What will happen if NRM delegates at the forthcoming conference at Namboole successfully dole out a new set of powers to the party chairman?
No doubt, a global conflagration will occur the world will come to an end and take Uganda with it!
Big joke! Nothing of such consequence will transpire. Constitutional amendments are normal and they are exercised by people with mandate and conscience. Nevertheless, debate is roaring as to whether NRM should amend its constitution to allow the national chairman appoint the secretary general and other senior executives: treasurer, deputy treasurer and deputy secretary general. All legal provisions start as ideas in one or a few heads and then get adopted by a larger public.
Governance world over today seeks to minimise chances of unclear power centres, especially among the top executives of any organisation. There is always one individual who is given unfettered responsibility to run the organisation, following established procedures.
That is why in most corporate companies these days, especially in USA, the president or chairman is at the same time the chief executive. The chief executive is given powers to recruit their subordinates, in some cases only assisted by a board, but having the last say on who to hire and fire.
In the case of a political party, having elected party officials creates double loyalty. Elected officials will have loyalty to the electorate and the chairman. It is a slippery mix and gamble.
The chairman may find it problematic to discipline such individuals and the officials would use this ambiguous chain of command to blackmail both the chairman and the members. In most cases, members will never know where to place the blame if the party did not operate effectively.
One can imagine a situation where Christians, for instance, were handed the responsibility of electing the vicars and deans at the cathedral.That would be a ready recipe for chaos and incessant bickering. The bishop would be in big trouble and the church would crumble.
Politics in formative nations like Uganda needs a lot of balance: regional, ethnical, denominational, tribal, etc. Elections may not be able to cure this. It’s through appointments that you can, as a political party, balance all these forces. One can imagine where cabinet was also elected the president would be hollow and chaos would be a constant.
By giving the chairman powers to appoint officials to work with, a cure to the likelihood of getting stuck with a non-performing official for a whole term is found. Party officials are better quasi-political. Having political party ‘civil servants’ diverts their energy to competing for posts other than developing structures to enable the progress of the entire party.
Officials would also be eyeing competitive political posts hence using party machinery at its expense due to cliques arising, as NRM has experienced. Of course some people have urged that giving greater powers to the chairman of the party is to fashion despotism: so be it!
By the time one is made a chairman, members should be able to trust himher absolutely. That’s why Ugandans should always take elections (within their organisation and nationally) as a very vital exercise where they must apply reason and critical thinking before handing their vote to anybody. History shows that many of our people don’t take such trouble.
The NRM is a party for human beings. There is thus enough representative control in the party constitution to check on any excesses of the chairman. There is also a g institutional arrangement through party organs like the National Executive Committee and Central Executive Committee which would always guide the actions of the chairperson.
And, if I am not mistaken, it wouldn’t be chiefly unprecedented. I think the chairman of the party’s electoral commission (Dr Ruhakana Rugunda) and the director at the secretariat (Hajji Hassan Galiwango) are appointees of the party supremo and business is normal. Rival parties can try it too rather than fanning the neighbour’s fireplace.
The eye-catching drawback if the chairman is given more powers is for the rest of the party membership to ignore their functions. This is one of the historical cancers of the NRM a few people are left to shoulder the party technically and logistically.
That’s how Nina Mbabazi came to run a whole party’s register almost single-handedly. What were other members doing? That is one glaring disaantage! Someone else should list others.
The author is a member of the Commonwealth Creative Non-fiction Group.
Source : The Observer