op-ed I By Patrick Odongo Lango
The Laws of Newtonian physics will lead to a historic opposition loss.
Lira—2, January 2020: In 1687, with Britain in the midst of a deadly plague, and Cambridge University closed, Sir Isaac Newton, retreated to his village of Woolsthorpe, where, sitting under an apple tree, he conceived the principles of gravitation.
The book he wrote about this, the Principia Mathematica, remains the foundation of modern physics. Despite the challenges that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity poses to Newtonian physics in the cosmos, in the physical realm here on earth, the Laws of Newton remain supreme. It is in these laws of physics that the Ugandan opposition is up against politically speaking.
Just like Icarus, the opposition’s raw ambitions made them fly to unattainable heights, and the force of political gravitational forces is sending them tumbling down to earth.
Without a grassroots game plan, the National Unity Platform (NUP)—the freshly bought political party of music singer and novice legislator, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known by his stage name, Bobi Wine is haemorrhaging supporters in large numbers—crossing in droves to NRM. Many commentators are predicting that by election day, NUP might be unable to raise polling agents across the country.
I am currently involved in canvassing and energizing the NRM grassroots structure in Lango sub-region. The level of enthusiasm and organization in the party is a thing of beauty. The vote in Lango sub-region is solely between UPC and NRM, mostly at parliamentary and local council seats.
There are a few fledgeling FDC candidates, but NUP is completely off the radar. I don’t know about other regions, but that’s the current political situation. A common Lango saying goes, “wibye pwot” or that the treacherous hills of politics are quite slippery and without sure footing, gravity does it work: you fall down with a thud.
The experience of Stacey Abrams, a democratic grassroots organizer in the U.S. State of Georgia and a frequent target of Donald Trump’s ire on social media is instructive for Uganda’s fledgeling opposition.
When he ran and lost the gubernatorial election in 2018, she stayed on and started building, organizing and staffing democratic grassroots structures.
Besides promoting voter registration, her organization ensured that constituencies that usually stayed away from voting turned up in large numbers. Not surprisingly, her efforts paid off when Georgia voted a Democrat, Joe Biden as President. The lesson is: don’t agonize, organize.
Two years later, ahead of the 2020 election, Ms Abrams and a network of organizations had registered over 800,000 voters in Georgia alone. Ms Abrams and her army of volunteers have been widely praised for helping Democrats hold a narrow lead in Georgia’s presidential contest for the first time in over two decades.
The late former US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had this to say: “fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”. This is a lesson lost on the opposition. They’re full of vitriol and angry insults of their fellow citizens.
This is repelling rather than attracting votes. Instead of calm and respectful persuasion of voters, they’re inflaming emotions and flinging invectives. This has proven to be a mistake. And on Jan 14, 2021, they will be taught some good manners by the electorate.
We may disagree, but what we can agree on is that, just like Newton predicted, a massive body will exert a gravitational pull to all those around it. The behemoth that is NRM will prove this simple principle of Newtonian physics.
Mr Odongo is a staunch supporter and mobiliser of the ruling NRM party.