By Moses Walubiri
Quite often, internal leadership changes – whether through polls or appointments – are aimed at renewal, with outsiders viewing them as the ultimate test of the democratic ideals a party purports to espouse.
However, as amply documented by the cacophony that follows almost every internal poll in the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), there is a world of difference between the ideal world and reality.
For over a year since Dr. Kiiza Besigye relinquished his FDC presidency following an acrimonious contest between Mugisha Muntu and Nandala Mafabi, the party’s top echelon has busied itself, furtively trying to put out smoldering embers that were at one time threatening to rip FDC apart.
Despite the reconciliation committee set up to probe alleged irregularities in the Muntu/Mafabi contest, unabated nitpicking between FDC’s top brass is sapping the party’s energy and making a mockery of Besigye’s decision to cut short his term in order to enable FDC better prepare for 2016 general elections.
However, Muntu’s decision last week to replace Nandala with Wafula Oguttu as LOP has wrong-footed many political pundits who expected the Budadiri West legislator to continue in his docket in the name of fostering internal healing.
Could Nandala’s axing throw a spanner in FDC’s works and make Muntu rue what some party supporters contend is a wrong choice for LOP?, or was the decision necessary to draw a line under what was degenerating into a ruinous power struggle between Muntu and Nandala?
What about Nandala? Will he take lightly Muntu’s decision to clip his wings, or continue sulking, much to the detriment of FDC?
For starters, there is no love lost between Nandala and a host of senior FDC officials he claims engineered his electoral loss to Muntu.
Early last month, Nandala took a swipe at his duplicitous party colleagues - especially party Secretary General, Alice Alaso - regretting why he gave credibility to flawed party polls.
“I wish I knew that even in FDC there are cheats, I wouldn’t have wasted my time contesting against Muntu,” Nadala said during constituency visits in Budadiri.
According to sources privy to feisty high level negotiations leading to Nandala’s ‘ouster’, Muntu faced stark choices, with his ultimate judgment call made to calm a brewing storm inside FDC.
The choice, a source that preferred anonymity told Sunday Vision, had been presented that either Muntu retains Nandala, or FDC faces the specter of disintegration.
Sad to say, however, Muntu faced extreme pressure to drop Nandala “because of his frosty relationship with senior party members, especially in parliament.”
And this assertion holds water because Nandala has been facing a simmering rebellion in his ranks at parliament, on account of his abrasive leadership style which at one time saw him fire DP and UPC legislators from his shadow cabinet for allegedly double-crossing FDC.
Another source, a member of FDC’s National Executive Committee, contends that replacing Nandala with Oguttu was a well calculated move aimed at forestalling the former’s possible defection from the party because the two politicians are friends and hail from the east.
But could Nandala contemplate following Betty Kamya and Rubaramira Ruranga out of FDC? It’s quite possible, if his assertion that he might form his own party ahead of the 2021 polls is anything to go by.
Nandala is a power broker in Bugisu, one of FDC’s biggest funders and a tireless political fighter as evidenced by his capacity to ‘paint his backyard blue.’
However, some of his FDC colleagues have counseled caution, warning that such a move would sound his death kneel politically.
“Politics is about tradeoffs and accommodation. It would be suicidal for Nandala to isolate himself,” a senior FDC official avers.
According to Dr. Sabiti Makara, a don at Makerere University’s Department of Political Science, Nandala has the mettle to bring FDC to its knees by fomenting a breakaway.
“A Nandala splinter group would weaken FDC, especially in eastern Uganda where he enjoys popular support,” Makara said.
As Nandala gets enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty as to how to react to his axing, FDC awaits his next move with remarkable trepidation.