Nagenda is not innocent but is at least driven by a virtue higher than Abiriga’s and Nsubuga’s

Moses Odokonyero

When you watch on TV Arua municipality’s Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga or Kasanda County’s Simeo Nsubuga let out war cries in their surge to rip off the untested age limit from the pages of the 1995 constitution, what do you sense as their true driver?

In power for a cool 31 uninterrupted years, a period long enough for Uganda to have got the best out of him, President Museveni through Mr Clever Cat tricks is showing signs that his thirst for power is still unquenched.

John Nagenda, the senior presidential advisor on media describes himself on his website as ‘‘the only indefatigable fighter / writer on behalf of the movement…H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.’’

But Mr Nagenda has of recent been on a media blitz launching blitzkrieg after blitzkrieg in impeccable English against dark plots by his master’s agents to remove the age limit from the constitution and open the way for Museveni to potentially continue as president beyond the expiry of his current term. What is motivating Nagenda?

The question of motive is abstract yet central in understanding the goodness and folly of men. In 1980, Museveni, reportedly propelled by Fanonist thinking on violence developed an idea of a utilitarian nature on how the Ugandan society could be changed and better managed to serve Ugandans.  His vehicle for change was violence. Unpleasant as violence is, Museveni’s idea was beautiful enough to attract youngsters like his nemesis Kizza Besigye to join the armed struggle.

Now three decades in power and still counting and in a crisis on what to do next even when what he should do next is constitutionally clear, it is safe to argue that the only virtue high enough to be compared to his 1980 launch of an armed struggle is for Museveni to peacefully handover power to whoever Ugandans will have chosen in a free and fair process in 2021. Any crafty means to remove the age limit to enable him cling on is not a virtue but a failure to defeat a folly.

The Abiriga and Nsubuga calls for Museveni to continue ‘‘offering leadership’’ to Uganda beyond 2021 is not an appeal to  the president’s strength but to his flaw—a human weakness which afflicts great men and makes them think there is no one like them beyond them.

In Shakespearean tragedies the end of the tragic hero comes through praise singers, court jesters, lieutenants, love, jealousy and other vices in the tragic hero. Abiriga and Nsubuga don’t look the type interested in Shakespearean literature. But Nagenda, being a literati, is.

In speaking out against the surging plot to remove the age limit from the constitution, Nagenda thinks he is on a noble rescue mission to save a great man he loves from taking a country he loves down a dishonourable path. Nagenda does not want his hero to end like a Shakespearean tragic hero, the impact of which could have bloody and devastating consequences for Uganda.

By speaking out, Nagenda could be fired from his job, denying him a vital source of income in old age. But he has said he loves Uganda more, implying he is driven by patriotism – a virtue higher than food, drink and comfort, a key motivator for many who want the age limit ripped off the constitution.

But Nagenda is not innocent.  Past leeway people like him have easily given Museveni cumulated with the resultant effect being that Museveni thinks anything that is an impediment to his raw ambition can be done away with using the massive power he holds and the structural imbalance in Uganda that tilts in his favour.