By Moses Balyeku, Legislator/entrepreneur
In the Sunday Vision of September 17, an article written by Moses Walubiri showed who said what in the Constituent Assembly (CA), when the issue of the presidential age limit was being debated.
In reference to the Hansard, Dr. Kizza Besigye disagreed with the amendment moved by Noble Mayombo proposing that a presidential contender had to be between the age limit of 35-75 years. While moving that amendment, Mayombo told CA chairman, James Wapkhabulo, that: “I would like to move an amendment if the movers accept to re-read that it should be not less than 35 years of age and not more than 75. I beg to move, Mr. Chairman”.
Interestingly, when Besigye got on the floor; he disagreed with Mayombo over the proposed age limit for the presidency. Besigye said: “We have said power belongs to the people…their decision should be supreme and final because they are the sovereign of Uganda” He concluded: “We should respect the sovereignty of Uganda and I do not think we should engage in putting age limit here (on the presidency)”
Though, eventually Mayombo’s amendment prevailed, Besigye’s stand against the age limit was wholeheartedly supported by David Tinyefuza now David Sejusa, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, Mwesigwa Rukutana, Hanifa Kawooya and Aggrey Awori, among others.
Generally, Besigye, Sejusa and their colleagues were farsighted by opposing the age limit for the person eyeing the office of the president because it was discriminatory. I have with time discerned how unfair a stipulated age limit for the contender of the office of the president is. We rather have term limits for the presidency other than age limits as I highlight below.
First, the unfairness of the age limit is that there are well educated people, who would wish to pursue their careers and then at an advanced age eye the presidency.
Let me give the example of the current president of the US, Donald Trump. Had the US constitution stipulated an age limit cap for the president, say at 70 years, it would have denied him the opportunity of vying for presidency. Trump first ignored elective politics in favour of business. In so doing, his game plan was to concentrate at politics at his advanced age after building a successful business empire.
With his business empire flourishing, he entrusted its management to managers and offered himself for US presidency. It is that acquired business expertise that Americans based on to vote him as their president. They are convinced that as a successful businessman, he will turn around their country’s economy affected by the credit crunch.
The wisdom in scrapping the upper age limit of 75 is to make Ugandans comfortable to first achieve in their areas of academic professions and then go into active politics.
The upper age limit for the office of the president is the main reason why we have had many inexperienced persons eyeing it. They are in a hurry before the age limit catches up with them. Last year during the US polls, I read an article in the National Post which showed the results of a November McClatchey-Marist Poll.
It indicated that 71% of registered voters in the US considered advanced age a benefit to the presidency and that even among the youngest voters, 67% would have no problem supporting a candidate of over 65 years of age.
No wonder, the oldest candidate in the Democrats primary race, Bernie Sanders at 74 years, was the favourite among the youngest voters against Hillary Clinton who was in her 60s.
As voters, we should focus on what a candidate shall offer irrespective of his age. Such a viewpoint is what enabled Gray to build the reputation of American company, HomeAway. Gray at about 30 years decided not to discriminate his staff basing on their age. In an article published by Jenna Goudreau in Business Insider in 2013, it was revealed that Gray’s approach disregarded age and focused on what each individual brought on the table and how well they were achieving their goals. As a matter of fact, he found a number of older staff delivering results more than some youths.
In this age limit debate, the focus should, therefore, be on what a person can offer for the betterment of Uganda other than being prejudiced by a candidate basing on age. Such reasoning formed Besigye and Sejusa’s opposition against presidential age limit in CA.
The writer is the MP for Jinja West Municipality