RP: Why are you so invisible in the current run for FDC presidency?
OO: I admit I have been outside the country at the heat of the campaign, when they are moving in public rallies, but I would have tried to involve myself. It looks like the campaigns have stalled because they have been tied to candidates.
RP: Gen. Mugisha Muntu and Nandala Mafabi seem to be the major contestants, problem they are leaving the party highly divided, what is your take?
OO: I think the conduct of Nandala is the one which is seemingly dividing the party. And we will be able to determine the division after elections depending on how the candidates conduct themselves. And really I agree with Muntu, we should test people like Nandala in losing. His conduct has been tested when he lost to Besigye, he had to rally behind him. This is his time. I would actually say there is no contest. What we are waiting to do is to test Nandala whether he can be a good loser. The battle now is 27 MPs against 5. I am fully behind Gen. Muntu, and I pray that he wins, because I see a lot of potential in him. We members of the Opposition need hope, we are not like magicians trying to explain stale magic. Every election, we raise expectations of the ordinary people and then end up losing.
RP: In saying it is Muntu’s chance to lead, it sounds a case of Affirmative action. Remembering how Beti Kamya gave way for Alice Alaso, and the chaos after the death of Sulaiman Kiggundu, this method is a recipe for disaster, don’t you share such fears?
OO: My support for Muntu isn’t like we are sympathising with him, mine is potential, clean record and his working methods. In fact, Uganda needs a second rennaissance, we need a government where people have hope and belief. And Muntu says you can’t give what you don’t have, as an individual he has been tested. Every person you meet talks well about him. Other than the issues of sympathy, he is the best candidate. And I have been looking for Nandala, I want to tell him to save face and stand down.
RP: Nandala recently told Red Pepper that all MPs rallying behind Muntu fear his strictness, you are questionable in terms of accountability. You sought refuge in Muntu because he is soft, what is your comment?
OO: I think that is one of the most irresponsible statements I have heard from Nandala Mafabi, to the extent that if I met him I would be reluctant to shake his hands. A person of his caliber should be responsible. He has been moving around the country, and he even said it in our presence that since he left Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it is dead. That isn’t true. It is only during the time of Honourable Wadri that we have seen two ministers resign, after investigations. How many ministers left office during Nandala’s time? You have loud publicity in the media talking about PAC, I want to believe that it was paid up publicity. He has also said that some of us are nonperformers, it is me on the Government Assurance Committee that we have got books for the first time published on assurance made by the Government. We have now had two publications with over 1,800 assurances. We are performers only that we are not loudmouthed. Opposition now in Parliament doesn’t have meetings, there is no workplan. So ordinarily, Nandala should have maintained his role of LoP; he seems to be biting more than he can chew.
RP: Muntu was tasked with mobilisation, the party has no grassroot structure, he has literally done nothing.
OO: You see, a peasant’s revolution can’t take people to State House, what takes people to State House is the consensus among the elites and seemingly a lot of consensus even among the NRM on Muntu. Revolutions and peasant kind of politics, if they work, Raila (Odinga) would be the President. But that aside, when Muntu was in charge of mobilisation, you should know he was operating against a background that he had just lost an election to Col. Besigye. He was actually a gentleman, any attempt to excessively mobilise, would be seen as contempt to the powers that be. Making him the party president, without making any one fear that he is going to fill their political space, will make the difference.
RP: Why fight a personal war? People are surprised that you are rallying behind Muntu, yet previously you complained about the national cake being enjoyed by people of a specific region.
OO: The good thing I am retiring from politics, the last activity will be to campaign for Muntu in 2016. I will not seek reelection in 2016. If he wins, thank God, if he doesn’t I will be going to do my own things. Now you cannot liberate Uganda without Western Uganda. How many districts are there in Western Uganda? The traditional Mbarara has 11 MPs, yet in Acholi, Gulu the traditional Acholi has 9 MPs. So even if it is the numbers, you can’t defeat them. You can only liberate Uganda through the West.
RP: What should be the issues to decide this election?
OO: One, whether the person has the capacity to defeat Museveni, because there is a whole writing on the wall that he is coming back to contest. And the effort of removing President Museveni is not a one event thing. Even if you fail in 2016, you can try again. With his military career, his track record, it is Muntu who can do it. I have sat with him in the canteen with Generals and even when he wants to talk, other Generals will keep quiet and listen to him. I have seen that specifically with Gen. David Tinyefuza and Otafiire. I have personally been in a meeting with the President, and President Museveni asked me, “Why are you supporting Besigye who is a criminal?” I replied, “Okay if you don’t want me to support Besigye, I will support Muntu.” I saw an immediate change in the seating posture of the President. Then I said, “Mr. President, you made him your longest serving army commander.” To which he retorted, “I made him army commander because he didn’t take alcohol.” So that was the only defence the President has against Muntu. Currently, Muntu wouldn’t stress us cleaning his backyard, but we will have a problem cleaning Nandala’s backyard. There are issues here in PAC and Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU).
RP: What is Muntu’s major failure?
OO: What I would take as Muntu’s greatest weakness is, he behaves like a novice. He is at times like an altar boy. So this is working against him. You can have difficult situations, where difficult political decisions have to be taken. When he gets to such, he goes to his knees and says God will help.
RP: You mean he should embrace Besigye’s kind of character?
OO: I know it is a sensitive issue; He is resilient, courageous and determined but it looks his trait is what people in NRM are capitalising on. In Acholi, we say lions are tough animals but when you go to people’s homes, you find lions’ skins hanged on the walls. This means that aggressiveness makes the lion expose itself, then people kill it. When President Museveni came to Pader, I asked him, ‘Mr. President, FDC is holding there delegates conference next week, but Besigye has been summoned to CID, Kibuli. Don’t you think you are mobilising the electorate to vote for him?’ And the President responded, ‘maybe he is an easy man to deal with,’ so it seems the regime is comfortable if Besigye is the candidate. President Museveni presents him as the thesis of the antithesis of Besigye.
RP: Why are you raising dust over Idah Nantaba’s approval?
OO: Rule 160 states, the moment the Vetting Committee rejects an appointment, it is functus officio, their role stops there. The President then appeals to the whole house, what the Speaker of Parliament should have done is to follow the rules. The Appointments Committee is doing a delegated role of the House, it is not on its own. So the Speaker was wrong to bring Nantaba through the window, yet we want her to pass through the door. Secondly, Rule 153 says, the Speaker shall convene a meeting; meaning, writing to people and notifying them of what business is supposed to be conducted. What was written was the approval of two ambassadors, Nantaba wasn’t anywhere. Kadaga is using underhand method of doing work, that’s why we are writing to her. She should tell us whether Nantaba’s approval followed the law.
RP: Rule 160 is silent on the matter of the Committee re-seating to consider a matter. As a lawyer, don’t you think you are erring?
OO: Of course there is a lacuna, but in the absence of a provision to address a scenario, you use what is there, and when you use what is there you interpret it literally. This rule 160, what is the mischief the rule was trying to cure? The mischief is exactly like what Nantaba is in. This lady was rejected twice by the committee. If the provision wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be opening my mouth.