By Amlan Tumusiime
I was humbled by the response from the NRM Deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong to my article published in the New Vision of Tuesday, January 8 titled: “NRM Secretariat letting party down”.
Todwong also a former minister without portfolio in charge of political mobilisation stated that the NRM secretariat was doing good work and he was not arrogant to my views, but rather appreciated them and also hinted at the frustrations of delayed statistical data from the Government agencies for information dissemination. This implies that Government agencies frustrate the NRM Secretariat from issuing timely information to the population about Government programmes and achievements.
I must salute Todwong for taking a similar view on my observations; especially the numerous achievements attained during the Museveni led Government and enjoyed by Ugandans through both the public goods provided by the Government and also creating a conducive environment where people can work and afford a fairly decent life.
However, I wish to clarify some issues that Todwong raised. I hope this is not viewed as, and does not become, a back and forth war of words because that is not my intention at all. My criticism of the secretariat’s laxity on using the media to explain NRM’s achievements and success to the citizens is in good faith and good for the party.
Any honest and ardent supporter of NRM knows that NRM Secretariat does not use the media to popularise government achievements and successes, but instead it is the Opposition activists who use the media to tell lies and malign the Government. This is dangerous because people take what is said on radio as the truth.
The main issue here is the Secretariat’s failure to organise themselves and make strategic plans to popularise Government achievements. For example, it is true NRM has structures down to the village level, but these only exist in name and are only active during general elections. It is a well known fact that after the elections, these structures go into hibernation.
It is sad and painful that the Opposition are taking advantage of the vibrant media industry that has been enabled the NRM government, to undermine the same Government as the secretariat is merely watching.
Media is a power and that is why it is ranked as the fourth estate. It can develop the country or destroy it. The media sets the agenda.
Equally, the media, if effectively utilised can make the ruling party be loved by the populace or hated, if ignored. Ugandans need information, especially that that concerns their lives, their nation and so forth and it is the duty of the NRM secretariat to spread this countrywide.
I disagree with Todwong that the NRM structures have radio talk shows on Saturdays to educate, inform and mobilise the masses appropriately. This is only on a few radio stations in Kampala, but is not the case in rural areas where the ruling party has the majority support. I worked at Radio Hoima for 10 years as a head of a political talk show called “Akatuti Kobugabe”. I do not recall a single day when members of the NRM structures had such weekly radio talk shows.
As NRM mobilisers, we share information with colleagues from other regions and I, therefore, know that the situation I describe above is not unique to Hoima or Bunyoro alone. The absence and activeness of the structures on the media covers the entire country. Even NRM supporters who are regular phone-in callers on radio talk shows facilitate themselves with airtime for use.
The Opposition activists give the young people false hope of a better life after regime change. And because there is no counter view to this opposition’s pipe dream, the youth are gullible.
A powerful, vibrant and strategic Secretariat for any ruling party world over makes a huge contribution for the long survival of that ruling party. Among other duties of the secretariat is recruitment of new members, resource mobilisation, information dissemination and cadre identification and placement. The current NRM secretariat is doing little in addressing those fronts. Of all the good things Museveni has done for this country that have been even recognised and appreciated both regionally and internationally, there is no reason why his support should drop during elections, if the secretariat was aggressive and effective.
For example, in the 2011 general elections, Museveni got 5,428,369 votes and his closest rival Dr Kizza Besigye 2,064, 963polled votes. In 2016, Museveni polled 5,971,872 and Besigye 3, 508,687 implying that Besigye improved by 1,443,724 (70%) votes compared to the previous election and President Museveni only improved by 543,503 (10%) votes.
One would wonder why a steadfast leader like Museveni under whose leadership, revenue collection has risen from sh5b in 1986 when his government came to power to over sh15 trillion to-date and other such metrics that show economic growth, could drop in popularity measured by polls. This is purely a weakness of the NRM secretariat that is not helping him. Museveni is busy with nation building programmes, promoting Pan African spirit of helping our neighbours in Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, etc, to see that
peace returns to the region and the issue of mobilisation and new membership recruitmentlies squarely in the hands of the secretariat.
I have always stated that Museveni’s problem is not Dr. Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Norbert Mao and now Bobi Wine because these opposition politicians don’t compare to Museveni in terms of strategy and better planning for the country. The problem is the secretariat who have decided to spend most of the time on internal squabbles instead of focusing on strategising on how to grow the party.
A functional secretariat is one with leaders who are accessible, social, down to earth and generally strategic. Many district chairpersons have never seen secretariat teams in their areas for political mobilisation. One or two of them only show up when there is a by-election. That is not strategic. These Opposition people are very easy to handle and diffuse, if we have a vibrant secretariat because they have no clear agenda that can take on this country. Even the young people who are currently being misled into believing the Opposition’s falsehoods can easily be brought back to the truth, if the secretariat has a vibrant leadership committed to doing so. It is unfortunate that they simply wait for the President to always intervene.
I am aware of the resource constraints, but also aware that a cadre can work within available resources and still achieve the target. It is all about commitment and acknowledgment of the existence of the challenges and willingness to resolve them. If the secretariat does not consider some of these views and think about them with the sincerity and seriousness they deserve, we are likely to have a more challenging 2021. In my opinion, we do not need to water down the opposition fight as “emptiness”
Therefore, in order to have a successful 2021 general elections in favour of NRM, the President needs to overhaul the entire NRM Secretariat so that new ideas can flourish.
Writer is NRM mobliser for Bunyoro Region