For Seya, leading DP was the ultimate goal
Hours to the declaration of the winner in the DP president general’s election, one of the contestants, Nasser Sebaggala and his wife, Gera Morsha, stood up and headed to room 26 of Mount Elgon Hotel, in whose gardens the party’s internal elections were being held.
His polling agents, stationed within close proximity from the voting tables, had told him that most of the delegates from Buganda, on whom he had banked, had voted for Norbert Mao, the eventual winner.
So, Sebaggala had read the signs early and despite committing enormous financial resources in his bid to become DP president general, he realised Mao was headed for victory.
But Seya, as he is fondly referred to by his supporters, still kept some faith, however little, that the pendulum could still swing in his favour.
While holed up in his spacious $100 a-night hotel room, he reached for his phone and raised one of his agents who was monitoring the counting of the ballots in the hotel’s Sironko Hall.
“Ebintu bibi,” said Farouk, the agent, meaning that the outcome was not good for Seya. Disappointed and confused, the mayor switched off the lights and joined his wife in bed.
Before he could fully digest the outcome of the results, there was a knock on the door. Another piece of bad news had just filtered through, that even the candidates Sebaggala’s camp had fielded for other positions had all been defeated.
A member of his ‘youth brigade’ suggested that they should cause chaos but Sebaggala objected to the plan. On Sunday morning, shortly after making his acceptance speech, Mao went up to Sebaggala’s room, trying to offer him an olive branch.
For more than two minutes, the Gulu LC-V chairman knocked at the door without response. He then decided to call his phone but the mayor was not picking the calls. Eventually, his wife took the call and when she established that it was Mao, she woke Sebaggala up.
But Sebaggala was not in the mood of talking and told Mao that he needed to rest. Before Mao left, he penned down a brief note indicating that he wanted to meet Sebaggala as soon as possible so that the two can work closely together, and slipped it under the door of Sebaggala’s room.
When Mao tried again to reach Sebaggala on phone this week, the mayor refused to take his calls. Within a day or two, Sebaggala was announcing that he had quit DP to form his own party, whose name he doesn’t know yet.
The Observer has now learnt that the decision by Sebaggala to quit DP was taken on Sunday, not out of careful planning or consideration but out of his frustration that he had for the second time failed to assume the leadership of DP.
It was a one-man decision taken without consulting even people in his camp, according to one of Sebaggala’s right-hand men who did not want to be named.
Sebaggala told journalists this week that he left DP because it failed to live up to its ideals of truth and justice. He was particularly angered that the Secretary General, Matthias Nsubuga, revealed that he [Sebaggala] had contributed a paltry Shs 1 million to the organisation of the delegates’ conference, lowering his image in the eyes of his supporters.
Heading into the Mbale conference, defeat was the last thing on Sebaggala’s mind. In public and on a number of radio talk shows, Sebaggala assured everyone that if he lost in a transparent manner he would concede defeat and work with the winner.
Yet in private, his anonymous aide told us that his boss kept invoking the famous saying, “We either win or they lose.” Having traversed the entire country last year, Sebaggala’s calculations were that he had the support of at least 900 out of 1,300 delegates who were scheduled to attend the conference.
With his aides, he devised a plan of entrenching this support and winning over other delegates.This plan was estimated to cost about Shs 100 million, including transporting, feeding, accommodating and entertaining the delegates. Indeed, Sebaggala’s delegates were booked at Sadina Inn, on the outskirts of Mbale town, a relatively comfortable place.
While there, Sebaggala ensured that food and drinks flowed freely. To cap it all, on the eve of the elections he organised a disco. To Sebaggala, the huge turn-up and warm welcome he received meant he had the votes in the bag. It was all deception.
Yet the bigger disappointment was reserved for the last minute. Kezaala Baswale, who had previously been in Sebaggala’s camp, made a u-turn and joined Mao after promises that he would be made the national chairman of the party.
Kezaala had mobilised the bulk of the Busoga delegates to support Sebaggala and now that he had jumped ship, there was fear that they would cross with him. They did and Sebaggala’s game plan collapsed like a pack of cards.
Smelling defeat, Sebaggala’s ‘youth brigade’ started warning some of the delegates that they would be beaten up if they did not vote for their man. But these threats of violence only managed to yield 321 votes in his favour.
HILLS AND VALLEYS
Sebaggala’s has a checkered political career since he officially joined DP in 1980. One of his first political lessons, Sebaggala told The Observer in April 2006, was to lead a group of youth who were throwing stones when Ugandans rose up against Asians over unfair trade practices in the 1950s.
Yet 1998 was the year that truly introduced him to the political limelight. He defeated the government-backed Wasswa Birigwa in the race to become Kampala mayor.
Later that year, he was arrested and jailed for 15 months in the United States after being found in possession of fake traveler’s cheques that came to be locally known as bicupuli.
Upon his return in February 2000, he was accorded a hero’s welcome with thousands lining up along Entebbe Road to receive him. He became a political magnet and a sort of kingmaker, whose endorsement for political office almost guaranteed success at the elections.
In 2001, his bid to campaign for the national presidency was turned down on grounds that he did not have the minimum academic qualifications required for the post. He then went to the United Kingdom and for three years reportedly pursued studies in politics and economics.
In 2004, when he returned to another rousing welcome, he believed it was now time for him to lead the DP. He pressured for internal reforms and when elections where held in 2005, he lost to John Ssebaana Kizito, the outgoing president.
He severed ties with the party and contested for the national presidency as an independent before downgrading to the mayoral race after the going got tough. He beat his closest rival Peter Sematimba by more than 30,000 votes to become Kampala mayor for the second time.
Over the last four years, he has abandoned most of his campaign promises that were geared towards uplifting the common people. Infrastructure in the city is in a pathetic state with pot holes dotting all major roads.
Garbage collection remains erratic, the streetlights work once in a blue moon, while the public transport system entrusted to UTODA by KCC remains pathetically chaotic.
He also appears to have turned into a close ally of the NRM government and State House yet he was elected by mainly opposition supporters. By forming a new party, it is an indication that Sebaggala is in a political fix.