For about five hours, members of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) topmost policy organ – the Central Executive Committee (CEC) remained locked up in a heated meeting at State House, Entebbe, as they sought to find the party’s pick for Speaker of Parliament.
The meeting which had originally been planned to kick-off at 2:00 pm was delayed for about an hour after two of the candidates for the position of Deputy Speaker were found to have “issues with their Covid-19 test results.”
Six MPs subscribing to the ruling party expressed interest to replace Jacob Oulanyah in the Deputy Speaker’s seat. These include; Anita Among (Bukedea Woman), Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman), Robinah Rwakoojo (Gomba West), Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South).
As the party honchos sat to vet the candidates, Oulanyah, the Omoro MP and NRM vice-chairman for Northern Uganda, asked them to honour their earlier position and endorse him as the next Speaker of Parliament.
Oulanyah’s first shot at the Speaker’s seat was in 2016 but was eliminated from the race as CEC agreed to maintain the then status-quo at Parliament. This was after Kadaga reportedly pleaded with CEC to allow her to hold the coveted seat for another five years just like her predecessor, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi who served in the position for two terms.
Oulanyah and his backers have repeatedly talked about this 2016 gentleman’s agreement which is however being rejected by the pro-Kadaga camp. The Kamuli Woman MP herself has on several occasions called it undemocratic, the last time being last Wednesday when she went to pick expression of interest forms from the NRM electoral commission offices.
“It would be undemocratic for CEC to sit five years early and say five years later so and so will be our Speaker,” Kadaga said, adding that they were not cattle to be selected exclusively by CEC members and questioned why a similar criterion is not applied while picking NRM’s flag bearer for President.
The words were to haunt her as CEC sat on Saturday as CEC members used them against her. She was accused of calling the party organ useless as well as being disrespectful of the party chairman and President, Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni.
According to sources, the majority of the CEC members were against Kadaga much as Hajji Moses Kigongo, the party’s first national vice-chairman, and Richard Todwong, the deputy secretary-general spoke in her favour.
Museveni, reportedly, watched in silence as Kadaga was pushed to the defensive and at some point asked Museveni why he didn’t guide her if indeed she wasn’t steering Parliament well.
“If I have not been steering the House very well, why did you not tell me? You would have called me and guided me. Is there a time you have called me and I failed to respond?” she wondered.
As the disagreements continued, a suggestion came that CEC drops both Kadaga and Oulanyah, and pick from the pool of aspirants for Deputy Speaker.
This is when the secretary-general, Justine Kasule Lumumba brought up Oboth-Oboth’s name. According to sources at State House, the West Budama South MP is being looked at based on how he steered the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee when it handled the age limit amendment.
The pro-Kadaga team in CEC had reportedly accepted the proposal but the pro-Oulanyah team rejected it opting to have the matter settled before the parliamentary caucus which is set to convene on Sunday afternoon at Entebbe.
Before the caucus meeting at 2:00 pm, the CEC will first meet to conclude what remained on the Saturday agenda.
“CEC interacted with all the candidates but we had our mark guides – the guiding principle is primarily derived from the code of conduct in the NRM Constitution. We had to vet every candidate against all that is listed in our code of conduct. Of course, we have the legal issues and political issues as spelled out in the code of conduct,” Lumumba said.
“We did not conclude because the office we are looking at is an office that looks into issues to do with the implementation of the NRM manifesto but also, the person who occupies it is the head of one of the arms of government,” she added.