Daily Monitor | Opinion | If Eala Aspirants Have to Bribe MPs For Votes, What’s Left? By Charles Onyango-Obbo
Opinion — When I read in Daily Monitor that money was changing hands in the campaigns for what it called “the much coveted East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) seats”, I wondered why it took so long. The report said “votes in Parliament are up to the highest bidder with legislators demanding cash and other inducements in exchange for their vote.” That is what corruption and transactional politics leads to. People in power and influential positions steal elections and money, buy votes, bribe opponents to cross to their side, and when they are caught, they pay off the police and courts.
When the government or ruling party wants support for, especially, an unpopular measure, it bribes MPs. These monies come from funds that would have improved schools, health, infrastructure, or been invested to create jobs and all sorts of economic opportunities. The result is that the voters get nothing after elections. So they wisen up. With every other election, they demand to be paid upfront by the politicians, before they can vote for them.The politicians now need even more money to win, so they borrow heavily, sell their precious property, and by the time they get to Parliament they are broke, and need to pay back their debts, build up funds to keep paying voters to remain behind them, and to run the next election.
If to pass every contentious Bill, and to amend the Constitution to give the President some president-for-life pass, MPs charge, it is not surprising that they would levy a fee on an Eala vote. The matter, Daily Monitor reported, is so serious that it has reached the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), prompting the party’s electoral commission chairman, Tanga Odoi, to wag a warning finger. Though Tanga didn’t say it, he must know the wider political dangers of money entering into such things. Political parties have ideological goals, and use these positions in Eala to reward key constituencies, or to appease aggrieved groups, so that they can preserve the alliance that enables to win the next election. Money, messes all that up. The Eala member or parliamentarian with the money to buy votes, might not be the one who helps the party’s cause most.
For example, after the Rwenzururu “massacre”, the government might want to take a candidate from the area to Arusha as a peace gesture, but he could be broke. However, the one from Fort Portal, where it has no major political problem it needs to solve, might be the one with the money, and could win if you don’t force him to stand down (and make an enemy of him and his supporters), or raid State coffers and outspend him. The result is that you are spending money you never intended to, but also ensured that at the next vote in five years, the price of the Eala vote will go up. The cure to all this is not to commit the original sin. Not to eat the forbidden fruit, in the first place. For the NRM, that was 31 years ago. But all these corrupt goings on, should worry the leaders because it affects them the most, and perhaps in ways they didn’t expect.
Consider this. When the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro died last November, one of the stories that got so much play was that he survived more than 600 assassinations and coup attempts, most of them engineered by the US. That’s more than any leader in human history, some claimed. How was that possible? Broadly, because though Cuba was a poor country, and people needed money, their ideological and national commitments to the revolution were higher. If Castro had driven around in gold-plated cars and had six luxury jets, he wouldn’t have survived long. The thing is that when corruption is rampant like in Uganda, and money can reach the most unlikely places, national duty, loyalty, patriotism, and political commitment all soon come with a price.
Anyone entrusted with the safety of MPs, ministers, and even the President can easily betray or harm them, if their adversary pays enough. Soldiers guarding a critical dam, can look the other way if a terrorist wants to blow it up, as long as he pays them enough to make it worthwhile. That is the final stage in which corruption, becomes a national security threat. A country cannot be led by demons (figuratively speaking), and expect that its gates be guarded by saints, and its citizens will forever remain angels. The only question now is whether Uganda still has time to turn back, and avoid that final fall over the cliff.
Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa data visualiser Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3
Source — Daily Monitor