One fact is Museveni has performed much better than all the past governments but this, at a certain point, is not appreciated
By Amlan Tumusiime
I have just come from a vigorous campaign exercise of choosing the National Resistance Movement (NRM) flag bearer who will contest in the forth-coming by-election to elect a Woman Member of Parliament for Hoima District.
Harriet Businge, the resident district commissioner for Sembabule, polled 18,000 votes and was declared NRM flag-bearer by the party electoral commission boss, Tanga Odoi. Hoima municipality mayor Mary Grace Mugasa came second, with about 10,000 votes.
The Hoima Woman MP seat fell vacant after a new district, Kikuube, was curved out of Hoima district and the then incumbent, Tophasi Kaahwa Byagira, opted to represent Kikuube district in Parliament.
As a person who was entrusted with the responsibility of heading Businge's campaign team, I enjoyed the experience of traversing Hoima district's 388 villages. I had done the same in the 2016 presidential campaigns, as the co-ordinator for the NRM candidate, President Yoweri Museveni's special campaign task force.
During my latest tour, I realised that the villages had taken on a very different picture from my previous visits. Majority of the rural population have built permanent houses and many are connected to either solar or hydro-electricity. The roads are good and motorable. There is also clear evidence that people are accessing safe and clean water due to availability of boreholes and water springs in many areas.
It is also true that locals have their personal means of transport ranging from salon cars to motorcycles. At least in every homestead people have either a motorcycle, bicycle and, for information updates, radios. Also many homesteads have TV sets and are watching news and other forms of entertainment courtesy of free-to-air decoders.
Rural-based people also watch European football, just like their urban counterparts.
In most of the villages, it is difficult to trace a grass-thatched house unless, it only belongs to teenagers. Getting children suffering from polio in the rural areas is not easy, thanks to the immunisation campaign by the NRM government.
Part of my entourage from Kampala could not believe the Kaiso-Tonya 75kmstretch was, indeed, in Hoima as we were heading towards Lake Albert in Buseruka sub-county. The road is arguably one of the best roads in Uganda today. My colleagues, including leading businessmen in Kampala, wondered why such progress and achievements were not visible in our media, which mainly focuses on riots and teargas used on demonstrators.
During the campaign exercise, I also observed various other government initiatives geared towards poverty eradication, which the locals have little information about. For example, people have no information about how much money the central government sends quarterly to their respective districts and sub-counties, what it is for and how it is utilised.
The NRM secretariat, itself, is totally silent on this yet it is in good position to show the NRM government achievements to the populace. This is giving the Opposition leeway to capitalise and sway support for its candidates.
When it comes to information dissemination, the NRM secretariat behaves like a church, with a huge following but lacking committed, vibrant and determined preachers. This is dangerous.
The Museveni-led government has for decades now registered huge achievements in many fronts such as education, peace and security, agricultural and general infrastructural development like tarmacking of roads and electricity supply in many parts of the country. But the NRM secretariat has failed to come out and explain these achievements to the population. For example, one can now travel from Kampala to eastern Uganda, connect to Lango sub-region and arrive in Bunyoro still on tarmac. Even one can travel from Kampala on tarmac up to the shores of Lake Albert. And this covers most part of the country.
There are equally other good programmes such as Universal Primary Education (UPE), which the NRM government introduced to help Ugandans access free education and has produced good results.
The opposition alleges that children who study under UPE get stunted academically (bakona) and yet there is evidence that some UPE products are successful. The NRM secretariat is aware of this but keeps quiet as the Opposition continues denigrating this programme instead of extolling it.
During the campaigns, I came across a young man, Samuel Tumusiime, a product of the UPE programme who completed his primary education at Bwiikya Muslim Primary School in 1999 and is a university graduate. He contested unsuccessfully for the Hoima Municipality MP seat in 2016 and, currently, he is a leader of over one million youth from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. He is also an author! Some of the books he has written include: Together for the upright generation, Somalia: A chance for a new beginning, Girl-Child growing to become a woman of value, New mind of the African Youth, Embracing Technology and Vocational Education in Uganda, A look at the six kings of Bunyoro and Why Uganda still needs President Museveni around. These books are available in public libraries.
Tumusiime's story reminded me of another UPE product, Hillary Lokwang, the Ik Member of Parliament, Kaabong district. He finished UPE in 1999 from Komukuni Boys Primary School. Lokwang, after coming to Parliament, addressed the media and disclosed that he was a UPE product.
I am aware of many other people who studied under UPE and are serving the country in different professions. I wonder why the NRM secretariat would continue keeping quiet and allow the Opposition to keep undermining this universal education programme even in the face of indisputable facts. That is being unserious on the side of NRM secretariat.
In fact, Tumusiime told me that he has made several attempts to reach out to the President to launch his books but the State House handlers have always frustrated him. Why would someone frustrate such a UPE product trying to demonstrate to the President and the nation that the UPE funding and initiative did not go to waste? Deliberately suffocating such an opportunity to demonstrate the success of the UPE programme to its critics is baffling.
I pray that the education minister and also the First Lady, Janet Museveni, who has committed herself to strengthening the education sector in Uganda, reads this article and brings it to the attention of the President that people like Tumusiime have successful stories to demonstrate as beneficiaries of the UPE programme.
I have for the last 10 years been writing in the media, highlighting NRM achievements in my individual capacity as a rational supporter and I have always stated that what is killing the NRM popularity is not having effective media coverage on the issues that matter. The NRM secretariat - a part from some informative articles written by the party's national treasurer, Rose Namayanja - with all the resources at its disposal, has failed to help the President on this line. President Museveni is working alone. Even majority of his cabinet ministers are quiet on information dissemination. It is only about five ministers who are active in terms of using the media to reach out to the people and these ministers are well known to the population
One fact is Museveni has performed much better than all the past governments but this, at a certain point, is not appreciated, not because the President is not popular, but because there is scanty information and these achievements are not effectively celebrated.
Majority of the youth today are following Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi because they are lacking this information and guidance and those responsible for reaching out to them are quiet and only wait for Museveni to personally intervene - they come to accompany him.
For example, in the past four years since the NRM introduced the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), the Government has injected sh126b in the programme and only 16,439 youth projects country wide have benefited. In my opinion, little has been done to mobilise the youth who fall in different categories such as school dropouts, those living in slums, the impoverished communities, the disabled, unemployed youth and those who have also finished secondary, tertiary and vocational school to take part. Otherwise many youth, if mobilized, would embrace the YLP, fight poverty and would not follow the Opposition politicians who have nothing or little to offer them.
As we get closer to the 2021 election period, the NRM party needs to place some emphasis on ensuring that the populace is effectively made aware of what the Government is doing for them in their regions. This could be supplemented by the RDCs, but some of them appear timid and even fear to appear jointly with Opposition teams on Radio takshows.
Recently, the media reported that radio owners in Busoga region had given the RDCs free airtime. However, they have now revoked the free airtime because the RDCs were not utilizing it. I was shocked to see an RDC defending their failure to utilise the time, citing presence of the Opposition. I would have thought that the RDC, armed with accurate information and evidence, would take this opportunity to face the Opposition and address issues effectively on the talk show.
Therefore, in my view, Museveni is still popular and majority of Ugandans still love and trust him. It is just that the right information is not flowing to the grassroots. The people who campaign for the President are the ordinary wananchi at the grassroots level and not Ministers or MPs. The President needs to interact regularly with these wananchi because they have useful information to share but cannot access him.
Writer is an NRM mobiliser in Bunyoro