Prof Gilbert Baalibaseka Bukenya, the former vice president, has had a relatively-long political career. In 2015, he joined The Democratic Alliance (TDA) as a prospective joint opposition candidate to run against President Museveni in the February 2016 elections. However, he suddenly quit the alliance and pledged support for Museveni. But losing his Busiro North seat in the same election consigned him to political oblivion. In this interview with Abubaker Mayemba, Bukenya speaks about politics and life after politics.
Q: How is life after politics?
A: Super. I’m now doing what I want to do. Life after politics is very good. In fact, I wish I had left politics much earlier because now I’m peaceful, I’m doing what I want to do, I’m making my money and nobody is begging for my money, so I’m a happy man.
Q:Last year you made two major decisions; you moved from NRM to TDA then back to NRM. Did that trigger your defeat in the parliamentary elections?
A:No. I left TDA on principle. We said we shall have a single TDA candidate and we failed. Some people selfishly failed to accept one candidate. I quit because I knew what we were doing wasn’t correct. If a single candidate had emerged, maybe my decision would have been different.
Q:Why the U-turn from TDA back to NRM?
A:I looked at the various presidential candidates and they were literally no-bodies to President Museveni.
Q:But you were once quoted as saying that you joined Amama Mbabazi because he was strong enough to take on President Museveni.
A:I never joined Amama Mbabazi, never and I would never. I know him and his capacity. He has never been strong. I joined when Mbabazi was nowhere to be discussed in TDA. He just jumped into it.
Q:But you never objected to Mbabazi joining the alliance.
A:I did but I don’t have to shout. He disorganised the whole TDA.
A:We had closed nominations and then he came later. He was actually recruited at eight in the night, he was so chaotic. I protested but I didn’t have to shout. If I have to publicly make objections against everything, then there will be announcements every day.
Q:Some politicians such as [former Kampala mayor Nasser Ntege] Sebaggala claim you are suffering because you didn’t cultivate connections. Are you suffering?
A:I’m not suffering. Anyone can say what they want but for me I’m happy. I cannot suffer with all this treasure (Katomi resort hotel). Nobody talks on my behalf. Who is Seya and who is Professor Bukenya? We all come from a different breed and background; so, I don’t think Sebaggala has a right to have an opinion on my distinguished leadership.
Q:As a leader, what do you think is your greatest achievement?
A:I achieved a lot because even today if you visit any school and ask them, who is the former vice president of Uganda, they will say Gilbert Bukenya. That means I have left a very big landmark. People have been laughing at my upland rice growing campaign but it has helped so many poor people in northern and eastern Uganda. One should never joke about simple things done for poor people.
Q:In February 2015 when in TDA you advised NRM members not to accept removing the age limit clause from the constitution. What’s your opinion now?
A:This is my view as Bukenya. We must build a constitution that can stand its time. Such a constitution must have certain clauses that may be painful to an individual or a group of people but will be an important turning point to help the country. I think that’s why those in the Constituent Assembly put in those two clauses; an age limit and term limit.
Q:President Museveni has ruled for a long time and helped the country grow. But in principle I don’t think that should make us remove these clauses from the constitution.
A:The age and term limits are important but we should give leeway to Museveni, who I call the founder of the nation, because others who were leaders never put in a lot of effort to become founders of this country. President Museveni has put in a lot of effort, so we can have a clause for him, but for subsequent leaders there should be a term and age limit.
Q:So, Museveni should be given five more years?
A:Not only five years. He has a good programme. We Ugandans take a long time to understand that programme. So, as long as that programme is running, let him govern. I compare Museveni to [former Tanzanian president Julius] Nyerere, Dr Mahathir [Mohamad] of Malaysia and Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore. They all ruled for a long time but you can see the changes in their countries are fundamental.
Q:So, what’s your stand on the age limit; should Museveni be given five more years?
A:As far as President Museveni is concerned, let him continue. He has good ideas but, as a principle for subsequent leaders, there must be a term and age limit. Museveni is the Mahathir of Uganda; so, I would let him lead until his time comes.
Q:Don’t you think twisting the law just for one person would set a bad precedent?
A:I’m looking at other leaders that will come. When I say this, many lumpens will abuse me but Museveni has been a unique person as a leader of this country. There’s no doubt, whether we like it or not the man has brought development.
I don’t think there will be unique leaders everyday; so, we must have exceptional circumstances for the president. It does not mean that we will have it in the constitution. We can even make a presidential law and say: in as far as President Museveni is concerned, we lift the term and age limit because of what we have seen in him. We then seal it up.
Q:Currently our constitution is hard to ‘seal’ because it has been amended more than two times. How sure are you it won’t be unsealed this time?
A:No, we can seal it because there are certain parts of the constitution which are difficult to amend and need many leaders to change them. They will need a referendum and so we can put this under that seal.
Q:There’s concern that any proposed law goes through because NRM has the numbers.
A:NRM leaders must be very cautious. Look at the current situation and the future. I opposed the public order management law and I remember the then prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, saying I’m disgruntled because I’m no longer a vice president. Now when it came to biting, it actually bit him much more than anyone else.
Q:Weren’t you inclusive in those bitten by the law?
A:No, it is not inclusiveness that beats you but if you have got a meeting somewhere and they come and disrupt it and take you and some other people, that’s the real action. Not everyone in TDA suffered the wrath of the public order management law.
Q:Then why did you join TDA, actually the opposition, yet you consider Museveni to be the founder of the country?
A:I never joined the opposition. I only joined a campaign to say look, it’s not only President Museveni who can be around. The way I see Uganda today, Museveni has contributed a lot to its development. I think he has an important programme we must appreciate.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.