Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, the Leader of Opposition (LOP) in Parliament recently lost a tightly fought race to head FDC to Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu.
In a revealing interview about his electoral grievances with the biggest opposition party, Mafabi talked to Michael Mubangizi about the huge NRM infiltration of FDC by State House agents.
FDC is in disarray. There are two camps, yours and that of Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu's; did you envisage this happening after the FDC presidential elections?
Let me make it clear, there are no party divisions. We are still one party. Many people didn't want me to concede defeat, some even sent me chits but when I got up, I conceded because the party is bigger than all of us. Of course I disappointed them but that's how I did it.
That demonstrates to you how much I love FDC. But we put up a case stating there were flaws in the election. We need to address them. If we don't, the party is going to be in problems.
The election is over, why don't you close your campaign office in Naguru and operate from Najjanankumbi?
Najjanankumbi is there. That office (in Naguru) is my property and we are free to be there. We are still winding up until they deal with our issues. We will close the campaign bureau as soon as the issues are answered. Najjanankumbi is for us all as FDC.
If your issues are not resolved, will you maintain the Naguru office?
I think it is in the interest of the party to ensure the issues are resolved; if they don't, that's a different story. Then we shall continue as we are.
You will continue running parallel party offices?
No, no. The party remains with those issues. By the way these issues are serious and we must answer them. I will give you an example: how and why do you bar agents of another candidate from accessing Namboole? Who printed cards for the observers? How can a member, the secretary general, use her office and printing machine to print cards? She did the procurement herself, which is not allowed. How is that different from corruption?
We shouldn't blame President Museveni. When you go to Najjanankumbi, Alaso has employed her relatives because she is in charge of the administration. How, then, would we blame Museveni for employing his relatives in State House? Her problem with me is because I am the LOP, which [position] she wanted.
How did irregularities in procurement affect the outcome?
When you give someone an observer's card, a delegate's card, he or she goes and votes. Our register didn't have pictures; so, one could come and say he is Mafabi, whereas not. They knew who was coming and who wasn't. They even blocked delegates. So we are saying, we must answer these first. Whoever was responsible must be brought to book.
For instance, when you vote more than once, how would you be identified, where do they put the second ink? Who were the proxies? Were they declared? How do you vote for someone like Prof Latigo who was voted for by Nabilah Naggayi (Kampala woman MP) when he was here in Uganda?
Was the FDC rule on proxy voting violated?
We had refused proxy voting as you are aware [because] there was a problem in EALA [primaries] where the same Secretary General voted over 15 times. We had refused as a party, not as Mafabi. It's even in the minutes.
You snubbed a reconciliation party organized by chairman Sam Njuba. Is that a sign of a united party?
That wasn't the Chairman's party. It was Musinguzi Garuga's party organised at the Chairman's home. You need to get facts. I want anyone who is sincere to dispute that.
But Garuga is a party member and one of its key funders.
Yes, but why didn't he take it to his home? Secondly, why do you go to the party when you have unresolved issues? There was a meeting on November 24 that resolved that the teams should meet. The chairman never called that meeting. They assumed these things will be washed away with time.
FDC is not about me Nandala and Muntu, it's a big thing. By the way in this thing, you shouldn't look at delegates and voters ... you should look at the population also.
People seem to be receptive to a Muntu win and Presidency. At least that's what the media is depicting.
The editors of all papers here are Muntu supporters. I want you to quote that [Daniel] Kalinaki of Daily Monitor, Conrad Nkutu, [James] Tumusiime of The Observer and Andrew Mwenda, whose news magazine wrote that I was funded by NRM; New Vision's Robert Kabushenga and Alex Asiimwe, the MD of Daily Monitor, are Muntu supporters.
For us, even if there was a good story written about us, they would stop it. There are many journalists who have interviewed me but they have failed to publish ... they say, "no, the boss refused." Even you I'm not sure if you are going to publish this.
So, is everyone against you? Even in Parliament where you are the LOP, most FDC MPs supported Muntu?
Not all, by the way even in the [race between] Muntu and Kizza Besigye, Kizza got very few votes in parliament. You should also know that our election is different from Kizza's.
Muntu got 50 votes and Kizza got 850 votes; me, I got 361, Muntu got 393. If you say majority MPs aren't on my side, these are Kampala based [MPs]. I know MPs come from upcountry, even me I am from upcountry but my vote was basically a village vote.
Your concession speech to Muntu at Namboole seems to have remained on paper. Do you acknowledge Muntu as the FDC President?
I conceded but I raised issues to be answered. We want Muntu, who is the FDC President, to deal with these issues.
It seems that, when you ran for FDC President, you did not consider the possibility of losing.
Even if you are strong, when you go to a football match, you go with two possibilities of either winning or losing. I knew both of them. But even in losing, you must lose in the right way. We are saying the referee was biased. Why did the referee refuse my agents to enter? Why did he change the register? Why did non-delegates vote?
Your performance as LOP appears to have worked against you. You have failed to unite less than 40 opposition MPs... don't you think some felt you couldn't be trusted to head a party?
Have you ever asked why there is a problem in Parliament? The problem I encountered was when the party leadership demanded that Shs 20m which MPs got from the previous Parliament should be returned. I demanded and you heard the noise. I have demanded for reports and accountability. Could that make me popular? Prof Latigo [former LOP] is popular because for him, he was comfortable sitting in this office.
You cannot demand for accountability from NRM, when you yourself can't account. When I was PAC Chairman I was dealing with NRM. I had 20 MPs of which only four were opposition but there is no single minority report. I kept the team from different parties together.
People say you gave delegates a lot of money, Shs 2m each. This was seen as a way of influencing them.
I have never. I want someone to come up and say that I paid somebody Shs 2m. For me when I was going upcountry, I gave delegates Shs 100,000. The moment delegates reached Namboole, they were in the hands of the party, not candidates. We proposed that the party hires accommodation for delegates but that team refused. Why?
The secretary general took over the role of the treasury, procurement officer, award of contracts, printing. If you talk about corruption, I think FDC is not any different. Why did she do things outside the organizing committee?
Your team chairperson, Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, described Muntu as NRM's preferred candidate. Jack Sabiiti said Muntu was too old to lead the party. You are silent about those remarks by your agents...
So is Muntu young? Have you asked the person who said that electing him fulfils the wishes of NRM? I have said Muntu said that I was a "scam and hypocrite", I haven't said [that of] Alaso, I'm saying what Muntu himself said. I want him to say that I said "he is old, he isn't my generation." You see you journalists changed many things but I advise you to ask the person who made those remarks what he meant.
Do you find Rubaramira and Sabiiti's remarks in good taste?
Go and ask them. Me I had my issues which I have put across.
So, you don't have an opinion over remarks made by your campaign agents?
I have no opinion. I have people, who voted for me from all over the country, if some [agent] in Arua, Gulu mentions something, how do I take the blame? For me I want you to take me on, on what I said.
Your petition states that all irregularities that you complain about where done with Muntu's knowledge and approval. Any proof?
Who did the [allegations] favour? We shall substantiate when we come to the time of the inquiry, you see you are talking about a case in court.
Why do you want Muntu to take responsibility for wrongs done by his subordinates, yet you don't want to take responsibility for remarks made by Maj Ruranga and Jack Sabiiti?
Which remarks are you talking about? If someone says Nandala has given me airtime of Shs 100,000 and we call you and say, "This is wrong politics" and you don't act, because you want the public ... you want voters to be angry with me? You in The Observer recently reported that top army generals are happy with Muntu's win - So, haven't you confirmed what may be Ruranga said?
FDC doesn't need generals, it needs people at the grassroots, it doesn't help if you win the army and then lose 34 million Ugandans. He could have the generals but he also needs the grassroots.
Your term as LOP is supposed to be reviewed every after 2½ years, aren't you worried that now that you are at logger heads with the party, it might not be renewed?
Me? Nandala? Worried of what? Even if they want to review it [now], let it be. I have been shining wherever I have worked.
But FDC has given you the platform to shine in parliament as PAC chairman and now as LOP?
I agree, but the most important is to shine when you have been given an office and you perform? Why, are you saying that Prof Latigo didn't shine? He was in office. I wasn't the first chairman of PAC. If I never did my job, I would have slept.
When Muntu twice lost to Dr. Besigye, he remained a committed party member and continued to work for the party despite issues in the campaign.
But you need to consider these elections. In the first election of Muntu, he got 50 votes against Dr Besigye's 850 votes, in the next contest he got about 58 votes against again 850 votes. Was this a contest? The real contest that he has got is this one. The first time I contested I got 361 and he got 393 votes.
You put up an impressive performance in your first contest, but your critics say you are being a bad loser...
No, I am not a bad loser. You are saying Muntu pointed out issues which weren't followed, EALA raised issues, we have issues in the FDC disciplinary committee but we are sweeping them under the carpet, tomorrow they will be dangerous.
Some of your supporters like MP Roland Mugume have approached you and asked you to work with Muntu but you refused?
By the way, we are supporting Muntu; what did he want me to do that I didn't do?
If the reconciliation meeting is called in Najjanakumbi, will you attend?
No, we are not going. Even I would tell you, on November 24, they wanted to hold a meeting in City Royale, a hotel where Alaso has an interest, we said no. Let's go to our party headquarters and we went. We have put a petition; so. wherever they call it [meeting] we will go, even if they put it on the street.
We will go because we have issues to put across. We are saying they should step aside for us to do the investigation. You see even before the elections, Alaso started writing to the speaker saying that I should step aside as LOP [because] that showed a real conflict of interest.
MPs like Odonga Otto and Beatrice Anywar also wanted you to take leave as LOP during the campaigns.
But Alaso started it. It wasn't a general concern. It was supposed to be a party issue, she wrote even after a meeting in the party said I didn't need to step aside. Did she assume I didn't have a car? Or I couldn't run a campaign?
In your view, was your loss only occasioned by issues you raise in the petition? Couldn't there have been other weaknesses in your campaign that caused it?
Well, I can't say much; I lost by 32 votes. If you remove all the proxy votes, those who voted and weren't supposed to vote ... unless it was like the previous contests between Muntu and Besigye where the margin was 50: 850. We did a good campaign, we moved all over the whole country.
Do you still have hopes to contest again in 2014?
We will cross the bridge when we reach there; for now we are concentrating on other things.
Just before the campaigns, you sacked some members of your party but you later returned them around the time of campaigns.
They were cleared. Investigations couldn't go further. They had to stop somewhere. Some of these things if we go back, they are dangerous. Some of these things for purposes of forging ahead; you must stop somewhere.
We want all people to join FDC. It is the biggest party, despite these small things. These will come to an end. This government is full of thugs: we need to come up as Ugandans and forge a way for our country, otherwise if we leave it to these few Ugandans led by Museveni, they are going to finish it. But if we want to change, I think opposition led by FDC will be the best. We cannot accept a few elements to destroy the party.
There are state agents there. You are aware of Titus the ADC to Otafiire... [they] were all there giving money. We have a problem; State House has inflated FDC badly. That one I can say with confidence. We have so many of our members who are walking with state operatives at wrong times. This is a very bad thing.
You can't pretend to be FDC during the day and at night you are dining with NRM. Eating food with NRM is not bad because that's how you woo them but how do you go to do further deals inside State House? We have all those. At an appropriate time, you will see that yourself.