Logo

We may lose the battle, but not the lessons for the war

Generally, the national mood is low. It has been a sombre Christmas holiday.

It is unfortunate that they chose such a timing that their greedy act will always be remembered around the same time with Jesus’ birth.

Ever since that ugly day when the mob in parliament conspired to lynch our Constitution, the country seems to be at a silent funeral. Many people were lost for words, watching their MPs deceiving before cameras: “my people sent me to say YES”.

And, as though to show them some more how far they had gone in being their own servants, that they could even extend their term! We were still coming to terms with being told by the president that he is not our servant, and the MPs said it even louder and more provocatively.

Strangely, neither the supposed ‘winners’, nor the losers seem to be in celebration. For what can we report to have actually achieved as a nation from all that anxiety, expenditure, and time? Deep within their tiny (almost inexistent) consciences, they know that before the population, they are low-grade replicas of Judas Iscariot.

Well, not all is lost yet. We need not take so much time looking at where we fell. Rather, we should put more attention on where we stumbled. The fundamental question is: How, as a nation, did we get to this point?

How did we become so powerless before our ‘leaders’? How did we get such ‘leaders’? How did we find them worthy (if we did)? How did these ‘leaders’ become like this?

So much has since been said in post-mortem of the desecration of parliament and the constitution. In fits of anger, some have desperately vowed never to vote again – to let everything follow as it may. “Let’s just let him rule until he dies”. Some have castigated the opposition as weak.

Poor opposition MPs! Their means and options were certainly very limited, given their numbers. It is subject to no question that they ‘fought’ hard in their desperation. When a gun-less family is attacked by thieves, its members can’t be blamed for screaming and hitting saucepans in alarm.

It also speaks volumes about us millions as we point at opposition politicians as weak. What about us? Does electing leaders take away all civic responsibility from us, leaving us to be passive spectators/commentators?

What is your individual contribution in achieving the country you blame others for not realising? And, in any case, why are opposition MPs this few in parliament?

Every epoch in Uganda’s history has given us its lessons, and sometimes we have fatally missed them. President Museveni’s entry in 1986 mainly rode on the country’s mistakes of the past. And checks were put in place to avoid the recurrence of ugly scenes born of political excesses.

But, in a rather circular process, we are miserably back to the question: “For these things to emerge again, what didn’t we fix?” Is this the kind of arrangement we need now? And can it be fixed by the benefiting system?

Why has it become so easy for the president to manipulate MPs and the constitution to always get away with what he wants? Amin declared himself life president, and we tried to ensure that such doesn’t happen again.

How come we are now worried about the same? How come we can no longer trust that elections can be a reliable check on the president’s hold onto power?

While we were fixing holes that led us into trouble in the past, did we know that a time would come when political players would be available for hire to the highest bidder?

How do we face a political situation where every national issue is approached in light of its financial benefits to individual politicians? How do we respond to the populist politics that has given rise to so many bogus MPs that can hardly ever make an intelligent argument? Do our controls speak to these new developments?

How did our parliament become so big in size yet so slim in sound reasoning? How did a house supposed to representatively make laws to regulate our society become a collection of bleating sheep?

I listened to MPs opposed to removing term limits passionately argue out their considerations. What I knew for sure was that their submissions were only good for the record.

Clearly, their fellows on the other side had not come in to learn anything to inform their decision – just like my primary teacher who would let you explain yourself, only waiting for you to finish and tell you to lie down.

Considering the widespread outrage against the bill that they had witnessed among Ugandans during the non-consultative ‘consultations’, it was shocking how they stood one after the other to shamelessly shout YES! What is more worrying, though, is that this symptomizes the death of consciences.

Once a conscience dies, anything goes – there is no guilt, no regret, no remorse, no shame. And this is a scary point to get to for people we have entrusted with our future.

In a way, it prominently exemplifies the heartless greed/individualism that has penetrated almost every facet of our society; as manifested in many deadly goods on the market, commercialised religion, heights of conmanship, and domestic injustices.

The relationship between what transpires in wider society and among our leaders is not just that of a part that looks like the whole, but also of a vital part that has failed to transform the whole – setting bad examples instead.

With all these lessons, when we once again finally wake up to clear the moral rot that we have allowed in this country, we might need something close to an overhaul.

jsssentongo@gmail.com

The author heads the Centre for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd