Prof . Gilbert Bukenya is a former Vice President of the Republic of Uganda and lately, he says he wants to oust his former boss President Yoweri Museveni from the top seat. Eagle Online’s Richard Wanambwa caught up with Prof. Bukenya on his campaign for presidency and how a meeting between him and Mr Museveni in London last year has not yielded fruits for his return to the manifold.
Below is the excerpt
You have been quiet and everybody is asking what is Bukenya up to and so what you are doing?
That is not true, I have been everywhere and only about four days ago, I visited Democratic Party (DP) headquarters and we had very fruitful discussions and so I have been and I am around doing politics. However, the issue is that as a leader, you don’t have to be everywhere. However, a leader must spare time off and use his /her brain and constructively and our biggest interest is not city people, yes, we like them, love them and we are supportive of them but we must go to the grassroots and that is where the ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) has been giving people money. So we must go and undo those things to change the attitude of the people at the grassroots and I can assure you many have changed.
Which areas in particular have you made inroads?
First of all, let me start by thanking people in rural areas of Buganda, Busoga, Northern Uganda, Karamoja and even parts of Western Uganda because my emphasis is in the rural population. It is the rural population that the NRM has been capitalizing on for reasons being that they are less concerned about the situation in the country. Actually some of them have been kept in very poor situation. Imagine that giving someone just a mere Shs500 coin, and that person will thank and praise you as if he/she hasn’t earned it in five years. So because of that we want to start civic education in rural areas.
But because this man (Museveni) wastes a lot of money like Jonathan Good luck (outgoing Nigerian president)has been doing in Nigeria on these elections, we have to tell our people you eat the money like Nigerians did on Jonathan but vote for a proper new system.
What was your main purpose of visiting DP?
By the way, I have visited many parties and it is not true that I started with DP, I started with the Conservative Party and we discussed many things. I have met Abed Bwanika and his party leadership, and so it isn’t DP that I have met first. But it is the DP that I have visited first at their headquarters and the reason why I did that is very clear. DP is a big party and old as it has been around and has a lot of experience in politics and we want to pull them out of the opposition by creating a coalition with them as we go forward to win these coming elections.
Is a coalition possible here?
Yes, it is possible and why coalitions haven’t been possible in the past is because coalition was being debated only at the party headquarters without involving people down and without saying everything transparently. And if you want to have a coalition, you must remove your jacket and put everything on the table. I have this ambition and I have thrown away this ambition and like when I was talking to the DP people, I told them yes, I have announced my presidential bid (candidature) but should there be a candidate that will sail us through to the presidency and we remove this government, I will remove my coat and support him or her.
But who is a suitable candidate?
A suitable candidate is a person who has numbers and it is not talking and making noise and if you don’t have numbers, please don’t waste our time. We want numbers and like in Nigeria, my preferred candidate was my friend Mr Abubakar Atiku a former Vice President but when they went to pick who was the most formidable candidate for their party, they found Mr Buhari formidable and Atiku acknowledged and indeed he did campaign for Mr Buhari. And Buhari didn’t waste their energies.
So basing on that, let me tell the opposition parties, they must be able to say this is what I can deliver but not because I am from this party. And once you agree to this concept then one with a large following takes it all.
People say that one of the reasons why you went to your former party (Bukenya was formerly a member of DP) is because Mr Norbert Mao is unwell and therefore, you want to assert yourself a DP’s flag bearer for 2016. What is view on the above statement?
I didn’t go to DP because there is a power vacuum there but again, I have had discussions with Mr Mao before and we talk on phone and I wish him a quick recovery. I didn’t visit because there was a vacuum and I want to go in and I don’t want to believe that there is no another credible candidate in DP. There are many and I know they are there and because they haven’t pulled their heads out. However, it isn’t any of the above for me but it is going with one appeal and the message is that you guys in opposition let us unite and have a single formidable candidate then we shall win Museveni but if we continue the way we are we’re doomed.
Can opposition win an election without making an alliance with those disgruntled within NRM party?
If united yes they can win and why not and it is not only we who have got off the NRM bus that can manage but if you are united and if in the past the opposition had a common front, they would have won and the major problem has been pretence because they have not been transparently discussing these issues. Some people have an agenda which they want to impose on another party and that is the way how life has been going.
However, I am saying let us come clean, transparent and then we setup a system that will win the elections and this appeal is just for one month and after one month, it will be too late because there won’t be time but just accept and salute Mr Museveni at swearing in.
Recently you were heard during an interview saying former Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nathan Nandala Mafabi can make a good leader, what did you mean?
I didn’t say that, I only said that if I am to negotiate a coalition I would rather negotiate with people who have numbers and I said for example, believe it or not, Nandala Mafabi has the numbers behind him in the mountains of Eastern Uganda and there is no doubt about it. Likewise, there could be someone for numbers somewhere else. For Nandala he has numbers and I will negotiate with him. And when you see how coalitions work, they work into systems and the first system is party to party and is very difficult and you can see President Kenyatta in Kenya resigned from the chairmanship of KANU and formed a small party to enable him negotiate to go into coalition. It isn’t political parties but individuals who matter and if it were parties then Kenyatta wouldn’t have left KANU.
Are you willing to work with your political foes of yesterday for 2016?
I have said it several times and I will be willing to work with anybody and a positive to change the system which is collapsing anytime. However, we may have to solve some of those problems of the past. And I don’t believe in pretence but we will have to face each other man to man talk about those problems, find solutions and then work together. I am willing to work with foes but a blanket welcome.
Information available to Eagle online indicates that you did meet the President Museveni in London last year while he was from UN general assembly. What was these discussions for or you are about to do U-turn?
I have never struck a deal with President Museveni and I have never talked with him about politics of tomorrow. Yes, I met him in London on totally different things and there was nothing to do with politics and I have carefully kept a transcript of our discussion and at a later date if he continues to tell lies in news papers, I will bring out that transcription and you will see what we talked about.
Have you engaged Dr Kizza Besigye on the coalition discussion despite him being outside the current leadership of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)?
Let me be honest with you, politics or no politics things are going to change in Uganda and I sympathize with my friends from Western Uganda and if they stand, it will be very difficult to win an election in Uganda. And I really want to say it clearly politics having been in Western Uganda for 30 years and having gotten that politics from Buganda which suffered massively during the war of liberation and in my sub county, we have 730 buried in a mass grave and Eastern region having been there without ruling this country, it is time for them to understand that they are wasting their time. They must join positive forces from other parts of Uganda to win an election but I doubt if anyone is eagerly waiting and is from Western Uganda to defeat Museveni in an election.
How is your upland rice project doing?
You know what amuses me is how Ugandans are double faced and even this government is double faced; they know what wonderful things that came out because of upland rice. The government has been quietly buying seeds of upland rice and distributing them to farmers and the only thing which disappointments is that the farmers refer to it as Bukenya’s rice. And I can tell them that I will uproot them whenever there is upland rice because I struggled as I went there as they abused me including newspapers that called names because of wearing gumboots. I can tell you this gun mentality is soon going and Uganda will grace brains to run it.