By Shaban Bantariza
At the Senior Command and Staff College, Kimaka, the environment is as academic as Makerere University and no ideas are forbidden. So a visiting Makerere University lecturer recently sparked off a hot debate, which we carried on afterwards to our residences, when he discussed factors that bring about stability in African states. He gave two causes: inclusion and exclusion. He criticised a senior NRM official who is said to have stated that those who did not vote for NRM will not share the political cake. He said this idea was exclusionist and hence wrong.
The first shot at the lecturer was that there is no such a thing as a political cake. To some of us, there can only be a development cake. Politics is a struggle for political power, and power is not an end of itself but a means to bake the development cake and be the final authority to distribute it. Those who get the popular mandate through elections and acquire political power must not distribute it to their opponents just to appear inclusionist and hopefully democratic! Their primary duty is to ensure that everyone benefits equitably from the national (development) cake. That is not negotiable.
To give everyone and anyone a share in the political power? Some said â€˜Neverâ€™, unless of course it is established that the incumbentsâ€™ strengths are wanting, their weakness are greater and the threats are overwhelming. In this situation the incumbents can then form a coalition with their opponents since they canâ€™t run the show alone. That is, if they canâ€™t bake the cake and distribute it to citizens without fear or favour.
In a multi-party system, those who acquire power shall be judged at the end of their service period. This judgment shall be based on how they utilised power in national interest and not on how they shared it with every one because the electorate will see you as one entity. So, to bring in people who are tactically and strategically opposed to you so that they implement the policies they donâ€™t only oppose but actually donâ€™t believe in is to commit political suicide. At the end of the term, voters will judge you according to how you used or misused the power and mandate they gave you. And to tell them that you were undermined by those you brought in from outside is to show the highest degree of incompetence and treachery.
The debate also touched on the fears that the next government could marginalise those areas that voted against the NRM. That would be a disaster. The national cake that the NRM government will bake will be a product of national input and ingredients by all and sundry, irrespective of how they voted.
Indeed, the strategic Kimaka senior officers assumed some shadow authority and even brought out some names of people, good citizens of good repute, from those areas which voted opposition candidates as good candidates for positions in the next government. We even mentioned names of other people from areas that voted NRM but who would be a liability to the government if they were to be in Cabinet. Of course our ability to know all about them is limited to what is publicly known.
So, it was an ideological war at Kimaka as students (participants) became a political think tank on how and what political power is about, for what it must be used legitimately and how it is acquired and retained or lost. Fortunately, at the end of the hot arguments, the respondentsâ€™ view was that political power can be used, abused, misused or misallocated. Whatever the case, the holder must account for it. The balance sheet, the profit and loss account, will determine whether the incumbent gets another term to bake and distribute more or is kicked out of the bakery to create room for another baker.
The writer is a senior officer of the UPDF