By Derrick Wandera
Being a party with majority Opposition MPs in Parliament, National Unity Platform (NUP) is set to appoint the next Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the House.
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party won majority seats in Parliament with about 313 MPs, followed by NUP with 61 MPs. The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party came third with 28 MPs.
Both the Constitution and the Political Parties and Organisations Act vests powers in the political party with the highest numerical strength in the House to appoint the LoP.
Although NUP’s constitution is silent on the criteria of appointing someone to that position, various party leaders have strategically positioned themselves around the party president, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, who has the powers to appoint who becomes the LoP of the 11 Parliament which will be sworn in between May 17 and 19.
Sources familiar with the goings-on within the party told this newspaper that names of five MPs have come up for consideration on who should be appointed to the most lucrative position for the Opposition representation in the House.
The candidates for the postThe MPs favoured include Mathias Mpuuga (Nyendo Mukungwe), Medard Ssegona (Busiro East), and Flavia Kalula Nabagabe (Kasanda Woman MP).
Others include John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya) and Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kasanda North).“Those are the people being considered but those who will not make it will be given to lead committees in Parliament. They are all capable leaders but, only one has to be chosen as LoP,” the source told Saturday Monitor on condition of anonymity.
The FDC initially enjoyed Opposition dominance for the last three five –year terms, and has been providing the Opposition leadership in the House since the rebirth of multiparty politics in Uganda.Article 81 of the Constitution as amended in 2005 provides for the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in Parliament.
The factors at play include regional distribution and ensuring a balance in appointments to promote the party’s national outlook.NUP is expected to hold a three-day retreat next week where, sources say, the candidates will have the chance to present their credentials before their MPs.
Asked to comment about the development, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the party spokesperson, was non-committal on whether the party has lined up the issue as a matter of importance for discussion next week, but said they are considering talking about it in the near future.
“We have seen discussions around this subject but we are not talking about it now. There is about a month to the next Parliament and by then, we shall have made a decision as a party on the matter,” Mr Ssenyonyi said on Wednesday.
Sources said the party secretariat and the office of the party president is handling the matter with a lot of care because it could shatter their national outlook and easily be understood as a tribal party if someone from the central region is appointed to the position. However, they are also factoring in the issue of gender balance.
Multiple sources also said Mr Mpuuga has positioned himself for the LoP office with the defence that he delivered to Mr Kyagulanyi a block vote of Buganda region, especially around Masaka sub-region.
However, Mr Mpuuga denied the allegation, saying nothing about the office of LoP has been discussed within the party and that they are preoccupied with other matters other than LoP.
“Secondary and most importantly, l am the deputy president of the party! At no forum has that conversation arisen. It is only decent that we open it up for public scrutiny when the party opens it. I honestly contend that this young party has more than me to competently occupy that honorable office. Let us give the debate flesh when it finally materialises,” he said in a Whatsapp message.
When asked about his personal feelings if not given the position, Mr Mpuuga said: “I will congratulate whoever will be appointed.”
As the majority Opposition party in Parliament, NUP is also set to take up nine other positions in the House, including that of the Opposition chief whip, and leadership of the four accountability committees; the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), Local Government Accounts Committee (LGAC), and Committee on Government Assurances.
Challenges that lie ahead for LoPProf Morris Ogenga Latigo, a former LoP in the 8th Parliament and outgoing Agago County MP, told Saturday Monitor in an interview on Wednesday that the challenges of the LoP have always been to do with uniting the Opposition in Parliament and remunerations.
“The LoP plays a huge role in bringing together the Opposition in Parliament and the government. Sometimes you have to take decisions even against your own party. But the other challenge is not only harmonising the opposition from other political parties but also your own party. You will struggle with members who want to pay allegiance to the party president and then underlook you as LoP,” Mr Latigo said.
He added: “As LoP, you have to make sure the Speaker balances the House in terms of who talks on the floor. I had to confront then Speaker Edward Ssekandi for not giving equal chances to the Opposition MPs on the floor of Parliament. So for me, focus is not on which individual becomes LoP but the fact that they will be able to detect a problem and work on it as soon as possible,” he added.
Who are they…about the candidates?
He is former Masaka Municipality MP, and now Nyendo-Mukungwe MP-elect. He was born in 1975. He is the NUP party deputy president in charge of the central region.
The lawyer by training crossed from the Democratic Party to NUP last year. He became the poster child of the Opposition-led campaign Walk-to-Work in April 2011.
He went to Kyamaganda Boys Demonstration School in Masaka, before proceeding to Masaka Secondary School and Nakyenyi Secondary for his O-Level and A-Level respectively.
He is the current Busiro East MP-elect. He is the current lead counsel of the party’s legal team. He has represented both the party and Mr Kyagulanyi in courts of law several time. He joined NUP from DP last year during the exodus from their party after they developed misunderstandings with the party president, Mr Norbert Mao.
Ssegona obtained Diploma in legal practice from the Law Development Centre in 2002 after he completed his degree in Laws from Makerere University in 2001.
He went to Caltec Academy Makerere for his A-Level after obtaining his Uganda Certificat of Education at Entebbe Parents Secondary School. He sat for his Primary Leaving Examinations at Mayungwe Primary School in Butambala District. He currently works at Lukwago and Company Advocates.
Flavia Kalule Nabagabe
She is the Kasanda Woman MP-elect. She currently leads the women wing in NUP. In 2016, she made her first attempt to join politics when she contested for the Mubende Woman MP seat and emerged second.Ms Nabagabe was born in Lugazi, Buikwe District but resides in Buteeka-Ssingo in Maggwa Parish, Kassanda Sub-county, Kassanda District.
She holds a Bachelor Degree of Arts with Education from Makerere University and a Master Degree in Ethics and Human Rights from Makerere University focusing on women’s right to political participation.She attained a Public Management certificate at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, USA as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders and at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya.
John Baptist Nambeshe
He represents Manjiya County in Bududa District. After being labelled NRM rebel MP, Mr Nambeshe crossed to then People Power movement led by Mr Kyagulanyi before it metamorphosed into NUP. He is currently the NUP party deputy president in charge of the eastern region.
Born in November 1965, he went to Shikhuyu Primary School in Bududa, before he proceeded to Bulucheke Secondary School for his O-Level and later Nabumali High School for his A-Level. He then joined Uganda Martyrs University for a Diploma in Local Government and Human Rights, before he went back to the same university for a Bachelor’s degree in Arts.
Patrick Nsamba Oshabe
He is one of the NRM rebel MPs who quit the party to join then People Power in 2019. Although some of his colleagues with whom he had left the party went back and apologised to President Museveni the party chairman, Mr Nsamba remained in NUP.
He is currently representing Kasanda East in Parliament.Mr Nsamba went to Kikandwa UMEA Primary School in Mubende District for his primary education, before proceeding to Mityana Secondary School for both O and A-Levels.
He then joined Makerere University, where he attained a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Philosophy, and later a Master of Arts in Ethics and Public Management.
Mr Nsamba also attained a Certificate in Conflict Resolution and Development and a Diploma in Development Management from Open University , UK.
The LoP office
Roles of LoP● Lead the Opposition in all parliamentary affairs. ● Part of the administration in parliament and sits on the Parliamentary Commission. ● Is part of the business committee in parliament which determines the goings-on in the House ● Sits on the Appointments Committee of Parliament ● Allocates Opposition members to committees and selects the Opposition chief whip. ● Allocates trips to Opposition MPs ● Gives the official response to the President after the State of the Nations Address (SONA)● Appoints the Shadow Cabinet
The perks of the LoP● Lead car ● Car allowance ● Allocated a budget to run the office● Earns salary worth that of a Cabinet minister ● Fully fledged offices with workers