By Ofwono Opondo
Recently, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP), Mathias Mpuuga (NUP) launched a 17-point legislative agenda to counter that of the NRM and called for bipartisan support ostensibly because it is superior, focused and intended to eliminate wastage in public expenditure.
It is hot air for political showmanship otherwise he should have presented it to the Business Committee where he sits, and there’s no betting this entreat will fail.
However, if the court is an attempt to hold government feet to the fire, we wait to see how long and firm.
While the NRM has a record of building a stable, broad-based, inclusive national platform, and is open to constructive criticism, it never succumbs to blackmail.
Relationship should be based on mutual respect and reciprocity. NUP as a sectarian tribal political outfit has leaders, especially Robert Kyagulanyi, Mpuuga, Medard Segoona and Betty Nambooze who publicly sneer at and are insolent to NRM leaders.
Its Chief Opposition Whip, John Baptist Nambetshe although a lone wolf from outside Buganda, isn’t any better.
It’s a considered view that NRM MPs should shun this Machiavellian tactic for many reasons, among which is that NUP leadership both in and outside parliament have taken an insolent and belligerent stance against the NRM.
At the same occasion NUP accused NRM of gross incompetence, alleging it has derailed democracy, human rights, governance, and presiding over “runway” corruption.
Secondly, NUP continues to publicly shout to whoever cares to listen that the NRM government is an illegitimate military outfit which is in office through underhand methods and electoral fraud, claiming without any credible facts that it’s NUP that won the last election.
It’s obviously frustrating that after three months since being sworn-in, the ‘fishermen’ cabinet hasn’t tabled substantive legislative agenda, and should be called to order within the NRM Caucus, and not climbing the opposition wagon. NRM MPs must know that their party has its own local government, national policy and legislative agenda which NUP and other opposition parties are opposed to often without valid reasons.
NRM must make the agenda their priority which should be funded and delivered to public satisfaction as pledged in the election manifesto.
As a reminder, these same opportunistic shenanigans when in the 10th parliament under the Democratic Party rejected NRM policy positions, walked out several times when President Yoweri Museveni presented the State of the nation, and budget address, and in December 2017 violently assaulted NRM MPs in the plenary.
Outside parliament, they orchestrated harassment of NRM leaders at public functions within Buganda for supporting a constitutional amendment.
For the last one month this group conjured and has been spreading false and malicious propaganda that NRM seeks to amend the law so as to dispossess the Baganda of their land. These mendacious positions don’t deserve rewarding with unconditional cooperation.
Also, according to the constitution, Administration of Parliament Act, and Rules of procedure, precedence is accorded to government business.
While backbenchers can table legislation, they are required by law to obtain a certificate of no financial implication, proof that the intended Bill doesn’t have a charge on the Consolidate Fund.
It’s unlikely that the wide-ranging reforms NUP has laid out pass that test. So, in that sense, NUP agenda is a media stunt and will suffer a stillbirth similar to FDC’s “Leap Forward Agenda” that was presented with media fanfare under the now erstwhile Mugisha Muntu.
Despite NUP rumbling, NRM has an overwhelming majority of 336 to NUP’s 57 MPs, and therefore must lead the way in national politics, policy shaping, implementation, monitoring and supervision.
It will be a strategic miscalculation, non-tactical and politically imprudent for NRM MPs to be lured into the shallow NUP and opposition schemes.
As the ruling party with dominant numerical strength including in opposition led accountability committees, the NRM must make its support for important policy shifts conditional and not blanket cheque.
Should NUP continue with its bellicose rhetoric, NRM must consider denying it quorum in committees, filibuster its reports and sponsored motions in the plenary. That’s how competitive and adversarial democracies work.
Previously NRM MPs, Government Chief Whip, and Prime minister and Leader of Government Business in parliament rested on their laurels, leaving abusive, intransigent, and unrepentant opposition elements to ride high, and the cost has been high.
It is time for NUP leadership to reap the bitter fruits from the cursed seeds they have been sowing in the past one year. For now the NRM must engage in political carpet-bombing to neutralize NUP while taking no prisoners of war.
NUP behaviour of brazen insolence doesn’t qualify for open or constructive criticism.
And while it’s Speaker Jacob Oulanyah’s role to lead, and sometimes play public relations, he shouldn’t schmooze with an opposition that is virulent to his own party, otherwise he falls in the failed footsteps of the out-gone Speaker.
And we should draw cross party relationships from much older democracies of UK, India and US where they are perpetually entangled in wars of attrition, rarely conceding important policy issues to the other in the name of bipartisanship.
The writer is the government spokesperson
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