I recently sat through an interesting story on the phenomenal levels of fraud in Nigeria.
One time, a commercial bank published names of persons who had defaulted on their loans. The idea was to expose their non-creditworthiness, and perhaps have them clear their outstanding loan obligations.
To the surprise of the bank managers, their clients with no debt, and other defaulters (whose names had not been published) walked into the bank building complaining about why their names were not on the list published.
Defaulters whose names had been published also went to complain about why the monies indicated as owed were so small: “why didn’t you publish all my outstanding loans?” they would ask.
The reason for this unexpected turn of events was that the list had all of a sudden gained value; it was being used as evidence of wealth in other banks: “Look, I’m worth 25 billion naira, which I borrowed from the other bank; you can give me a 5 billion loan.” And it was working.
I could not miss the power of this story the more I thought about Dr Patrick Wakida and his Research World – in the context of his career as a pollster and opposition political player in Uganda.
The imagery could neither be lost on the youthful and indefatigable lawyer Male Mabirizi. While Male Mabirizi is an obsessive lawyer, Wakida is a consummate pollster. Both men have admirable levels of self-confidence and bravery.
They are proud of their learning and accomplishment in their disciplines. Their resilience and eloquence is admirable. Indeed, in constantly reminding us of the place of the judiciary, and the importance of a poll-driven electoral process, respectively, both have cemented their place in the Ugandan political milieu.
While Wakida has been around for long, Male Mabirizi only recently shot to fame when he took the king of Buganda/Buganda Land Board to court over the new land registration requirement that had been dubbed “kyapa mu ngalo.”
After this unprecedented suit, Mabirizi attracted several column inches and prime time news coverage. His performance in Mbale during the petition against the age-limit removal confirmed him as a man to watch in the Ugandan legal gymnastics. His good sense for dramaties has earned him more plaudits.
Yes, the whole world is a stage; you have seen him ferry voluminous and countless booklets of his suit, and sitting down austere and briskly to append his signature on all of them. He never turns down the opportunity to confront judges for their conflicted selves – and we have cheered him on. Indeed, he has won himself several favourable verdicts, but also lost many.
On his part, the very ebullient Wakida has produced poll after poll in different electoral cycles. Surely, without debating his polling credentials, there is no doubt that polls are a core part of governmentality, and more so central to electoral processes. Indeed, he is credited for producing polls, which ended consistently with the final electoral results.
But here is the difficult part: Wakida is a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) card-carrying member. This means, he is interested in dislodging the rather “undemocratic” and “dictatorial” government of President Museveni.
Mabirizi, on his part, for challenging the removal of age-limit in the constitution, it could be said he too sees Museveni’s government as undemocratic and unconstitutional. Strangely, both seem oblivious of the times, and the absurdity of their otherwise well-meaning interventions – that they actually achieve the opposite results.
Like the loan defaulters in Nigeria, Museveni uses them as testimonies of his democratic – judicial and electoral – worthiness. Haven’t we heard Museveni’s spokesperson cite Wakida’s polls, and rebuke opposition counsels [epitomised by Mabirizi] for complaining about judicial frailty only after getting negative verdicts?
In an environment where the incumbent rolled tanks into parliament, endlessly teargasses opposition from mobilising, then wears them down with incomprehensible court cases, and can arrest and imprison them at will, it is surely absolute silliness to behave like you were in a levelled political dispensation.
It is an embarrassing contradiction to produce electoral polls under the circumstances described above, and at the same time retain membership to a party which believes electoral processes in Uganda are neither free nor fair.
It is also absolute idiocy to go to the Ugandan judiciary in a case against President Museveni – like you just arrived from the Arctic! The idiocy of these otherwise intelligent practices is compounded in the fact that they actually benefit the one being opposed. Perhaps actors should engage them for personal plaudits as doing something consistent with democracy.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.