The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) last week ended gruelling months of electioneering for a new president, with Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu emerging winner.
He beat his archrival, Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, by 32 votes. This was really tight. Geoffrey Ekanya did the party proud when he soldiered on to the end despite his predictable dismal performance. All these odds notwithstanding, at no time did he lower his guards and surrender his votes or support to either of the two titans. So far FDC has passed the integrity test, an attribute that is not common with political parties.
We now know that all is not lost about peaceful transfer of power in Uganda. Other parties like the colossal National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRMO- but expediently named NRM) should pick some clues on how to organise a political party. Whenever there are elections in NRM, especially for the topmost position, competition and openness are the first casualties.
The position of the chairman has perennially been preserved for Mr Museveni. Sometimes, a farcical competitor is presented, who later bows out on grounds that he has read the signs and that the people still want President Museveni to lead the party. Moses Kigongo has also become a career vice chairman of the party.
This kind of ring-fencing of certain positions is not without costs. Kenya once had a powerful party, KANU, ever led by the professor of politics (as he has often referred to himself), Daniel arap Moi. When he finally relaxed the grip of power and passed the mantle to his protégé, Uhuru Kenyatta, the latter crashed the party with such a resounding thud that no one has ever succeeded to lift it up again.
Even Uhuru himself has since quit the party and formed his own, The National Alliance (TNA). In making the top open for competition, FDC is trying to avoid the KANU bug and praying the NRM doesn't find the antidote to this germ.
The only semblance of competition was exhibited in the race for NRM's secretary general where Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi trounced his rivals Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, Kahinda Otafiire and Theodore Ssekikubo. Prior to that, NRM members had been involved in vote-stealing and violence during the primaries, indeed, disproving NRM's thesis that multipartyism breeds violence.
We cannot say that all was well within the FDC. Certainly not. Many members were left with emotional scars and festering wounds. For at one time the campaigns hinged on mudslinging Mugisha Muntu, who ably dodged or ignored the mud cast at him. That was another sign that he was made of sterner stuff and he could insulate himself against all manner of insults both from his own party and the opposition.
Ultimately, those who hounded him seemed like unguided athletes who conceived a race against a slippery hill. Their evil efforts only boomeranged on them. But they also failed because there wasn't any muck to dig up. It was all concoctions. The lessons are that even if you try to smear a beautiful woman with dung in an effort to market an ugly one smeared with all the best lotions, a wise suitor will always tell who the beautiful one is.
The body languages at Namboole stadium after announcing the election results were very instructive. Some people shed tears of joy, others of frustration ? which is a natural thing to do. Who wouldn't feel hurt after losing a contest? But one thing was clear to me: FDC was the party to watch. FDC stalwarts cast their difference aside and seemed ready to give this country a fundamental change.
Gen Mugisha Muntu should not rest on his laurels. This is the time to prove what he promised his voters. In Muntu, the voters could have given this country a more destined saviour than the legendary Moses was for the Israelites. The jury is still out. When you let down your voters, they can be quite unforgiving.
Saving the best for last, tomorrow (November 27) our evergreen mother is making six decades. It has been a journey of endurance, joy and steel nerves. Happy Birthday, mum!
The author is the Business Development Director, The Observer Media Ltd.