The race for the speaker of the 11th parliament has began taking shape as the May 20th count down begins.
Parliament’s role of legislation enactment, budget oversight, budget appropriation and people representation more than ever before will need a speaker endowed with strong administrative skills, blessed with a deep legal mind and engrained with a large citizenous heart for the government to deliver its promises to the people and parliament to restore confidence among Ugandans!
Jacob Oulanyah popularly known as JO continues to emerge as the winner for 10 reasons.
1. National appeal– the elections for the NRM Vice Chairman by far fronted JO as a national leader as he won in every region with an undisputed majority. Its the same appeal that he holds in parliament which even the NUP opposition will find as a magnetic attraction!
2. Fairnes , non-secretarian and accomodative– legislators who have been part of the debates that JO has chaired will affirm that he has given an opportunity to every parliamentarian to air out their views even those who never voted for him as deputy speaker. A number of MPs have however complained of the current speaker as being vindictive singling them out and not being given a chance to talk and even travel for committee engagements because of trivial matters.
It is for this reason that many have chosen to be JOs supporters as a silent majority.Even the newspapers that have done phone-based opinion polls, most MPs have perceived them as reporters engaged to identify those against the current speaker. Hence, the response rate has been low with some choosing to claim their support for her to divert attention but wait for the secret ballot when they will unleash the dragon of votes for JO.
3. Integrity and the Mr Clean of Parliament – one person once said, show me a man of integrity and I will show you , Jacob Oulanyah. In his 10 years as deputy speaker,his name has continuously remained scandal free. Even where various offices in parliament have been implicated and swallowed up by the IGG’s tsunami,his , remains off the wanted list.While others made parliament a table for eating he instead turned it into a table for service.
4. God-fearing speaker– Uganda’s motto remains for God and my country. Its upon this narrative that defines JOs moments in parliament while others remain associated with Shrine visits.A country in which more than 90% of it’s inhabitants and MPs believe in God would definitely shower it’s support for a God-fearing speaker.
5.Humble warrior– In 2016,even when he knew he could win the Speakership ,with humility he stepped aside for the current speaker with the faith that she would reciprocate in 2021. His humility paid a heavy price on him as for one full year he was denied a chance to chair any parliament session. Even then,he didn’t run to the media houses.
To date, the current speaker has failed to honour her word. In the NRM 2016 elections for Vice Chairperson Northern Uganda,JO accepted again to step down for Engola Sam but was again betrayed in 2021. Even then he kept his calm, exercised restraint,participated and won with a landslide the NRM Vice Chairperson seat. The Speakership will be no exception!
6. Straight forward leader – JO continues to be described by many as a man of golden words with a crystal clear conscience. He has stood by many MPs even when he remained the last man standing. The opposition only came to learn this during the debate on the age limit when they were being attacked by soldiers. They complained that parliament had been invaded when actually the soldiers had not invaded but been invited by the Speaker!
Many echoed that if it had been JO this would never had happened. He would have used his legal mind and intellectual prowess to resolve the matter rather than have his own sheep whom he had shepherded to be mauled by the soldiers. MPs therefore want a leader of parliament not a dealer of parliamentarians!
7. Exceptional Mobilizer– consistently JO continues to be a silent but efficient mobilizer. The NRM Vice Chairperson elections demonstrated this and the general elections where Northern Uganda secured a historical silent majority of 65% votes for YK Museveni. Many didn’t anticipate it and like they say, JO has paid the election bride price ,now the bride( Speakership) needs to be delivered to him at the altar of parliament . His competitors however failed to give Tibuhaburwa the needed loud majority.
8.Humiliating losses by incumbent MPs- in both the 9th and 10th parliament more than 75% of MPs did not return. Many MPs argue that a strong speaker should be able to support his or her troops to return to parliament through affirmative actions and creating environments that enable them to perform.The COVID-19 funds and the age limit tojikwatako debate made many MPs lose their seats and partly blame the current speaker for this. With her again as speaker means a repeat or more of the same will happen.
9.Promoter of Independence of parliament– The army invasion that later came to be known as the speaker invitation compromised the independence of parliament.JO as many know would have protected this independence through a more elaborate engagement rather than a radical and emotional response.
10.Strong NRM CEC support– He received 7,474 votes in the CEC Elections while the current speaker had 6,776 making him the largest vote earner in the NRM Vice-chairperson Elections.His endorsement of the current speaker in 2016 and opting to wait for 2021 and his harvest of votes from Northern Uganda will give CEC a strong reason this time to say, he has not only waited for it but worked hard to achieve it!