On Friday, President Yoweri Museveni met former minister Capt. Francis Babu to convince him out of the race for NRM 1st national vice-chairman, saving Hajji Moses Kigongo from a humiliating contest.
Babu, a 33-year-old Kefa Mafumu and a 42-year-old Hakeem Asiimwe Lukenge had subjected the ruling party’s number two for the first time in NRM history to a stiff challenge that Kigongo had to tell the Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting on Monday that given his contribution to the party since the early days of the NRM revolution, it was insulting for anyone to come up to challenge him.
And when CEC reconvened on Wednesday to vet contestants for the CEC positions, Kigongo insisted that he had to be unopposed. According to sources, Kigongo reminded Museveni that it is him who registered the NRM party, and therefore it is his.
“I am registered as number one on the list of NRM members. You [Museveni] are number four. So, who is Babu? What contribution has he had for the party?” Kigongo wondered.
Babu had remained as the lone challenger to Kigongo since Lukenge had stood down while Mafumo had been knocked out after Museveni’s political assistant, Moses Byaruhanga sent a chit to Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa telling her that Mafumu was a staff in his department.
This is when lawyer Kiryowa Kiwanuka told CEC that it is illegal for anyone holding a civil service job to contest for any position in the party structures.
With Lukenge and Mafumu effectively out of the race, CEC looked for a reason to knock out Babu but did not find any.
“The President had all along been telling the CEC members that there is no reason why Hajji Kigongo should be subjected to competition since being NRM vice chairman is the only position he has that brings him close to the government,” a source said.
The other issue that came into consideration is Kigongo’s availability to extinguish all fights in the party. CEC then asked Museveni to talk to Babu and convince him to step down “for the good of the party.”
Babu travelled to State House, Entebbe on Friday morning with his wife, former Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Margaret Nantongo Zziwa to meet Museveni.
After a lengthy meeting, Babu agreed to drop from the race.
“As we conclude the process, Captain Francis Babu, one of our own long-standing cadres and a worthy contender, having expressed interest in the position of 1st Vice Chairperson and being seconded by CEC, has pulled out of the race in good faith, for the benefit of the party,” Museveni announced over the social media.
Museveni emphasized solidarity within the NRM, telling his party members to always focus on the bigger picture than fighting over positions.