabulo, a daughter to the district NRM chairperson, Ms Aisa Nagudi, a former Miss Uganda and Eastern Youth MP Aspirant Aisa Nagudi and Ms Hilda Nadunga.
But the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change has two ladies tussling it out for the FDC ticket to run for the seat in 2021; Robinah Wamanga and Ms Famier Wadada, the former FDC Member of Parliament for Sironko [2011 to 2016].
The latest information that has divided the National Resistance Movement party members ahead of 2021 is that the NRM has presented four candidates fighting for the NRM party ticket and later NRM and possible independents could tussle it out with FDC.
Carved out of Mbale district in 2000, Sironko district boasts a population of about 242,421 people according to the population census of 2014 and about 115, 357 voters spread out in 17 sub-counties with Arabica Coffee and Banana growing as the main source of livelihood.
Many people attribute Sironko’s woes to poor leadership and unfulfilled promises and as the district gears up for next year’s polls, politicians across the political divide are navigating the murky Waters where NRM has been at the political helm for the last five years.
People go to vote in the NRM primaries with grandiose promises and casting hopes of a better future to an impoverished and desperate population in this hilly majorly rural district at the slopes of Mt Elgon.
Battle of the ages
One would think that Ms Nambozo would have a smooth ride on account of her being an incumbent but in the youthful Ms Nabulo, Ms Nambozo has a hard nut to crack.
Ms Asha Nabulo is a fresh graduate of international business and a masters in Islamic banking whose wit, charm and discipline have endeared her to the great majority of the masses who have even christened her ‘Mama Sironko”; loosely meaning “mother of Sironko,”
“Sironko residents call me Mama Sironko because of the hope they have in me. They have always trusted other politicians only to be betrayed but in me they see a mother figure who cannot betray them. No mother betrays her child no matter what,” Ms Nabulo says.
Just a few weeks to polling day, Ms Nabulo seems to be edging ahead of his likely rivals in the race to 2021 as she ‘tours’ the district on supposed poverty eradication jaunts which started in the sub-county of Buyobo last month.
Many times, she has attended burial ceremonies amidst Covid-19 fears, paid condolences, donated iron sheets, mattresses for the poor and vulnerable and addressed people, something that h=gives her an edge above others who are hardly seen in the district.
One of the biggest differences in this parliamentary seat between 2016 and now is that Ms Nambozo’s negative numbers aren’t close to where Ms Nabulo’s are at this exact same point in the race.
Ms Nabulo has vowed to unseat Ms Nambozo, regarded here as ‘yellow girl’ from parliament for doing nothing to better the plight of women, young girls in Sironko district.
“I am not bothered about the money and the position she holds in NRM party but I am in command of all the sub-counties, villages and I am determined to sway everyone towards my support because we have not seen what Ms Nambozo has done for the people of Sironko even her own party NRM,” said Ms Nabulo.
She revealed that even when the people in Sironko are sinking in poverty as she looks on and proudly sings NRM, there is nothing on ground to convince people to vote for her.
She explained that later her work in the district will surely dawn on politicians in Sironko that they cannot reduce women empowerment to a political agenda; it is a promise which if left undelivered, can change fates of parties and politicians in Uganda.
Local political analysts believe the number of aspirants could even rise by the time parties elect their flag bearers.
Ms Nabulo has promised to create employment opportunities for the youth and women in the district by involving them in income-generating activities like Bamboo growing, commercial agriculture etc.
Through Mafabi Aisha foundation [MAF], a local CBO, she has started empowering the vulnerable and weak in Sironko and Bugisu sub-region
The MAF is already empowering widows, lobbying for bursaries for orphans and needy but bright students and offering scholarships for best-performing students in Sironko district.
As she lobbies for votes, Ms Nabulo has promised to expand the poultry project to benefit all women groups in the district. She said about 2,500 chicks will be distributed to groups to enable them fight poverty at households.
Ms Nabulo also intends to bring heifers and extend rural power to the villages for all to access; the youth and women groups will be engaged in money generating activities in the district.
Under safe water and sanitation MAF has already lobbied for more than ten bore holes and already three of them are already on ground at Buwasa and sub-counties.
“I am also going to lobby for an orphanage to help my people in the district and this will be too help orphans across the district,” said Ms Nabulo.
Although many politicians across the district See Ms Nabulo is a better legislator because of what she has done so far on the ground, others say she is still young to handle multi-party politics.
Service to my voters
“Although we ought to pay allegiance to our country, I ought to provide the best service to my people, the people who voted for me and the people who have made me, this what I believe in.”
“My people belong to NRM, the party our dear president belongs to, we must all carry on with the ideology to deliver services to the people in accordance with the NRM manifesto,” she said recently.
Riding on the theme “Service for my voters”, Mr Nabulo says she hopes to promote reconciliation, unity and provide effective leadership once again for the people of Sironko.
Meanwhile across the district, another aspiring MP Ms Aisa Nagudi has pledged to use his networking abilities to lobby and open up development opportunities.
She explained that the performance in government-aided primary schools in national examinations has been so poor and that Sironko has been ranked the worst in performance in the region and in-country ever since we were given a district.
“This is an area our incumbent MP has failed to talk about not even going on radio to talk about the poor results; this shows how she lacks the will to change this situation. I want to promise that I have the passion and love for the people of my district and would ensure our district performs well,” said Ms Nagudi.
The incumbent MP Ms Florence Nambozo meanwhile has pledged to continue sensintising the people of Sironko district to value education, sensitise people on government programmes for their benefit once re-elected.
“I am told the central government has promised to tarmac the road stretching from Nalugugu to Budadiri town council to Namagumba. This is one project I have lobbied from government and fount to have it come,” said Ms Nambozo.
Ms Nambozo has pledged to revamp the health and education sectors for better if she is re-elected as the district MP.
“Sironko is an endowed district and with a good leadership and management, it will be able to make every citizen comfortable and proud to belong to Bulambuli,” Ms Nambozo said.
Ms Nambozo has also pledged to promote economic empowerment of women and promised to outsource money to provide rural women with capital to start small scale income-generating projects.
She promised to provide gainful employment for the youth in Sironko within the first year if she became the district Woman MP “I am already in touch with some development partners to start up a youth vocational training institute in the district. This will empower them and also promote vocational skills in the region.
According to political pundits despite her strides, the incumbent woman MP has made, she has made some political blunders that could cost her the seat.
“And you know many of these mistakes still linger in the minds of some of the Sironko voters who feel she does not deserve the district woman seat. She does not greet people, she is proud, arrogant, and abusive and know only her family,” said Mr Nathan Gimei, a local voter in Bumasifwa sub-county.
Mrs Sarah Nabukwasi, a resident of Buweri town board in Buyobo sub-county says Mrs Florence Nambozo’s messages resonated well with the desires of the Sironko district electorate many of whom are wallowing abject poverty but five years in parliament she has done nothing to save the people.
“I think she is the only one with a clear message and seems to understand the struggles of the common person in Sironko but decides to look the other way when confronted with these problems. We voted for her in the previous election but she seems to have forgotten us so we don’t want this time,”Ms Nabukwasi said.
Ms Hilda Nadunga, a local businesswoman and social worker said she has already lobbied from development partners to contribute to the starting up of the vocational institute for the youth in the district.
As she joins the race for a second time, Ms Nadunga has promised to lay down a programme of action for health and social services, Agriculture and poverty alleviation.
“There is need to find simple alternative sources of income for the youth and women in the district and it is only me who has such a programme,” Ms Nadunga said.
She also said she would reform local governments effectively to make them functional so that they could generate employment and revenue for the young people if she became the district woman MP.
Ms Nadunga said she believed that the grassroots, which he said she had served well while in the civil service, were already mobilising the people for her support.
Ms Anna Maria Nabukwasi, 61, an NRM ardent supporter, says most of the people aspiring to bring down Ms Nambozo would never make good leaders.
“What kind of leadership is this? Why would we aspire to pull down the incumbent who has worked well with the NRM government? What hasn’t she done? Most of these people are proud, too boastful and would split Sironko district further,” she said.
And like Ms Nabukwasi, Mr Haloziyo Wolimbwa from Buginyanya and other voters in Sironko think, there is no better alternative to Ms Nambozo.
“It pains when we see our children failing examinations and nothing tangible is done to improve. It pains when we see our expectant mothers dying in the bushes trying to push because they can’t access a health facility. It pains when we see our youths and women in abject poverty and there is nothing being done, it pains when see our teens being married off as women and nothing is being done to reverse this. We need better for our people, we want education standards improved to fight illiteracy and for me I think Ms Aisha Nabulo is the only one who can do this,” Mr Allan Namudongo from Bumasobo sub-county.
But as she seeks a first term, Ms Nabulo is promising to unite residents especially those from the Budadiri East and West in Sironko districts for development.
“But can these MP aspirants for the district seat do everything they promise? This is the question we are asking but because we want to go with NRM, I am asking our people to vote the young Ms Asha Nabulo ecause the angel has failed,” said Mr Nathan Wefula, a voter from Bugitimwa sub-county.
Other new candidates in the race are also making their agenda and priorities known to the constituents as they eye the Sironko district Woman Seat.
Ms Nagudi said her priority is set on improving roads within the district, improve education standards, fight poverty and improve health for better reproductive health for women in the district.
“One of the things I am concerned about is the increased presence of bad roads in the district. It seems the voters are being wasted. So we need MPs who would present a case for our roads and I am here,” says Ms Nagudi.
Sironko lies 28km southeast of Mbale town. When PML Daily visited the district this week, many residents were not willing to talk about politics. Those who volunteered to say something could not hide their suspicion about the intentions of the writer.
“We know all these women contesting here, these are our NRM daughters but we are divided on who to vote. We don’t want to betray our NRM chairman and yet he has had his share and the daughter in the race is riding high in the race because she has the money and is a good speaker compared others in the race. Ask a boda boda rider, ask at the parks, ask in the villages, ask in the mosques, it is Nabulo’s name, you can go and ask all these people,” a district councilor and ardent supporter of NRM who asked for anonymity said.
Meanwhile, Ms Robinah Wamanga, 48, a tough-talking youth looking lady, whose entry into the parliamentary race has been received with mixed feelings, has pledged to initiate income-generating activities for the women and reduce unemployment and poverty among the youth.
To most residents, Ms Wamanga, who has a business background is also NRM, will make a good legislator basing on her experience as a district speaker.
Despite all the good promises by the different contenders, the voters will decide come 2016, who will be their representative in Parliament.
Another candidate in the race is former MP Ms Famier Wadada [FDC], who worked with Bugisu Coffee Exporters and Importers Company as an accountant. Born in 1972, she is married with three children.