At the end of the seven-day NRM retreat at Kyankwanzi last week, President Museveni was put on the spot to explain his "special" relationship with Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo.
Kibuku MP, Saleh Kamba, wondered why President Museveni would allow dissent from some MPs, like Ssekikubo, but not others.
Kamba told the retreat he doubts the President can discipline the 'rebel' MPs. This came up last Thursday during a discussion on the NRM ideology and rules.
"We doubt whether you'll discipline them because we know that these rebels have a strong relationship with you and some other big people in government," Kamba told the gathering that included President Museveni. Kamba zeroed in on Ssekikubo whom he said was a beneficiary of State House scholarships.
After school, Ssekikubo got a job in State House, which critics saw as Museveni's reward to the legislator's father, Sam Mwagalwa, for supporting the NRM liberation struggle. MPs cheered as Kamba asked Museveni to explain his special relationship with Ssekikubo.
An angry Ssekikubo told The Observer in a separate interview that although Kamba didn't mention the "big people" with whom he enjoys a special relationship, the Kibuku MP meant to refer to Trade and Industry minister, Amelia Kyambadde, and Gen. David Sejusa.
Kamba didn't pick our calls for a comment. In his reply, Museveni was calm and composed. He admitted having lived with Ssekikubo and even helping him through school, but said he doesn't condone the legislator's current rebellious streak.
"Yes, that was our past but we can always part ways," Museveni reportedly said, citing examples of his past "special relationship" with former FDC President, Dr. Kizza Besigye, and East African Affairs minister, Eriya Kategaya.
Besigye, his former personal physician, today stands out as Museveni's fiercest political rival, having thrice stood against him in presidential elections. Kategaya, now back in cabinet after a few years in the cold, fell out with Museveni, his childhood friend, following his opposition to the 2005 amendment of the constitution to allow the President to seek re-election for a third term.
Ssekikubo accused Kamba of indulging in cheap politics.
"It is dangerous for people, because of cheap politics, to reject their history. My history with the President should not be used to judge my actions," said the outspoken MP, who recently spent a few days in detention for claiming that former Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda, was poisoned. A government toxicology report said she died of drug abuse.
Although "I am a beneficiary of Museveni's generosity", Ssekikubo admitted, "it doesn't mean I can't talk about what goes wrong in the party and the government."
He said it would be better if what he said was judged on its merits and demerits rather than being mixed up with history.
"I despise those that bring up my history into the present scenario," he added.
This is not the first time Museveni's perceived special relationship with Ssekikubo has come up. Moroto Municipality MP, Simon Peter Aleper, raised it last year during a caucus meeting at the parliamentary conference hall, though President Museveni largely avoided the issue.
"I think it has been overused, it keeps coming up every time we are in a meeting with the President. The purpose is to evoke the anger of the President," Ssekikubo said.