Details have emerged from Sunday’s dramatic meeting at State House in which President Museveni barked like a general and ordered MPs to vote Jacob Oulanyah as deputy speaker without fail.
That vote is tomorrow and MPs are agreed Speaker Rebecca Kadaga will retain her seat. Museveni wants deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah to return too. But many party MPs were gravitating towards Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko, forcing Museveni to summon them to State House.
According to sources, President Museveni instructed the establishment MPs at a meeting at State House Entebbe to vote for Oulanyah “without fail.”
As is their habit, party MPs time when Museveni needs a favour from them to extract some concessions from the president. On Sunday, sources said, Museveni reconsider his opposition to the income tax bill, which seeks to shield MPs’ allowances from taxation.
Secondly, the president is reported to have offered to compensate MPs for the money spent during their inauguration between Monday and Wednesday. Some MPs told the president they had to transport supporters to Kampala and others said they would organize parties.
Other sources said some MPs were promised at least Shs 5 million. We could not independently verify these reports. But it was not immediately clear, either, why the MPs would need ‘compensation’ for transporting their supporters to attend the swearing-in ceremonies.
The caucus meeting had been scheduled to take place today (Wednesday) evening, after all MPs had taken their oath of office. However, it was rescheduled to Sunday (May 15) after it emerged that MP Nsereko had gained ample ground against Oulanyah in the race for deputy speaker.
At Entebbe, in Museveni’s backyard, there were tell-tale signs that the position of deputy speaker is not yet in the full grasp of NRM. When Nsereko entered the conference hall, he was warmly received by a big section of MPs, sources said. Some hugged and shook hands vigorously with him – as if they were already plotting how to catch his eye as a deputy speaker.
The president, whose tone oscillated between tough and soft, told the MPs that he had received reports that some of them were actively campaigning for Nsereko. The president said some reports had pinned Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker, as one of the people quietly encouraging Nsereko to topple Oulanyah.
Museveni, according to our sources, described such actions as “gross indiscipline” which cannot be tolerated in a multiparty democracy.
“We have to move as one when we decide to do something,” Museveni reportedly said, reminding the MPs of the party agreement to maintain Oulanyah as deputy speaker.
He then called Kadaga to respond to the accusations. Kadaga said it was not true that she is backing Nsereko. She said she has not contacted Nsereko on anything.
“So, who are these people [supporting Nsereko]?” Museveni queried as his eyes scanned the room.
There was silence. But our sources mentioned Nsereko’s supporters to include Buzaaya MP Isaac Musumba, who was Kadaga’s campaign manager. Others are: Rosemary Sseninde, (Wakiso Woman), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) and Benny Namugwanya, (Mubende Woman).
Sseninde yesterday denied links to Nsereko, while Tinkasiimire maintained that he will support Nsereko.
Last evening, Namugwanya, who chaired Kadaga’s campaign team in Buganda, also dissociated herself from Nsereko.
“We are NRM; we support the status quo. I don’t know whether other members sat and agreed to support Nsereko, because ever since the party announced our candidate [Kadaga] as a winner, we have never met again but as far as I know, Team Kadaga supports the party position on the two offices.” Sseninde, a member of the Kadaga taskforce, dismissed claims that her camp supports Nsereko.
“I am NRM,” she said.
Wilfred Niwagaba (NRM-leaning Independent) vowed to die with Nsereko come rain or shine.
“I stepped down for Nsereko and I am ready to support him up to the end, whether NRM has decided or not. It does not concern me anymore,” he said by telephone.
DP whip Gonzaga Ssewungu (Kalungu West) said the entire DP membership is behind Nsereko.
“He is going to win this race, and we know Nsereko is the one who can work well with Kadaga; we need people who are independent,” Ssewungu said.
NSEREKO 'ROUGHED UP'”
During the meeting, Museveni called upon “my son” Nsereko to come forward and formally withdraw from the race. As Nsereko moved to the microphone, Museveni appeared relieved that he was at last putting this chapter to rest. But Nsereko had other ideas.
“With due respect, Your Excellency, there are reasons why I offered myself…” he said before Museveni interrupted him: “Are you going to withdraw or not? That is the only reason why I have called you forward.”
Nsereko, according to our sources, first stammered and then tried to say something which was inaudible. At this point, Museveni shouted: “Get off my microphone.”
Rattled, Nsereko first stood motionless unsure what to do next. In a few seconds, he was surrounded by suited personnel from the Special Forces Command (SFC), who motioned him to get outside.
Once Nsereko was outside, news of his ejection spread on social media like a wildfire. It was a strange coincidence that Oulanyah, whom Museveni was fighting for, is remembered for kicking MPs such as Ssemujju Nganda out of parliament.
As Nsereko was led away, sources told us, a cloud of fear and anxiety hung in the air. Our sources said that some MPs such as Theodore Ssekikubo told colleagues that Museveni had been highhanded.
Other MPs supportive of Museveni’s action, said the toughness worked and redirected the meeting.
“People realized that he [Museveni] was serious,” one of the MPs who attended the meeting told us on Monday.
Having taken the upper hand, Museveni then dictated the proceedings. He said there must be order in the party.
INCOME TAX BILL
Then the conversation shifted to the income tax bill, which has an amendment that exempts MPs from paying taxes on their allowances. Museveni said he did not sign the bill because he believed it would be unfair for MPs not to pay taxes on their allowances yet other workers have their benefits taxed.
Kadaga chipped in and told Museveni that if MPs’ allowances like mileage are taxed, they may not be able to execute their duties well.
“Okay, I will see but first do your job,” Museveni said as MPs clapped thunderously.
MPs understood that job as voting for Oulanyah. After the meeting, sources said, some MPs who had initially supported Nsereko said they would back Oulanyah.
Yet there is no guarantee that this cannot change before tomorrow’s vote. One of the MPs said he will not be shocked if President Museveni attends tomorrow’s sitting to send a clear message to MPs.
In fact another source claimed last night that word was going around in the NRM caucus circles that Museveni would attend tomorrow’s voting session. Given how tough Museveni acted at State House, the prospect of him taking one sweeping look after another as MPs vote has left the legislators with a chilling effect.
Additional reporting by LAWRENCE MISEGE