Mzee Has So Tainted the Image of State House [opinion]

On Wednesday December 3, Oskar Semweya-Musoke rang to ask me whether I would be available at the weekend for the weekly Capital Gang talk show on Capital Radio. Oskar usually informs me of the topic and checks on my availability on Thursday evening or Friday. Why was he doing it on Wednesday?

He told me President Museveni had accepted a Capital Radio request to feature on the popular Saturday talk show but on condition that we record it a day earlier (Friday, December 5) and at State House.

“State House!? I asked Oskar, and he replied: “Yes, State House.” I immediately expressed reservations going to State House. Oskar pleaded with me, informing me that Capital Radio listeners had already declared it a no-show if Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu and I did not feature.

Within seconds, I had to look for the excuse and the FDC delegates’ conference to which I am a member came in my mind. “But this is a two-hour recording.” Oskar shot back. To search for a reasonable excuse not to go to State House, I told Oskar it was okay so he could hang up.

Serious soul-searching followed this telephone conversation. The journalist in me pleaded that I should go but the politician refused. Later in the evening, my wife aised that I consult close political colleagues. Later in the night I gathered the courage and convinced myself to make this treacherous journey to State House Entebbe.

That is how deep the image of State House has sunk under President Museveni: sunk because the head of state has turned this public facility into a bribery centre. It is here that sacks of money are handed out. Everybody that visits State House goes there for material benefit.

This hill with a very good view of Lake Victoria is no longer a place for constructive discussion on moving the country forward but a cool place for striking personal deals. It is the reason Lord Mayor Ssalongo Erias Lukwago turned down Museveni’s invitation.

The moment you step there, the whole world begins thinking you have actually been compromised. So bad is the situation that the country has now almost been surrendered to Museveni. Entebbe State House land title is not in Museveni’s name but the man has personalised it.

In fact, a minister from Busoga rang me on Friday evening to thank me for “dining with Mzee.” The NRM people on the publicity committee that found us waiting for Museveni spread the news quickly that, “Mzee has netted another opposition big fish.” That is the feeling even among Museveni supporters! And as we were there, tents were being arranged for a meeting between NRM youth leaders and Museveni.

And that is the point I made to him when the recording of the show finally started – personalisation of the state and abuse of public resources. For declaring him life president in Kyankwanzi, each NRM MP has been given Shs 150 million totalling to about Shs 45 billion.

The country doesn’t have Shs 40 billion to buy ambulances for regional and general referral hospitals but Museveni has Shs 45 billion to bribe MPs! The ministry of Agriculture wants about Shs 300 billion for seedlings to kick-start agriculture. It has been given only Shs 8 billion yet Museveni has Shs 20 billion to spend on the 10,000 NRM delegates coming for the December 14 conference (an average of Shs 2m per delegate).

The whole state has been set in motion to bribe and harass citizens so they can allow the emperor rule for life. It is the reason Museveni has hounded out from the state and his party contemporaries who can look into his eyes and tell him, “no sir”. He has assembled a team of energetic cheerleaders who I think see him as a god.

The discipline of Capital Gang is such that you listen to each other but I found it difficult listening to the head of state tell one lie after another. I ended up interrupting him to the annoyance of his minister for Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze. This Tumwebaze man had not been in the room when the show started but he came panting, whispering to other aides of how Mzee was needed elsewhere. He sat next to me and kept murmuring each time I interrupted Museveni.

Finally, as we were concluding, Tumwebaze grabbed my microphone and pushed it away. Yes, Museveni is a bad leader but still courteous, at least before cameras. He ordered Tumwebaze to immediately return my microphone.

And what had I said that incensed this rabid admirer of Museveni? That it is him (Museveni) who appointed his wife a minister and not the people of Ruhaama he was now attempting to accuse. The matter of nepotism is a serious offence that I wanted Museveni to answer.

Certainly the late Eriya Kategaya, Nuwe Amanya Mushega, Mugisha Muntu, James Wapakhabulo and Kizza Besigye would never have done it. Tumwebaze occupies a senior cabinet position and that is how he behaves. Do you really think there is no debate on him remaining in cabinet? God bless our country.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

Source : The Observer

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