Kawempe North MP Mubarak Munyagwa Sserunga has withdrawn from the FDC presidential race in favor of Patrick Oboi Amuriat.
On Friday, Munyagwa told a rally in Bugiri that after studying Amuriat’s manifesto, he realized that all he is aiming at offering FDC as its president has already been captured. The FDC race has five contestants, including its current president Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, Moses Byamugisha, Dan Matsiko Malcom and Patrick Amuriat.
Efforts to speak to Munyagwa on this story on Saturday were futile as he neither picked nor returned our numerous calls to his known number. However, speaking to The Observer, Ingrid Turinawe, one of the pillars of Amuriat’s campaign team, said Munyagwa’s stepping down improves Amuriat’s chances of winning.
“He made his point very clear that he found the two manifestos the same. The two believe that we need change in this country and we can’t wait for 2021. We must remove the dictator now,” Turinawe said.
She said just like Amuriat, Munyagwa believes in the people’s government led by Dr Kizza Besigye, which was formed after the 2016 elections that FDC claimed were rigged in favor of President Museveni.
“He is a cabinet minister like Amuriat, he believes that Dr Besigye is the leader of our struggle. Therefore, his stepping down improves our campaign significantly because one plus one equals two,” Turinawe said.
Amuriat is said to be a Besigye surrogate who is being used to wrestle power from Muntu. But Turinawe says it would be inaccurate to think that a man who has been a member of Parliament for 15 years has no mettle to stand, let alone lead a party like the FDC.
But going with what has been happening; several of Amuriat’s campaigns rallies have been attended by Besigye. But Turinawe says this is because the two have a lot in common.
“Patrick is not being used by anyone but he is being supported by the majority. That’s why he is being misunderstood. He shares the same ideology with the majority members of the party who believe in defiance. He has the expertise, he has the best manifesto that FDC needs at this time and there is nothing like he is being used,” Turinawe said.
For his part, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the FDC spokesman and opposition chief whip, believes that Munyagwa’s decision to quit the race has no bearing on who will win the elec- tion come November 24.
The outspoken MP for Kira municipality said when Munyagwa was being attacked by Besigye’s supporters for choosing not to support Amuriat, he told Ssemujju he wanted to quit.
“He came to my office and told me that at one point he will have to withdraw but he had to sit down and discuss the modalities. I’m surprised it has taken this long,” Ssemujju said. He adds that even if Munyagwa hadn’t quit, the race is between two candidates; Muntu and Amuriat.
“In any election of this nature usually it doesn’t matter how many people there are, the tendency is to support two campaign plat- forms and that is what has happened. I highly doubt Munyagwa’s withdrawal or continued participation was going to affect this campaign in any way,” he added.
Like many other political pundits, Ssemujju adds that from the onset, he knew Munyagwa wasn’t serious but was up to some- thing else. On whether Amuriat, who seems to enjoy a lot of support – especially on social media – would win, Ssemujju says he has been in competitive politics for way so long he knows that running an aggressive campaign, especially in the media, doesn’t result into winning.
“I have participated in this nature of a campaign supporting the Hon Nathan Nandala- Mafabi in 2012 [for party presidency] and I actually thought we were going to defeat Muntu.
The Besigye group doing publicity on social media may think creating an environment that forces people to support a candidate of their choice will work but they are going to be shocked. They will be surprised that even those that publically say they support them actually don’t support them. They have run a very aggressive campaign threatening people but quietly people are saying; leave them, we shall show them on the day of the election.”
Like Ssemujju, Dan Matsiko, one of the candidates, says Munyagwa’s move will not change Amuriat’s fortunes. “What I have heard from Patrick’s side is that he was promised a job in the shadow cabinet. A person like Amuriat is working for us to stay in the opposition; after all, what is he bringing on the table?” he said.
Matsiko also pointed out that for 15 years Amuriat was in parliament, he failed to woo any person to the opposition.
“Politics is about winning the hearts and minds of the people; how can a man who has been rejected by his own people then seek to lead a party like FDC?”
For Moses Byamugisha, another contestant, it was Munyagwa’s right to stand in the first place; it’s also his right to withdraw and support whoever he wants.
“Although we have been five candidates, the winner is always one. If in the last month of the campaign he has weighed and has seen that he is not likely to be the winner or if he thinks that his intentions for contesting have been addressed even before the campaigns are over, it is okay for him to stand down,” Byamugisha said.
He adds that his impact will be felt if all of those who have been supporting him cross to the Amuriat’s camp. Hussein Lubega, an FDC electoral commissioner, said they have heard about Munyagwa’s stepping down but they are yet to receive an official communication.
“He has a right to quit the race any time but he must notify us before Tuesday [tomorrow]; otherwise, his name will appear on the ballot paper because we will be printing them next week,” Lubega said.