By Andrew Irumba
Rising politician Abubaker Matanda, who is the National Youth Coordinator for Rtd.Gen. Gregory Mugisha Muntu’s Alliance for National Transofrmation (ANT) party, has revealed why he joined the Alliance, the challenges and opportunities he foresaw. Take a minute and read his elaborate missive!!!!!
It is almost two weeks now, since the Alliance for National Transformation was launched. Pretty expectedly, the new party landed with a thud. At a personal level, I knew at the time the new formation was introduced to the country, that this was to be my political home. Quite honestly, besides the vivid need for meaningful political change in Uganda, this was not only because of the apparent ideological, and organisational superiority of the political formation to fill the gap, but because of my admiration, and unwavering belief in the values, and leadership style of Gen Mugisha Muntu, whom I regard as one of the finest leaders this country has produced, assessed in terms of the oneness of what one says, and their actions – a major downside for many of our leaders. The art and science of the management of society is a complex hotchpotch of dynamics that are not only unpredictable but also, at times, functions of perception than reality. Whereas I initially thought I would be a regular party member, I found myself plunged into the murky waters of the interim leadership of the nascent party, a role that I have taken on enthusiastically, aware of its sturdiness. Anything that is significant and new it should be noted, in any form of human phenomenon, enjoys the benefits of attention, and blamelessness but these, typical of the dual nature of most forms in the universe, come as well coupled with scepticism, and at times, sheer rejection as living things usually prefer sticking with what has worked in the past, otherwise called playing it safe and tend to be suspicious of the virgin or unknown. This is a sheer survival mechanism.
The A.N.T is no exception and upon being announced at Serena international Conference centre as the interim National Youth Co-ordinator, I immediately met congratulations on one hand, and expected scepticism, and questions on the other. In this write up, I seek to partly explain my rationale for joining the A.N.T, despite the expected attendant risks and answer some of those questions. In fact, I will explain my rationale in lieu of the fears that various people have expressed to me which are quite obvious, and which I was fully cognizant of but made the choice nonetheless. Throughout my adult life, I have grappled with a number of questions about life, but most importantly about why Africa is the way she is. Precisely, being bedevilled with the contradiction of being richly endowed with natural resources, and benevolence of the people and culture, yet her peoples languish in the most dehumanising forms of scarcity and backwardness. My search, which I now know may be eternal, has so far led me to a number of conclusions but one is curious here – A failure of leadership. I now believe fundamentally in the cliché adage that ‘everything stands and falls on leadership.’ In other words, I hold a conviction that every stride, and indeed every scar, any society has made or suffered in human history can largely be credited or blamed on leadership. In short, Africa is in the mess she is in because the leadership question has never been answered, at least not decisively! For over five centuries now, the great people of Africa have always been let down by their leaders, not that the people are blameless for their fate, but that masses on their own, history has demonstrated, can never figure out a path. From the Chiefs and kings that participated in slave trade, to those that collaborated with colonialists, to the current crop that perpetuates tyrannical, and extractive governance that enriches a few at the cost of millions, until we figure out the leadership question, we shall move in circles until we possibly are wiped off the earth by better organised groups as has happened to other weak races.
For the case of Uganda, it is clear to me that despite the great promise, since independence, nearly six decades later, we have not been able to deliver irreversible transformation of the country despite the several attempts, and verbiage of the various regimes on the subject. The diagnosis that the late Dr Apollo Milton Obote made, of what the problem of Uganda was or is – being Poverty, Ignorance, and Disease, can exactly be made today as was decades ago without contradiction. Not that we have not made some progress, but that the progress is not revolutionary. One then wonders what is wrong with us? Are we inherently an inept people that cannot build a prosperous society? Are we faced with insurmountable odds that even if we got Seraph for a leader nothing can be moved? Is our society just so complex that any set of leaders can only do so much? Have we perhaps made so much progress but some of us are merely ignorant, malicious and/or dishonest not to see the so called fundamental or robust change?
With a GDP of less than 700 USDs, with a fragile stability that is pegged on individuals rather than institutions, with large masses of people dying of preventable diseases and ashamedly sometimes of starvation, with majority of the children of the nation dropping out of school, and those who finish school hardly being resourceful to themselves and society, with the largest population being outside the cash economy but rather engaging in subsistence production, without ever seeing a peaceful transition of power, with corruption becoming the norm, and integrity an anomaly, with the absence of a sense of nationalism but rather practicing sectarianism with impunity and widespread group suspicion and alienation, the answers to the questions above are apparent. It therefore is easy for me to conclude that the only way out, if ever, for Uganda, and Africa in general is to sort the leadership question. This is possible, I contend through starting a protracted struggle to place leadership in the hands of altruistic and value driven people (who I believe exist in our midst) that recognise the danger of being where we are, and the weakness of human beings including themselves, and therefore sacrifice personal interest in favour of public interest to build institutions that are great for the common good but that eventually render them, as individuals useless thereby outliving them. Our mission therefore in the Alliance for National transformation is to reform the political culture in Uganda for the better so as to attract the best in Uganda’s lot to make her work for everyone. I saw, and still see an opportunity with the Alliance to start on that journey.
I have so far met myriad questions, some well meaning, and others very telling of how much the spirits of the nationals have been crushed! Some people have asked me for instance, “Eyo waliyo ku ka sente (tooke, kawogo) tujje?” translated to mean, “Is there some money in the Alliance so we join?” This one question demonstrates how low our politics has sunk, that the power the citizens hold is now for sale and hire. No wonder, the nationals are paid peanuts for their stake and after that have no impetus to hold their leaders accountable. From the onset, we are not offering money to any citizen. We do not have it anyway; we are offering value in leadership. In fact, our number one source of income are contributions of the party members, the easiest being membership cards that go for Ushs.3000/= (Uganda Shillings Three Thousand Only), resources that are our first test of accountability. We therefore explain to our people that the mentality of expecting material gratification from those seeking leadership is what rips them off their power, and that rather look at the coins offered, they should look at the ideas and track record of the leaders or political formations.
There are also other questions which I would like to briefly answer like, of all the political parties and formations, many of them richer and more popular, why did you join the Alliance?
I made a choice to join the Alliance because in my view, it represents the most differentiated, ideological and values based political agenda, whose values I believe in and that those in its leadership have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to stick to. All political formations, granted, espouse many of these values; the difference however, lies in practice where you find that many political platforms do not practice what they profess. The values I believe in are social justice, integrity, Godliness, love, gentility among others which the A.N.T does not merely preach but practices. I know that there is a place for chasing material wealth in life, but that has never been my basis for making leadership choices. I place the peacefulness that comes with a clear conscience above any price in this world where our stay is very brief.
The other question is the political atmosphere in the country is visibly toxic not ready for a soft approach, and calls for aggression, what convinces you that your value driven approach will appeal to Ugandans and work?
In the Alliance, we believe that majority Ugandans are good people, who prefer humane approaches to situations. We know however, that for a long time, we the politicians have captured the space and perpetuated dirty politics thereby driving principled people away. It is clear where this has left us. We therefore believe that if we reformed the political culture, we can attract the best among us to trust and join politics, and only then shall we be able to transform our country. By the way, make no mistake, do not confuse being value driven for feebleness, we are very firm and assertive in our pursuits; only that we want to do that with benevolence. We are aware that this may not be a popular approach for now, and could take some time but think that someone has to start the conversation and practice, and that ultimately, it is the superior method if positive change is to happen. Like we have emphasized, we hold that the means and ends are all critical. We want to be that someone. Personally I’m encouraged by the words of Martin Luther King Junior that ‘you would rather lose on the right side than win on the wrong side.’ This is a struggle we are willing to die fighting for and will not take short cuts. If you are out there, and think this is the right way, do not merely watch us, – join us!
People further ask me what core policy alternatives does the Alliance present?
We are still developing the finer details of our policy agenda, and want to make this consultative as we traverse the country since the challenges in Uganda are as diverse as her peoples and these shall be clearer to all within the next one year but the foundation/ideological underpinning is clear as presented in our Transformation Agenda document. We recognise that the greatest resource any country has are the people, and not minerals or anything else. Therefore at the centre of our policy/ priority outlook is human capital development. Answering the question of how we can make every citizen regardless of creed, gender, age, status useful to the community and self. We believe in reconstructing the spirit of every citizen which has been abused and crushed that people feel helpless, and negligible in the grand scheme of things. In other words, our programming seeks to make every Ugandan confident, productive, and in position to achieve their aspirations. In these, we are driven by Godliness, accountability, belief in the superiority of institutions rather than individuals, sacrifice, peacefulness, social justice & equity among others.
At a personal level I have been also asked you have in the past been seen to be in cohorts with the Go forward, People Power, and more controversially NRM, in fact your father is an RDC, how can you be trusted?
My role in the Go-forward came out a belief that as a country, we had an opportunity to have a peaceful political transition through the candidature of John Patrick Amama Mbabazi. At the time, I believed that a peaceful transition would usher us into a seamless path of stability by proving to our citizenry that we can have one leader leave the stage, and another takes over peacefully, and that one does not have to be a soldier to offer great leadership much as the military has some of the greatest resource persons we have – I believed that transition is not just form as some people want us to believe but goes a long way in ensuring stability, and ushering in new hopes. As things turned out, that analysis did not deliver but it was a learning choice I do not regret. I learnt that it is better to build for the long haul than merely concentrate on having a change of guard.
For people power, I’ have followed Hon Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi as a social Justice Advocate for long and as a young man, I’m proud of his consistence and courage so far. I have and still therefore defend the movement he leads but personally believe for the kind of transformation we need in Uganda, despite the hostile environment, we need structures to organise the people. Whereas popular euphoria is key for change, if it is not carefully channelled, it can prove to be a recipe for disaster or can easily be decimated or infiltrated at the most critical hour by the negative elements. I therefore have no problem with People Power but the aforementioned explains why A.N.T is my preferred choice.
It is true that my father, and actually a bigger bulk of my family belong to the National Resistance Movement, and I have in the past engaged in some activities of the NRM, what should however be clear is that for all the leadership positions and political views I have held, I have always sprinted on an independent underpinning. This was because none of the political formations available professed and practiced the values I believe in as a person. I therefore chose to maintain an independent disposition, and deal with anyone whose cause made sense at a particular time. I used this time to get closer to the most significant political formations to study them and to be honest, the closer I got to them, the more I realised that they could not deliver Uganda’s aspirations. The choice was therefore very clear for me when the Alliance came on board because it not only espouses my personal values, but also practices them.
The fact that my family is N.R.M is immaterial because I’m an adult citizen with independence to make my own decisions especially about how I would like to contribute to my country. In fact I have embarked on a mission to show light to my family members. So, I’m not here to mythologize myself to anyone, I am a member of the Alliance and anyone who doubts my fidelity to it should give time a chance at what it does best. At this point I would like to appeal to people in the following terms. As we celebrate the Uganda martyrs today, and reflect on sacrifice, If you are out there, and you believe our country is being steered in the wrong direction, if you know that we can perform better, if you realise that politics has been turned into a toxic dirty game, if you are uncomfortable with the quality of leadership our country has at the moment, if you want a transition that is peaceful, if you trust in the values and leadership style of any of us in the A.N.T, if you want meaningful change not change for the sake of it, if you feel alienated by the political culture in Uganda, if you want to be part of a greater future, if you have a spirit of putting country before self, if you want the majority people in this country (Children below 15) to find a better country than the one we live in, if you wish Uganda well, kindly do not just like and watch us, join us and lets build that country. The only assurance I can give you is that it is possible, and we are in this not for convenience or the short run, we mean business and shall go all the way in time and space until this is achieved! May your choices not be informed by fear or hate but the understanding that at the end of your life, it is not how much wealth you have amassed or how safe you played by the rules but the content of your character, and contribution to making the world (read community) a better place.
For God and my Country