Former Candidate Shares Insights On Why George Labeja Won The Gulu Mayoral Race
By Robert Adongakulu
For better or for worse, the market women—the women in the Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLAs)—locally called bolicup have emerged as a powerful voting bloc in the just concluded Gulu municipality mayoral race.
The issues that touch the hearts and souls of these women are the daily bread issues. Talking about the big picture that captures the dynamics of social services and social amenities commensurate with an urbanising town like Gulu is something that literally flies over their heads.
It is therefore a delicate balance between telling the petty stuff that tickles the typical voters’ ears and articulating the grand vision of a municipality that is set to become a city in the 21st century; issues like twining, advancing ICT for development, protecting our environment, a grand vision for education, health and sanitation, etc.
On top of that, we have pseudo elites (the nouve riche of Gulu Municipality) who care less about politics and leadership, leaving the stage for the above categories to dictate the political agenda; from their prism or lenses alluded to above!
Then there is the matter of the self-styled political God fathers making the incumbent George Labeja’s controversial or suspect academic credentials their political fodder, never did they appreciate the dynamics of the Law of Unintended Consequences! It backfired big time as the virtually illiterate or semi-illiterate majority opted to vote for one of “our own” in an act of defiance!! And it delivered victory, a deserved victory to the incumbent; a sweet victory over the supposedly powerful political and military oligarchy that drove the politics, overtly or covertly.
George Labeja, to his credit, read his enemies and opponents and tactically played the victim with maximum effect. As an incumbent, he had the leeway and a large war-chest to co-opt virtually all Councilors into a cobweb of support; the paramilitary outfits associated to him/ his camp, and to make virtually any pronouncements that would tickle the voters in an act of sentimental and emotional blackmail.
The incumbent witnessed major infrastructural projects take place during his tenure in office (notably the World Bank funded Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructural Development project, JICA projects, E.U projects, etc) he boldly claimed credit for championing these through individual efforts!
Then he sold his security credentials as a Mr. Fix it; an alpha and omega who could deal lethal blows to thieves, robbers, etc in a Robinhood kind of manner. Given the transitioning dilemma with its associated security implication, this was a killer punch to the other candidates who were talking of a functional systems, institutions and team work.
Lastly in an act of Napoleonic brinkmanship, the incumbent – to his credit- crafted a dangerous yet controversial alliance with big wigs of the well-structured Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) even to the point of the FDC abandoning their very own flag bearer, my brother, the educated straight in your face David Martin Aliker! Not to forget that the NRM machinery had been the subject of a smear campaign that had rendered their candidate Hon. Okwonga Alfred a lame duck in the race.
In conclusion, Acholi sub region is in the throes of major socio-economic transition. In terms of the long anticipated coming to a city status, my honest view is that things may still get worse before they get better. Because at the end of the day, it is a capacity, and not a sentimental issue, to run an effective, efficient and robust administration that delivers. I hope and pray that I am wrong. Hopefully the space that our belonging to Municipal Development Forum shall allow us make up for whatever may be the missing link in this zig saw of transition!
Mr Adongakulu is former candidate, Mayor, Gulu Municipality, incumbent Executive Secretary
Gulu Municipal Development Forum. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org