From the onset, the Forum for Democratic Change set itself apart as an opposition party with a bare-knuckles approach to push for good governance and political change in the country.
Through that approach, spearheaded by the unrelenting Col Dr Kizza Besigye (Rtd), the party became a darling of many, especially the urban and rural youth; a crop of young supporters who, one can comfortably say are now politically and financially mature, eleven years since the formation of the party in 2004.
For eleven years now, the party has been doing very well in the city, if the following Dr Besigye commands when he attempts to walk through the city is anything to go by.
It has also continued doing very well among Jua Kalisupporters, who were once referred to by Mr. John Nagenda, the Presidential Adviser on Media as “the unwashed of the city”, in urban towns across the country.
In institutions of higher learning where FDC has taken leadership, there has been hardly a trickle down improvement in the general support of the party among the students and the elected student leaders have on most occasions used their positions for self-elevation into national politics.
You hear of little or no intellectual political discourse at universities where FDC is in charge- we can obviously blame it on government clamping down on free political discourse.
However, what about debates on public policy and governance as it used to be the case in the past?
What I have elucidated amounts to weaknesses: that although it is now in its eleventh year, FDC did not manage to grow with many of its earlier youthful supporters who would currently be serving as voluntary mobilizers schooled in the party ideology and spreading it to the rural areas where the party is doing really badly.
That, with many of the former young supporters probably in employment or business eleven years since its formation, the FDC has also not fully rallied the working class into its fold. This group of young folks, although not happy with the current system has chosen the line of ‘better the devil you know than the angel you do not know’.
Therefore, Ugandans are currently stuck with an opposition party with a potential to deliver the country to the ‘Promised Land’ but one that has surrounded itself with an elite and passive supporting group, a few in civil society and an active Jua Kali support group in the urban areas.
Here is the problem with the two latter groups; the passive elite and working group has no impact on inspiring undecided voters. They are also too detached from the peasantry, a majority group that the current government has mastered in courting.
The Jua Kali groups in urban areas around the country are widely associated with drugs and violence and therefore cannot mobilize the peasantry whose main target in any political activity is securing their subsistence survival and not pushing for democracy or yet still, better standards of living.
The youth in tertiary institutions are also in the wilderness; they do not know who to go with and FDC is currently not doing enough to prove to them that it is the best alternative.
Most unfortunate was the FDC change of strategy from an aggressive go-getter party to a mild courtship approach. First of all, by going for the meek-courtship, many supporters who feel that you need ‘to answer fire with fire’ were alienated.
Secondly, the peaceful ‘courtship’ and ‘court’ approach is already represented by the Democratic Party, so people who are interested in such an approach would find more comfort in the DP. So, for the last two or so years, the FDC has thus had to contend with a disenchanted core clientele and untrusting would be new entrants.
In political strategy, there is what is called believability; this is where the voters trust that you are the right candidate to deliver on an aspect.
In Uganda (and indeed the whole of the East African region), President Museveni has cut out a niche as one who can deliver on security; DP has a record of pursuing justice through courts, while the FDC brand was the abrasive engagement of the regime-what former party President Dr. Kizza Besigye repeatedly said that the regime cannot be massaged out of power.
FDC however has a chance in redeeming itself. It has a chance of redefining its outlook, not only for the coming general elections, which they may not win, but for the 2021 elections, a general election the party can run away with it they put the right people in the right positions come this June 12. And one of these is Nathan Nandala – Mafabi; he suits so well in this arrangement, as FDC Secretary General.
A Secretary General is the accounting officer and run around officer of a party.
The FDC needs someone who is capable of not only running the paper assignments at the Secretariat but one who is also capable of rallying the different categories that I have pointed out that are currently in disarray.
FDC needs an SG who will win back the trust of the youth, working class and also rebrand the party among the peasantry.
Nandala Mafabi currently represents Budadiri West, which is a rural constituency and the mere fact that he could organize peasants to resist government intimidation during the 2011 elections shows that he has an experience to bring to the party in regard to mobilizing the rural folks.
Administratively, he has been at the helm of Bugisu Cooperative Union –the only thriving union in the country.
Though with some government interference, it was reported in the media recently that the BCU had set aside 250m as fees loans for farmers’ children in higher institutions of learning.
Nandala Mafabi had pledged in his manifesto for FDC presidency to organize women and youth into cooperatives in an effort to improve their economic livelihood.
…let people work in the morning, have something in their pockets as they come to work for the party…….. The manifesto says in part.
Administratively, he had pledged to improve communication by setting up offices across the country, fully equipped with computers and internet to ease back-and-forth communication between headquarters and upcountry.
He had also pledged to provide motorcycles for district chairpersons to ease mobilization across their districts. As overall administrator and policy strategist, the office of Secretary General fits so well in implementing these proposals and once effected, this would cause a feel of the party across the country and there is no doubt some fire would be generated once again.
But you can only take a politician’s word with a pinch of salt, so they say.
When I contacted one FDC party member, he was skeptical, arguing that there is a person who once promised 50million (to FDC) per month once elected to office, he got the office but the money has never come.
To the skeptic, even when the pledge was made during earlier campaigns, for party members it is still binding and incumbent on the one who made the pledge to make good on his promise.
When this paper contacted Nandala Mafabi to ascertain whether he would carry his presidential pledges to the office of Secretary General, he re-affirmed his stance and said he needed one year to effect three quarters of what he pledged to do.
Richard Wanambwa is a senior reporter