There is an exciting video of a politician campaigning while appearing to be digging a grave during the just-concluded NRM party primaries.
I think trying too hard to commiserate with the bereaved; the politician found grave digging the most appropriate thing to do. In years before entrepreneurs found a fortune in the work of undertakers, grave-digging in most parts of rural Uganda considered a lowly job. Most people didn’t think that anybody who wants to become a member of parliament would ask for the job through digging the grave, but we live in interesting times.
Over the last few weeks, the country has been flooded with electoral euphoria which reached a crescendo over the weekend with the losses of some hitherto ‘bigwigs.’ Truckloads of supporters have been seen moving from one trading centre to another.
Candidates have been mobilizing resources to present themselves as those who care about the wellbeing of the electorate. One male candidate was seen distributing knickers!
I wondered why he would distribute knickers when he could give out a sewing machine to a community so that they can learn to make them instead of knocking on his door when what he gave them becomes old but I am not a politician. Many contestants move around with ambulances they claim will donate to their constituencies.
I am always amused by the donation of ambulances. I always thought that an ambulance should be attached to a health facility. The hospitals have neither drugs nor health workers; so when an ambulance is donated to a particular county, where does it take the sick? Shouldn’t the emphasis be on having functional hospitals than ambulances? As somebody who is yet to aspire for politics, these things can be hard to understand.
The creation of new ‘cities’ across the country has led to an increase in the number of parliamentary constituencies, which means that we are most likely going to have a huge number of vehicles with the wording ‘ambulance’ this country has ever seen.
But what if MPs went slow on ambulances and focused on health centres first? I imagine an old van that can be declared an ambulance costs about Shs 40m, imagine what would happen if five contestants each mobilized Shs 40m, pooled it together and created one meaningful health centre, wouldn’t that have more impact in their region?
Constituencies are smaller today than they were in 1996, which means that more MPs can work together for the betterment of their areas than each doing their little project.
The sick would be assured of some primary healthcare in their area, which they can easily access on their own. I am told that a person to actually access the MP’s ambulance, they need to buy fuel and pay driver’s allowances. The majority of people still can’t afford them. I think empowering health workers, ensuring drugs are available in these facilities might be more beneficial than a vehicle today.
Politics is said to be an expensive venture with a lot of money spent on campaigning, which is euphemism for bribing voters. Although the figures are always exaggerated by the contestants to scare many people from vying for office, money still exchanges hands on top of antics like grave digging.
I think political candidates need to form alliances in their areas to bring the costs down. Bulk booking of airtime on radio and television would give them economies of scale. If five MP candidates went to one radio station, they would get a better deal than when they go individually to the same radio stations to book airtime. The same applies to Nasser Road poster makers and T-shirt designers.
Upon election, the winners can still hold joint parties to reduce the cost and most importantly raise resources for collaborative projects as mentioned earlier. With counties and districts close to each other, there is a need for joint implementation of projects.
Many projects serve the same people regardless of the name of the county or district. Instead of district A working on a road and stopping somewhere, the same road would be complete if several districts agreed in their planning to prioritize that particular road. Each district would spend less on the same road.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.