Ruling party is getting inundated with leadership inertia emanating from cabinet, parliament, and college of its leaders
COMMENT | Ofwono Opondo | Mao Ze Dong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, in 1937 said active ideological struggle is a major weapon for combating liberalism and ensuring unity within a revolutionary party. It is evident that today’s liberalism within the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party is causing the rejection of ideological nourishment and instead promoting unprincipled peace with decadence.
There is no need to overcomplicate the reason. It is the same reason UPC, KANU in Kenya, and UNIP (Zambia) fell. NRM is becoming a victim of mixed signals from its top leadership, where clarity is not only lacking but also studiously being avoided. NRM is getting inundated with leadership inertia emanating from cabinet, parliament, and Central Executive Committee (CEC); the college of its leaders.
The malaise comes from the death of consistent recruitment and ideological training, to one based on personal ambitions, cold scheming, monetisation, and open display of opulence by public officers that have engendered opportunists and careerists into leadership. NRM must reflect and address these malfeasances because, many Ugandans believe it is mishandling policy implementation and political processes.
NRM has permitted leaders to present petty and secondary issues as if they were major and primary, to indulge in irresponsible criticism and gossip while saying nothing in formal meetings, and to abandon collective leadership. Today, many prefer to play safe, avoid blame, and keep opinion to themselves. In addition, they demand special considerations, which if not granted, make them wage vengeful spite. As a result, many NRM leaders have become accustomed to letting incorrect and unfair criticisms against colleagues and party policies go unchallenged while lying low as if nothing is happening.
Many work half-heartedly without definite plan or direction, and yet behave as if they have rendered great service that should attract public accolade. They disdain minor assignments, although usually unequal to major tasks when given an opportunity. The prevalent atmosphere inside NRM is corrosive, undermines cohesion, causes apathy, creates dissension, and is robbing the party of discipline, consequently undermining thorough implementation of policies and service delivery which is increasingly alienating it from the population.
NRM should eliminate political altar girls and boys who simply chorus during the communion, which has become the mainstream, in direct violation of revolutionary principles and open methods of work in preference for underhand maneuvers. Contrary to the NRM constitution, the Caucuses, NEC and National conference, are more like celebrations of Holy Mass where no serious questions are put to the priest.
We are witnessing a quantum leap in aggressive and hateful politics. Many leaders are afraid to publicly admit that the politics being practiced is endangering democracy because they fear those lying in wait during elections.
Many NRM leaders are afraid of engaging with university students because halfway their presentation, the hall will be empty when the audience realises there is no tea or allowances to give out. It is sad that the historical NRM, which was built and supported by penniless peasants, cannot now be maintained by the most affluent in our country’s history.
While the marginal opposition parties are able to sponsor themselves, NRM leaders find it very hard to conduct party mobilisation activities in their respective areas preferring to wait for President Yoweri Museveni to fund them. As a result, regular, open and constructive engagements, even on the most basic issues of immediate concern, seem dead across the country
NRM today has weak and controllable shepherds, and little weak sheep that appear discouraged from thinking outside the box. The vigilant are perceived as a threat to the institutional model. Leaders with zeal are frowned upon and confused with zealots. It seems to be forgotten that Jesus did not end up on the Cross because He made people happy.
A Jesus, without the Cross, is a false Jesus. Similarly, cadres without leadership skills are false, flaccid, ineffectual, more, like the sad phenomenon “sheep without a shepherd” noted in Mathew 9:36. And, it was St. Paul who said: “For if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who shall prepare for battle?”(Cor. 14:8). Equally, the appointment process that rewards the errant, schemers, and newcomers, is breeding discontent, and perhaps rhymes with the Irish proverb: “The willing horse gets flogged the most.”
These are weighty matters which have been neglected and are most responsible for the loss of cadreship and leadership in NRM. If attended to, it is clear they would send signals that NRM is not a country club with a flag on top but a vanguard party so we can further extend trauma for the opposition. Leaders need to be encouraged to move into cadreship by conviction and supported to maturely take up roles in the party, cognizant that no reform in history has ever come from the top. It is always from bottom upwards.
When NRM leaders fail in their responsibilities after issues are brought to their attention, the population will be right to vote with their feet. This is not a call to mutiny but summon to members to take a strong-hard look at the NRM and reinvigorate cadre identification, training, mentorship, and deployment for many of the tasks still ahead.
Ofwono Opondo is the government spokesperson and Executive Director of the Uganda Media Center in Kampala