Efforts by President Yoweri Museveni to bring the NRM house to order may hit a dead end, as bickering amongst party leaders continues to threaten that party’s chances of winning the July 12 by-election for Bukoto South MP.
On Saturday, the Lwengo Woman MP, Gertrude Nakabira Lubega, nearly fought with the NRM flag bearer, John Chrysostom Alintuma Nsambu, in front of NRM leaders from Kingo and Kisekka sub-counties. The leaders had been called to receive their refund of Shs 200,000 each that the party promised its flag bearers that contested at the sub-county level in the 2011 general elections.
Trouble started when Alintuma Nsambu unexpectedly attended the meeting with Susan Nakawuki, the recently elected representative to the East African Legislative Assembly. It is understood that Nakawuki had told local councillors that MPs Nakabira and Isaac Ssejjoba (Bukoto Mid West) had refused to campaign for Nsambu because he had turned down their demand for Shs 5m and 150m respectively.
“As NRM leaders, we are concerned about the absence of notable NRM leaders like MPs. The DP candidate has the backing of DP MPs, but there is no single time that our candidate appeared at any meeting with an NRM MP. So during the meeting at the sub-county [headquarters] yesterday, we raised this concern, and the response that Madam Nakawuki gave us was that they were demanding for so much,” said Joseph Mulindwa, a Kisekka sub-county councillor.
Nakabira then furiously turned to Nakawuki asking her when and where they met for her [Nakabira] to make the Shs 5m demand. Nsambu immediately shot up to explain but only made matters worse when he told the meeting at Kinoni Community Centre that it was President Museveni that told him so.
“The President called me and told that you and Hon Ssejjoba had told him that I abused the Kabaka yet these are rumours that are being spread by the DP people,” he said.
Nsambu also told the NRM leaders that his relocation to the area from Bukoto East constituency that he previously represented in Parliament was sanctioned by President Museveni. Claiming to have been behind that cash payments to the NRM leaders, Nsambu said that the President had also told him that he would come to the constituency and shame the two legislators.
Seemingly infuriated by Nsambu’s claims, Nakabira shot up and told the meeting that there was no way she would campaign for a person she did not know. Using an unflattering Luganda phrase of kasajja ggwe (loosely meaning, ‘you little man’), Nakabira asked Nsambu how he came to the constituency and how he expected local leaders to campaign for him.
“We have never met, and I could be seeing you for the first time. Do you even know where my home is? This is the reason why I had advised the party not to conduct fresh primaries, but right away endorse the person who came second to Hajji Mbabaali in the previous primaries,” Nakabira said.
She also rubbished Nsambu’s claim that he had asked the President to give the NRM local leaders in the constituency the money that Nakabira was distributing.
“Don’t be deceived by anyone, this money is your entitlement from the party and it should not be tagged to this by-election. It’s me who asked the President to honour the pledge that the party made to its lower-level flag bearers. We have only started with Kisekka and Kingo sub-counties, and we shall later roll out to the other sub-counties in the district,” Nakabira said.
Nsambu later found himself in a wrong place and hastily drove off, ignoring advances by journalists for comments. Nakawuki, on the other hand, could neither deny nor confirm the accusations against her, saying that she was choosing to play it cool because a rebuttal would further disintegrate the NRM camp.
The Observer has learnt that on Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni called Nakabira and Ssejjoba to a meeting at State House Entebbe during which they discussed the chances of Alintuma Nsambu winning the by-election. This meeting was also supposed to be attended by former area MP Hajji Muyanja Mbabaali but he stayed away. Museveni is said to have made several attempts to get Mbabaali to the meeting but could not reach him on phone.
As Museveni met the duo, the chairman of the Buganda Parliamentary caucus, Godfrey Kiwanda, was issuing a statement that was aired on Buganda kingdom’s CBS FM, asking Museveni not to tempt any of the caucus members into offending the Kabaka by compelling them to campaign for Alintuma Nsambu.
The Kabaka issue was central in Museveni’s meeting with the two legislators from Lwengo as they frankly told him that it was the biggest hurdle that Nsambu had to overcome to win the seat.
“As a Muganda, I need a vivid explanation that I can give to the voters. It is a serious issue that must be addressed with urgency. Definitely if I went out to ask voters to vote for him [Nsambu], it will come out,” MP Nakabira told journalists.
“The President asked about the situation on ground and we told him that if he doesn’t find means of addressing the Nsambu – Kabaka issue, his coming to the constituency to campaign for him will not help anything. Nsambu must apologise to the Kabaka. That is the only way he can change his fortunes here, and it is not us [her and Ssejjoba] who brought it to the President’s attention; this is something that the whole world knows,” she added.
The second issue was that of Nsambu being seen as a foreigner in the constituency. Nsambu has until now failed to address questions about his residence in the area and is now referring to himself as a talented football player who is wanted by top clubs.
But, said Nakabira: “Voters want to know the physical address of their leader. Where can they find you if you don’t have a home in the constituency?”
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