opinionBy Charles Onyango-Obbo
The February 18 (Friday) elections will be special in both Uganda's and the wider Eastern African history. If President Museveni wins it, he will become the first political leader of the modern era in Eastern Africa to be in the chair for 25 years. Both Tanzania's Julius Nyerere and Kenya's Daniel arap Moi barely made 24 years.
If he then serves out his 6th term without political misfortune, he will have clocked 30 years at the helm at the next election. Since 1900 there are only two Eastern African leaders who have served longer than that - one was a king, the other an emperor.
Buganda's Kabaka Daudi Chwa reigned from 1897 to 1939, a good 42 years. However, Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie bettered that, reigning from 1930 to 1974, an impressive 44 years before coup-making soldiers ousted and murdered him.
Unfortunately, all the three previous general elections of the NRM era - in 1996, 2001, and 2006 - were marred by disputes (and evidence that the courts accepted twice) of real rigging. It is therefore important that this election be clean, because if President Museveni is fingered for fiddling it, then he will have a special entrance in Uganda's history books: He will become the first president to be accused of rigging four elections in a row.
Likewise, if Dr Kizza Besigye places second, as in the last two elections, and is therefore the main victim of rigging, he will become the first politician to be robbed of victory three times in a row. Also, I hope my friend and brother, Democratic Party leader Mao Norbert wins this one. If not, then the Democratic Party will have lost in every election it has contested since 1962 (whether fairly or not, is a matter for another day).
To avoid that, a couple of things need to happen the morning after elections.
Now that it has been decided that people can vote without voters' cards, it is important that we do not wake up late morning of February 19 to hear that there were 110 per cent turnouts at remote polling stations and those in army barracks.
There should be no reports that a peasant in Kaberamaido on his way to weed his potatoes, found boxes with ticked ballot papers in a bush near his garden.
Unlike 2006, please let it not transpire that on Friday evening, electricity went off at the Electoral Commission Tallying Centre from 10 p.m to 6 a.m, and that in all that time, not a single generator could be found in all of Kampala to light up the place (after it turned out that the initial stand-by generator wasn't working).
Uganda has five public universities; 24 private ones; and two degree-awarding non-university institutions. We also have a fairly good literacy rate at nearly 70 per cent. So, please, don't bring shame on this great republic the morning after the vote, and tell us that with all these universities and so many educated people, there is no one among them who can count and add votes accurately.
That was the problem in all previous elections; the pro-government and pro-opposition officials would all add the same ballots and come out with totally different totals!
And the government should not send security officials to take off air radios that are reporting independent results, or to block newspaper websites reporting the actual results that are being announced at the polling stations instead of those that have been edited on their way to Kampala. For what is it worth, I have been told that this site - http://www.voteug.com - will be impossible to shut down. It will have dozens of mirror sites. Also, you can send results from your polling station to it by cellphone, whoever you are, and within seconds the whole world will see them. Good luck.
Also, we hope this time we shall have one election in the country. In the past, we have been left with a distinct impression that we held two simultaneous elections. There is the election monitored by the African Union observers; and a second one monitored by the European Union and the American ones.
In the election that is monitored by the African Union, the president always wins - except, of course, if it is Ivory Coast. And in the election monitored by the EU and US, the president always steals a few votes (and sometimes very many).
No need to mention, but let us not find out, as we did after the 1996 elections, that the invitation cards to attend the swearing in of the president had been sent out even before the vote. Apart from everything else, it is irritating to see that the President and his government can show so much foresight and planning in inviting people to a swearing-in well before polling day, but cannot bring the same skills to governing the country.
Finally, there are two words whose meaning no Ugandan presidential candidate has ever been able to learn. Those words are "conceding defeat". Hopefully, this time, one of them will.