By John Semakula
You seem to be very happy with your appointment
Yes, I am happy, because the President knows I have the potential to deliver and that is why he has redeployed me. I am also very happy with the new appointment. I will report to the President and not to Parliament.
My new responsibility is actually the same as that of the Minister Without Portfolio. It is the tittle and the channel of reporting that changed.
Among the Cabinet appointees blocked by Parliament, only you got another chance. Are you surprised?
No! I am the only one among those blocked who moved around the country with the President during the 2011 presidential campaigns. I know most of the promises the President made and I am the only one who can help him ensure they are implemented.
That is why the President rejected the advice of the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, to drop me. Kadaga wrote to the President warning him against working with an ex-convict.
But the President never abandoned me because he knows my potential and understands the law. An ex-convict is free to occupy office seven years after conviction.
Do you have a personal problem with Kadaga?
I don’t! During the previous elections she asked me to attend her rallies and I did. That is why I was surprised that she could turn against me.
But that is human nature. You are good while people need your help. When it comes to sharing the fruits of success, people abandon you.
So, now it is official; you have crossed to NRM
No! Never! I am not abandoning my party to join NRM. It is a coalition and this is not new. In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party are partners and neither had to dissolve.
The same happened in Israel and Kenya. Even in the US, some senior Republicans are working in Obama’s government.
Will you campaign for President Museveni in 2016?
I am the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and I intend to contest for the presidency in 2016. I am now concentrating on building my party ahead of the general elections.
I am not looking at President Museveni as an individual because he may choose to retire and that will create a gap that I am preparing to fill.
But if Museveni stands in 2016 and your party nominates you for the same, would you defeat President Museveni?
If we have the same agenda with the President, I may choose to form a coalition government with his NRM party. We shall then share positions in the government.
But between the two of us, the most popular will contest for the presidency. If he is more popular than I am, then Iwill step aside and support him. If I am more popular I am sure he will step down for me.
If President Museveni stood in the next elections, would he win?
Even if the elections were conducted today, Museveni would win with a very big margin. He cannot be defeated by an opposition that has no alternative. The opposition is only criticising and not providing an alternative programme.
That is why I am advising my colleagues in the opposition to advocate for power sharing. Otherwise, they may never be in power.
Do you think the friction in NRM is likely to disintegrate it?
No! It is normal for any political party. It actually makes the party stronger. The friction awakens the party leadership. If there is silence within a party, know that there is a big problem.
NRM is doing well today because of the members who are shouting. And I disagree with those who want the noise makers disciplined. You cannot force everybody to think and talk like you.
So, why is it losing by-elections?
It is a protest vote by the voters. They are accusing government of failing to deliver on the many promises made by the President. NRM needs to critically assess itself.
It is not too late to reverse the trend. If bureaucracy is checked, the Government can deliver and the party will win.
Muslims complained that they have been left out of the Cabinet. Has your appointment adressed their concern?
Nothing much has changed, and the Muslims should stop asking to be given. They should work hard so that they become the givers. When Amin was President, the Muslims benefited from his government.
I participated in the previous general elections and that is why I was appointed to this office. Other Muslims can also participate in elective politics and become givers.
When I was the Mayor of Kampala, I raised the Muslims to some level. By the time I left office, nine out of the 12 directors of KCC were Muslims. Muslims should not sit and watch events. They should become active participants.
What are your plans as advisor of the president?
I will work on all the assigments from the President. He may choose to send me to Saudi Arabia or any other Muslim Country to represent him. It is better for him to send Nasser to a Muslim Country than a Peter.
Back home, I plan to counsel the President on a number of development issues which can help our country to grow.
I have a concept on roads where investors can be lured into the country to construct roads and pay themselves back by collecting fees at road tolls.
It has worked in other countries like Dubai. I also want to advise the President on the education system, so that we can adopt vocational training at all levels to address the high unemployement among the youth.
What are the privileges you expect in your new office?
The biggest is that I can now contribute ideas to the development of my country. Otherwise, I have been a nobody down in Kisasi and no one cared about my views.
The appointment itself is a privilege because we are 33 million people in the country and the President has chosen me. The other privilege is that as a leader, I get to meet people I would not have met as an ordinary person.
When I was the Mayor of Kampala, I met the Queen of England and the late President of Libya, Muammar Gadafi. If I had not been elected Mayor, where would I have met them?
How do you assess your successor, the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago?
Lukwago may leave office without any achievement. Since he assumed office, he has been politicking. He does not know that ended during the campaigns and now he should get down to doing real work.
I believe he knows what is right, the only thing is that he wants to benefit from the prevailing problems. It is unfortunate that he is not helping the city dwellers. He was part of the Parliament that drafted the KCCA Act. He later chose to contest under it while knowing the implications.
If he disagreed with the Act, he should not have contested for Mayorship. Otherwise, he is disappointing the voters in Kampala.
Who is the best candidate for the FDC Presidency?
FDC is at a crossroads. It has one MP from western Uganda which means the party has no support in that region and so, should not produce a President. What would happen if Muntu wins and MPs from the other region where the party is popular gangup against him?
The thing is that you cannot have two main political parties in the country headed by people from the same region. There should be regional balance.
What about NRM, who is the best person to succeed President Museveni?
You cannot tell now because new leaders come up depending on the existing political environment. Nobody knew that Mohammed Morsi would become President of Egypt.
No one also knew that Gadaffi would be succeeded by the current leader in Libya. Nobody knew that I would become the Mayor of Kampala. So anybody can come up and replace President Museveni.
Former vice-president Gilbert Bukenya is eyeing the Presidency. Would you beat him in an election?
Bukenya was vice-president for eight years and he is well known locally and internationally, so you cannot despise him. But he should not be a threat to me.
I am one person who wants as many people as possible to show interest in the Presidency so we can see who is the best. The voters need wide options.
You sued MTN for using your speech as a caller tune. What do you want?
I am not stopping MTN from using the speech. I am a businessman so I want a share of the revenue the company has generated by using my voice. MTN has made about sh9b by selling my voice at sh500 in the last one and half years.
I want only 40% of that revenue.
Ssebagala to stand for presidency