Lira—21, August 2020: Just a day after the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party delegates elected their leaders to man the Central Executive Committee (CEC) for the next five years, revelations have emerged why the delegates put trust in those they elected.
CEC is the topmost decision making body of the ruling party—NRM and its top leader is the national chairman, also the President, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who is now aged 76.
Chairman Museveni is deputised by Al Hajji Moses Kigongo, as the first vice national chairman of the NRM party.
Others are regional leaders representing Northern, Eastern, Central, Western, Karamoja and Kampala central.
TND News has exclusively learnt that, like other regions, Northern Uganda CEC representative was elected basing on his ‘capabilities, national and grassroots support’.
Hon. Jacob Oulanyah, who’s the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Omoro County MP, was elected by the national delegates on Thursday, replacing Hon. Sam Engola.
Mr Engola represented Northern Uganda in CEC for 10 years. He succeeded Gen. Moses Ali, the current 1st Deputy Prime Minister.
During his reign as a CEC member, Sam Engola was sometimes mentioned by a section of Lira NRM supporters, and those in opposition as “a true mobiliser and a mastermind behind defections from opposition to NRM party”.
“Opeo is one of the many opposition supporters I and NRM Lira have been courting to join ruling government,” Jacob Ocen, Lira district NRM spokesperson told this digital newspaper in March, this year.
Mr Ocen added then that the current NRM membership registration in Lira district has seen opposition supporters defecting to the NRM.
Asked about numbers of defectors, he, however, didn’t issue the current data to back his statement.
In an exclusive phone interview with this same digital publication on Friday, 21 August 2020 in the afternoon, Ocen revealed Engola’s downfall and why delegates voted him out.
Ocen says “Article 44 of the NRM party constitution says any member who meets the national legal requirements is free to compete to lead the party in any position” and that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament also a Member of Parliament for Omoro County qualifies for this.
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Two, he says “aspirants for CEC positions and for presidential flag bearer” the party law requires them to be brought before CEC, after CEC’s vetting, the names are forwarded to Dr Tanga Odoi’s party electoral commission.
Explaining further, he says Dr Tanga Odoi’s electoral commission must forward aspirants’ credentials (names) to the National Executive Council (NEC) for approval, and finally it’s sent to the delegates’ conference held yesterday (Thursday).
He further told TND News that the process of elections were successful. “Each aspirant; incumbents and including new aspirants were given around one month to canvass countywide for votes.”
“But, I’m telling you (the interviewer) the most important concern. We must pick a lesson from this election; it’s like our vision is shifting from electing those whose ages are from 60 and above for 50 and below. It shows that the transformation in NRM is going through the election process by voting young people and leaving old leaders out, apart from the President who’s exceptional because his knowledge and skills in politics are highly needed in entire Africa; to continue teaching Africa and new leaders coming up. So, for the President, it’s exceptional but other leaders (in NRM) whose ages are 60 and above you should not expect to be elected to any office,” Lira NRM party spokesperson explained.
He cited Tourism State Minister, Godfrey Kiwanda, who won Central region office to CEC, saying “the man is around 40,” “When you see Dr Chris Baryomunsi who defeated Gen Matayo Kyaligonza for Western region, and when you see Jacob Oulanyah, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, he’s a round 55, 50 down, so, that is a clear sign that NRM party is leaving old guards for the young guards to ensure continuity apart from the President who is left out for an important decision.”
He called NRM delegates elections held on Thursday as “internal democracy although it had some challenges” but added that the “processes were democratic” because independent electoral commission of NRM has competent people.
Asked what will be the implications after voting out Engola Sam, a man some Lango NRM supporters trusted, he said: “There are no implications, there are no implications because this thing is on a rotational base. Hon. Moses Ali served for 10 years, he comes from West Nile, Hon. Sam Engola took over from Moses Ali, served for 10 years, and he comes from Lango. So, this is a genuine record (case) and you know Acholi would take over.”
“Two, this election was nationally; people from Western also vote candidates from Northern. When you see the number of votes Engola got from Lango and north where he hails from and compare with the number of votes he got from Western, Bunyoro, Central and Kampala (Buganda), it shows countrywide Engola was unpopular; he has failed to demonstrate his strength in the last 10 years he was offered, he has failed to serve the interest of the people of NRM and Uganda, that’s the indication and, how come, for Oulanyah who is a new face; the man got massive votes as if he sleeps there….”
“Campaigning was held on TV stations and people watched aspirants talk. Politics is about idea, it’s not about slogan. Some people just say NRM oyeee, NRM oyee oyee and there are no issues he’s addressing. He can’t explain the ideology of the party to the masses, he doesn’t have any information pertaining NRM, and he doesn’t have a zeal to see that NRM, right from the grassroots, is enhancing welfare of its members and the party is strong; he doesn’t have any strategy in place to mobilise members and for the party to expand across the region. But you will see, like Jacob Oulanyah, he was talking issues that affect NRM party, what should be done to strengthen the party and this shows he (Oulanyah) understands the NRM ideology, political philosophy and has made him a great leader.”
For Engola and other candidates, the above qualities they didn’t have made them not to attract the “masses” and the delegates of NRM, some aspirants went to campaign on national TVs “brainless” and they expect people to vote for them?, Ocens stated.
Ocen says CEC needs “people with deeper knowledge” because “CEC is not a playing place,” emphasizing it “needs people with knowledge and great brains”.
He says like Engola, and his age mates, doesn’t correspond with the modernisation in politics today.
“Like the People Power, ANT and other new political groups coming needs new brains to counter them and this was not the case with old CEC members—where it became a sleeping house for some people. They go there just to sleep and wake up with allowances in their pockets,” he added.
Mr Ocen further says Engola had lost the delegates’ trust and was working for himself, leaving the party members aside.
According to Ocen, the incumbent regional chairpersons like Engola Sam refused to follow up a promise made by the national chairman to donate bicycles to LC1 chairpersons, motorcycles to LC3 chairpersons and vehicles to district LC5 chairpersons.
“It was easy for Jacob Oulanyah to do this. He followed up this promise and the national chairman had to buy bicycles for local council leaders. Most delegates say he pressured the President, and that’s why he (Oulanyah) was elected,” he added.
In his open letter months ago on “Why I seek election as NRM Vice Chairperson Northern Uganda”, Jacob Oulanyah said one of his biggest focus will be on “unity, consolidating regional unity to promote equitable socio-economic transformation”.
“I will also put emphasis on strategically mobilising citizens to build the strength of the NRM and instil loyalty in its membership,” he added, then.
Jacob Oulanyah polled 7,473 votes compared to Sam Engola’s1,665 votes. Other aspirants got 277 and 995 votes, respectively.
The publication’s attempts to reach Sam Engola for comments were successful.