To Fully ‘Undress’, Bukenya Must Quit NRM [opinion]

Former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya is adamant he will stop at nothing in wrestling power from his former boss, President Museveni.

He plans to do so either from within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) or in opposition parties. To reassure his supporters who, apparently, stormed his home in Kakiri to urge-on their man ahead of 2016, Bukenya was unequivocal: he “undressed last August” and no longer fears anything or anybody.

Doing pretty-much what he perfected as VP, that is aping his boss, Bukenya received and addressed a delegation of supporters. It was the usual stage-managed grandstanding. There was something different though. Rather than wear dry banana leaves, the proverbial symbol for Museveni’s continued stay in power, Bukenya’s supporters burnt them.

Ugandans may wish to recall that Bukenya was the foremost player in amending the Constitution in 2005, paving way for life presidency in Uganda. He was the face of what was undoubtedly the most blatant assault on constitutionalism and good governance in our country. But let’s take a closer look at Bukenya’s “undressing” agenda.

It may be instructive to take a brief detour through the cultural practice of male circumcision among the Bagisu ethnic group of eastern Uganda, of which I happen to belong. Among the Bagisu, traditionally, a man publicly undressed once in his lifetime – at the time of being circumcised.

Cultural circumcision in Bugisu (and among other African ethnic groups) historically served primarily two social purposes. First, as a rite of passage to manhood and second, as proof that one was man-enough to face the world’s difficulties and fight for his place under the sun.

Thus, after dancing around for at least three days, visiting relatives and friends, in the final few hours leading to the grand finale moment, of facing the knife, a circumcision candidate was stripped naked! He would arrive at the circumcision venue (ordinarily his grand-father’s or father’s home) fully naked in the full glare of the world. It was a moment of reckoning and, by far, the most important time in one’s life.

Rendering the candidate naked was in part meant to deter him from retracting his decision to be circumcised. It was thought (and it did happen in some cases) that the candidate could likely jump ship as the final moment of facing the knife drew closer. Being stripped naked meant one could not look back. No retreating.

But the bigger rationale for stripping a young-man, and something that elders would repeatedly tell you, was that a man must get ashamed and humiliated only once in a lifetime. Thereafter, you face the world with fortitude, fearlessness and determination. The reasoning was that if you could stand such public humiliation, let alone endure the grotesque pain of being circumcised without any form of anesthesia, then you could face any life challenge and valiantly take on the world.

If we follow this circumcision logic, Bukenya’s declaration that he “undressed last August” is quite intriguing. It means that by declaring his intention to stand for president, Bukenya is determined to challenge Museveni, no matter what, and is willing to face the pangs of opposing the Ssabalwanyi.

If Bukenya had “undressed” as he wants us to believe, he would deserve salutations considering that stepping forth, forcefully, to oppose Museveni and threaten his grip on power is incomparably hazardous, as illustrated by the plight and tribulations of Dr Kizza Besigye. But what he did by announcing his intentions to stand for president, and the ensuring posturing, is nothing more than cheap politics, playing some mind games and engaging in sheer deception.

Not too long ago, as the Mbabazi-Museveni power struggle unfolded, Bukenya penned a gratuitously long missive, dancing on Mbabazi’s ‘grave’ while, perhaps remaining blithely unaware, singing praises for Museveni. He wasn’t done yet. He also told the media that he would return to NRM if Mbabazi was punished!

If Bukenya wants to be taken seriously, and to indelibly ink his name in the annals of our history, he must do the real “undressing” by taking a principled stance of resigning his position as NRM Member of Parliament and Wakiso district party chairman. On the balance of things, Bukenya would most likely return to Parliament in a by-election.

So, what’s stopping him from quitting the party that he so viciously attacks? It is nothing more than the usual politics of opportunism and populism. He is hedging his bets and weighing his oppositions, hoping that he can outsmart Museveni in the NRM stratagems (which he can’t, considering that he couldn’t get past Mbabazi in the race for secretary general). If he can’t get his way round things inside the NRM, the fallback position is to turn to the opposition.

Ugandans have had enough of such political jockeying. We were promised another rap in 2011, now Bukenya wants to give us another ride, of unprincipled politics. And sure, we will likely warmly embrace him as our newest saviour. As Voice of America’s Shaka Ssali never tires to tell his television viewerslisteners, “societies do not get the leaders they desire but the leaders they deserve.”

The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, EvanstonChicago-USA.

Source : The Observer

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