By Edris Kiggundu
When my former colleague and boss at The Observer, Ssemujju Nganda was leaving journalism for politics in 2010, we had a frank discussion. He told me that exposed and enlightened people like journalists, lawyers, engineers, academicians etc needed to steer the political affairs of this country. He said politics had been left to “dikuulas” on either side of the aisle (NRM and opposition) and mentioned some names therefore it needed an overhaul.
While I agreed with his general hypothesis about the degeneration of politics, I told him I did not think people of his ilk alone would change anything. I told him the 7th Parliament which removed term limits for 5 million had a fair number of so called intellectuals. People like Ben Wacha, Okello Okello, John Odit, Ogwal, Matembe, Mao, etc. I told him that he would get sucked into our murky politics, realize that he can’t do much on his own & get disillusioned.
In fact by 2016, Ssemujju had gotten disillusioned and was talking of not standing in 2021. But he changed his mind partly because he realized that politics was the most viable platform he could use to put forward his ideas and of course make some good money. So many other long serving MPs are in this trap and it always doesn’t end well.
As an individual MP, Ssemujju’s performance has been excellent in the eyes of the public. Like the good journalist he was, he has always spoken his mind without flinching. Yet the very traits that have made him a good legislator have made him a liability to some in his party.
Parties always proclaim that they stand for freedom of speech, respect for human rights, good governance etc their founding documents. The reality in countries like Uganda is different because parties are platforms for some people to eat, build influence, etc.
When Nandala Mafabi stood against Gen Muntu in 2012, Ssemujju was one of his chief campaigners because as LOP Mafabi had lavished him with foreign trips and powerful positions like (making him chair of COSASE).
Then, Ssemujju did not question Mafabi’s source of money, his integrity or competence when other FDC MPs were raising those issues. Now that there is a looming battle for the leadership of FDC, all gloves have come off and the mudslinging has began.
We don’t know where this will end but what I know is local politics, like Ssemujju found it in 2010, remains murky. In fact, it has even gotten worse.
The writer is a senior journalist in Kampala.