SIRONKO – The people of Budadiri West in Sironko district will again go to the polls on January 14 in a heated contest that will revive old rivalries between incumbent FDC’s Nathan Nandala Mafabi and Dr Hosea Wambaka [NRM].
This will be the second time Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi and his political nemesis, Dr Wambaka, are going for each other’s jugular in their pursuit of supremacy in Budadiri West.
The 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 West in Sironko district, just a few days to the 2021 general Election.
Mr Nandala Mafabi rolls up his sleeves and personally to oversee Budadiri West constituency as an MP for the fifth time in row and political pundits say he has overstayed his welcome but others insist he is the best legislator Sironko and Bugisu sub-region has ever got.
The tough-talking and combative who doubles as chairman Bugisu Cooperative Union [BCU], Mr. Nandala Mafabi is known in local politics here as “Majegere” loosely meaning a crowd puller of everything.
The political icon that is widely respected in Mt Elgon society for aiding the fight against corruption in the ruling NRM party is standing again but can NRM politics deny him a chance to represent Budadiri West?
Mr. Nandala has been a continuing thorn in the side to President Museveni for about 20 years now, has rubbed the ruling government the wrong way and could fight him to ensure NRM takes the seat.
So he comes to contest again for his fifth term with a number of things standing in his way, stalked against him; the NRM candidate Dr Wambaka, the state machinery and the independent candidates.
True, the co-operation deal between NRM and its grass root party leaders has given Dr Wambaka’s bid to wrestle the constituency from the FDC’s grip but how the two will fight it out will be determined by how much “Bundizi”, “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 political scales suddenly tilted in FDC’s favour, Mr Nandala Mafabi has already made a charm offensive tour of the constituency and given out Bundizi, Hoes, Machetes to every homestead in the constituency and other goodies, including launching various key projects aimed at boosting his influence.
But with one week now left for the final lap in the race for Budadiri West, time seems to have already flown, and the ship has left the deck, showing Mr Nandala Mafabi has taken off the high seas for this race.
Right from 2001 to 2016, Mr Nandala Mafabi is referred to as “Bundizi” or ‘Majegere’ whenever he appears in any race; “Bundizi” [short, chubby bright yellow sweet bananas] by voters in Budadiri West.
He keeps telling people that he is going out to his garden to bring for them “Bundizi” to just share with them his sweat as an MP and indeed whenever he comes back, he shares with them ‘Bundizi”.
“And when he comes back, he lines up people and gives them each Shs 4000 to Shs 20,000 depending on how old you are, this has worked wonders for him in the constituency and to throw him down, you need a lot of money to change the people from him,” said Mr Peter Munda, a voter in Bumusi parish.
Mr Munda revealed that voters in Budadiri West have received “bundizi” and this has helped us survive political storm in Budadiri West and local voters now understand that to contest as an MP, one needs to have a lot of money.
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.
Unfortunately people have waited for this and are yet to get this from Dr Wambaka who again appears on the scene to unseat Mr Nandala Mafabi in 2021.
The Mini Survey in the constituency
The one-week or so- campaign trail across the Budadiri West constituency afforded me some time to travel around the constituency and – a segment of the people of this constituency who have strong views on the representation of Mr Nandala Mafabi of 2001 to 2016 seem to be rethinking.
For the very first time, the people of Budadiri West, the local elites who have dictated the pace and rhythm of the constituency’s political parlance since 2001 are at cross roads: as they do not seem to be backing Dr Wambaka as their horse to back in the 2021.
Although they belong to NRM, they are at a loss, mainly because Mr Nandala Mafabi has worked well as their legislator and on the ground, he is the only person they see interacting with the people all the time and they say his political nemesis Dr Wambaka is Kampala based and is out of touch with reality.
Across the political divide, many political pundits believe Mr Nandala Mafabi has done a lot for the local people in Budadiri West and that this is the time to rethink.
“We need to vote back Mr Nandala to represent us and we should not allow to let ourselves down by voting back Dr Wambaka who is Kampala based and is likely to let us down,” said Mrs Marriam Magomu of Buteza sub-county.
She revealed although they belong to NRM, that they will vote president Museveni come 14 January but maintain Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the secretary-general of FDC as their MP for 2021.
Several voters PML Daily talked to indicated that the January 14 General the election in Budadiri West is expected to be influenced by five critical issues: Money, the bad road network, the BCU factor, contribution to the farmers, the health of the people of Budadiri West and the efforts to fight poverty at households.
Many pundits say that Mr Nandala has done well in terms of health by helping the rural poor get operations for Hernia at his cost in hospitals.
“And besides he has won the hearts of Muslims by taking both Women and Men to Mecca for Hajj or hadj, in Islam-this is a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every adult Muslim must make at least once in his or her lifetime,” said Mr Asuman Mugoya, a voter at Busamaga town council in Budadiri West.
Political spears have been drawn as Mr Nandala Mafabi [incumbent] again clashes with Dr Wambaka for the Budadiri West seat, but what is likely to happen? Will the voters choose Mr Nathan Nandala again or Mt Wambaka.
But as Mr Nandala Mafabi traverses the constituency in a last-ditch attempt to woo voters to elect him again for the parliamentary seat, here is why he will take the Budadiri West seat in 2021.
A mini a survey done by PML Daily in Budadiri West indicates that although there are other candidates Mr Nasser Bbosa [Independent], [NUP], Mr Peter Muyobo [Independent], Mr Ronald Mafabi [NUP] and Jackson Kisolo [NRM leaning independent] this time vying for the same seat, the vote is a two-horse race between the two foes [Mr Nandala and Dr Wambaka] who will be slugging it out for the second time.
The volatility on the ground, with the incumbent MP legally seeking another term, succession politics have started playing out, with numerous figures around Mr Nandala Mafabi jostling for the chance to help him re-occupy the seat come 2021.
More than sixty-three thousand (63,000) voters are registered to vote in the 23 sub-counties of Budadiri West and more than half of the voters between the ages of 18 and 35 are the likely voters come 14 January.
Some Budadiri West constituency in their own wisdom are increasingly obsessed with the idea of returning Mr Nandala Mafabi whom they believe is, precisely not a piece of political cake for the NRM.
Mr Nandala Mafabi’s right-hand man, Rev Jackson Magombe, told the PML Daily on Monday that there was no turning back at anything but focusing on the polling day 14 January 2021.
He says that even when it is obvious that goals can’t be reached, they will don’t adjust the goals not the goalkeeper [Mr Nandala Mafabi] but that they will adjust the action steps to ensure that their candidate takes the day.
He revealed that the ruling NRM government has tried three times to oust Mr Nandala Mafabi by giving out colossal sums of money, beating up the voters in the constituency, deploying army, military equipment to scare off the voters but that they have failed because our voters can’t be scared.
“And this time we are sure of getting more than 80% of the vote and we are now working on how we can get part of the 20% to move to 90% win on 14 January,” said Rev Magombe.
Mr Nandala Mafabi maintains that despite being held in high regard within the the international community, President Museveni will nonetheless go down in the books of history as 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.
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 twenty years we have only heard about government programmes over radio and when president Museveni visits the constituency 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.
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 he would advocate for an increase in the government’s Youth fund [YLP] and women fund [UWEP] to create any change in the lives of the people of Budadiri West and that he would champion research into how it is going to be used to ensure that it does the right thing itt is intended for on 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.
Although many people accuse Mr Nandala Mafabi of fighting many people in FDC who seem to be an obstacle directly or by using proxies both and national level and local level in trying to build his political base in FDC, many still adore him.
Despite the fact the tide is against him, many a voter in Budadiri West reveal that you can’t talk about FDC in the country without mentioning Mr Nandala Mafabi’s name, and seeing his finger somewhere.
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. 300,000 and 400,000 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 has also promised to give support to the village women saving groups and SACCOs to help people kick out poverty at their homesteads.
The Sironko district chairman NRM Mr Suleiman Lumolo insists that Budadiri West voters should vote the NRM flag bearer if they want development in their constituency.
“We voted Dr Wambaka as our NRM party flag bearer, let us support him in the general elections, that is the spirit of the party, let us vote for President Museveni and vote for our candidate Dr Wambaka,” said Mr Lumolo.
But Mr Nandala, whose team has been traversing villages for support, says he hopes to promote reconciliation, unity and provide effective leadership that will not seek selfish interest at the expense of the people.
And with barely a week to the general election, there is a growing fear that ‘Budadiri West’ will be sucked into another cycle of violence—where tear gas, live bullets, heavy deployment of the army, intimidation and beating up of voters like it was in the previous elections with the perpetrators again face no punishment.
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 a 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 2021.