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SC Villa saga: Is the ‘state’ taking control of the club? 

Medard Sseggona and Denis Mbidde are vying for Villa presidency

Medard Sseggona and Denis Mbidde are vying for Villa presidency

 

 

There have been so many twists and turns behind the scenes since the SC Villa elections on August 28 were stopped by a court injunction. This followed a court petition filed by a one Brenda Nambalirwa Kawuma, a fan of the club.

In her petition, Nambalirwa, complained about a biased Villa electoral commission, lack of voter education on the different voting methods and the failure by the electoral commission to release the voters register in time, to enable the different camps aspiring for the club presidency to verify them.

And true to Nambalirwa’s petition, SC Villa trustees (Omar Mandela, proprietor of City Tyres and City Oil, Gerald Ssendawula, former minister of Finance and Franco Mugabe, businessman and former club chairman among others), against whom this suit was directed, agreed to iron the shortcomings in the entire election process. 

At least their court consent order said as much. This matter was closed by both the petitioner (Nambalirwa) and the respondent (SC Villa trustees) agreeing to each foot their court costs. But no sooner had the ink on that consent order dried, than Fufa sent a letter to Villa cautioning them for contravening Fufa, Fifa, Caf and their own club’s statutes, when they accepted to settle their matters in an ordinary court. 

On top of that, Fufa’s communication stipulated that the club’s trustees had no power to appoint the electoral commission, let alone an interim committee, to run the club, as they promised to do in the consent order. The club’s constitution stipulates that it is the power of the club congress with powers to elect (appoint) their executive board. 

Against that, Fufa added, that if by September 7, Villa’s leadership issue remains unresolved, which is a requirement to receive a Fufa license from the club licensing board, they risked not being registered for the 2021/22 association football season. By press-time, Fufa were still waiting for Villa’s response on the matter.

Whatever action Fufa may be intending to take on Villa will probably depend on what is unfolding behind the scenes at the club. Word has it that the ‘state is at play’ and influencing the direction Villa, Uganda’s most successful club, record 16 time champions, are going to take.

Dennis Mbidde and Medard Sseggona were confirmed as the two candidates contesting the Villa presidency in mid August. But matters came to ahead, when Mbidde chose his election strategy to be one of discrediting Sseggona on the basis of his political affiliations.

Sseggona is the MP for Busiro East but he is from the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP), the party that was the main challenger to President Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party in the January elections.

And true to Mbidde’s strategy, he told The Observer and all that cared to listen to his message, that it would be a travesty if the Villa electorate elected a NUP person as their leader. Mbidde argued that Sseggona just wanted to use the Villa platform to propel his political agenda. 

Sseggona, in turn said that Mbidde’s notion had no basis. In fact, on Sseggona’s executive, he included MP Dan Kimosho, who is from the NRM. Sseggona added that he was no faction leader, and that his only objective was to rally Villa fans everywhere in the country. This is because the power of Villa masses, would be a source of financial clout, to enable the club reclaims its top placing in Ugandan football.

In spite of that, Mbidde did not buy into Sseggona’s arguments, insisting that the Jogoo fans would be endangering their club, if they elected Sseggona. Mbidde explained: “President Museveni has donated two buses to Villa before. Therefore, electing a NUP person will make it difficult for us to continue getting such government support.” 

Incidentally, many of the Villa fans that support Mbidde bought into his thoughts. They felt that in the kind of political climate Uganda is in, and tensions thereof, Villa needed to remain neutral as far as national politics is concerned. Yet, to them, a Sseggona presidency, even by perception, did not project neutrality, because of how avid an opposition to the government he is. 

Apparently, government would see Villa as the opposition hotspot, perhaps a view, that would make it difficult for Villa to thrive unbothered. However, Mbidde’s claims about Sseggona were not backed by Moses Magogo, the Fufa president and an NRM MP representing Budiope East. 

Instead, Magogo was critical, summarily saying that Mbidde’s comments were divisive. Magogo added that football united everyone regardless of tribe, race, colour, faith or political affiliation. Magogo was clearly trying to put out the fire Mbidde had started, so it appeared. 

But sources told The Observer, that Magogo was actually working to see that Sseggona becomes Villa president even though Mbidde had from the start said he had Magogo’s backing for the Villa presidency. Actually, that is how it had been at the beginning. 

Yet, when the Villa presidency nominations drew nigh, apparently Magogo asked Mbidde to drop out of the race for Sseggona, and be his vice-president. Mbidde rejected the suggestion outright. He was upset by the manner in which Magogo was now turning against him.

Therefore, drumming up the Sseggona and his NUP affiliations, would probably secure Mbidde some NRM sympathizers. Besides, in last year’s NRM primaries, Mbidde was among the candidates seeking nomination for MP from the party electorate. So, essentially, he identified with President Museveni’s party.

Inevitably, he would get some big NRM shots listening to what he had to say. It is reported, that the government chief whip, who is a member of NRM, Thomas Tayebwa raised the matter by summoning Magogo. While this was denied vehemently, as mere gossip, events at Villa are suggestive inferences.

For example, Omar Mandela, the Villa trustee is one of the most prominent and rich businessmen in Uganda. Yet, in his big capacity, was the one that delivered the court order to Robert Kiggundu, the Villa electoral commission chairman, to stop the elections.

Many would have thought that Mandela has several handy boys, who would have delivered this letter. On top of that, considering how late the court injunction was secured on Friday August 27, it is said, that there were some big shots in government and State House, who made sure it happened, passed official time of 5 pm.

The purpose of all this was to make sure Sseggona did not become Villa president. According to sources, State House would prefer to have an arrangement like the one, where Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the Attorney General runs Express FC. In addition, the other most influential clubs in the country like URA FC and KCCA FC are run by government authorities while Lawrence Mulindwa of Vipers SC is apolitical. 

However, many Villa faithful still find the ‘state at play’ notion far-fetched. But consider that the main issues, Nambalirwa raised in her petition, to stop the elections, are not what the Villa trustees are fronting now. That petition never asked for the appointment of a new interim committee to run the club. 

But Nambalirwa demanded more voter education on voting platforms, verification of voters register and its display to all contesting parties in time, before the election date, in order to cut out ghost voters. Yet, the Villa trustees are pushing more for an interim committee, in order to have more time, to drop the Magogo-made constitution, for a new one.

That said, many feel that the Magogo-inspired constitution was not right for the club. It contradicted the Villa trustees statutes, particularly on who has the ultimate power at the club- the Villa members, who paid Shs 50,000 for registration, or the trustees, who are established as the club owners. 

In fact, it is reported that Magogo, had mobilized a section of Villa fans on Sunday August 29, to hold a demonstration. They would walk from the team’s training ground, Villa Park in Nsambya to the Fufa House in Mengo on Tuesday, August 31 showing their displeasure towards the club’s trustees for stopping the elections.

Unfortunately, the ‘state at Play’ nipped this in the bud, when they deployed soldiers at Villa Park that day, the fans were supposed to assemble. Samson Nsubuga, commonly known as Miracle, an avid Villa fan has his business at Villa park. 

He told The Observer “For us who work here, we were not allowed to operate that day. There was heavy soldier deployment, and we were told to leave. We could only return on Thursday, September 2.”

Worse still, Nsubuga said, that he has been receiving anonymous calls from people cautioning him, that he must not allow any sections of Villa fans planning to demonstrate, assembling and holding their meetings near his business.

“Right now, I chase anyone from near my shop, who dares to discuss the Villa elections near my shop, because I do not want to lose my business, because of other people’s interests,” Nsubuga said.      

The new Villa interim committee is expected to be appointed this week. But on it, will be individuals, who are government leaning, like Alex Kibandama and Daniel Bakati among others. It should be noted that their appointment is also expected to come with a Shs 2 billion kitty to manage the Villa affairs. 

In a nutshell, many continue to wait with bated breath; to see if indeed Fufa, as the deputy CEO football, Decolas Kizza wrote in his letter to Villa, was not bluffing; and through the licensing board, will lock out the Jogoos from participating in the 2021/22 season, because they have no substantive club leadership, but an interim committee.

jovi@observer.ug

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