Tanga Odoi, the chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s Electoral Commission, is assertive to the point of abrasiveness. The former university don attributes his confidence in dealing with situations directly and not fearing to take a stand from the kind of family he was raised.
Odoi, who is now 50 years old, comes from a polygamous family and grew up with all four of his father’s wives under the same roof, together with about 26 siblings. He says he has seen conflicts that result into permanent differences and those that can be dealt with.
Odoi was appointed chairman of the NRM Electoral Commission in December 2014 in preparation for the 2015 party primary elections. At the beginning of his tenure, he made it clear that he would not give anyone preferential treatment, something – he admits today- created him many enemies, especially among big names. To date, he is not shy to say that he was happy when ministers were trounced in the primaries and the general elections.
Before joining the NRM EC, Tanga had been a lecturer in the Department of History at Makerere University in Kampala since 1993. Before that he had been a teacher ever since he graduated from Makerere University in 1988. He taught history in different secondary schools including Kibuli, Nabisunsa, Gombe, Kawempe Muslim and Kisoko his former school in Tororo district. At Makerere, he was a voluble leader of the academic staff association, and led demonstrations against poor pay and poor administration. He recalls that amidst all this, he realised one thing: “What Makerere students don’t want is arrogance”.
“I never dodged students and gave course work on the first day. They never complained,” he says.
He now says his background as a teacher helps him teach people in the NRM how people from different backgrounds ought to behave when they are working towards a common cause.
Recently, however, the physically diminutive man says he has felt the pain whenever the courts hearing election petitions arising out of February general elections have rule against any newly-elected MP from his NRM party. Up to 11 of them had by end of June been kicked out of parliament. Although some have been found guilty of other electoral malpractices, Odoi is most concerned about those guilty of lacking the required academic qualifications to be an MP.
He says he feels bad that his team did not ascertain the candidates’academic credentials.
“We had setup a team that was going to be paid from the money candidates paid as expression of interest. I was going to get experts from the Makerere University academic registrar’s department who deal with papers, experts from UNEB and our own finger experts to verify these documents. I really feel bad that I didn’t do that,” he says.