Serere County voters went to the polls to elect their MP on Thursday following
the death of Hon. Okabe Patrick whose life was claimed in an accident in December last year.
Independent candidate Emmanuel Omoding was duly declared the winner of the by-election.
Omoding, the son of the former MP Patrick Okabe emerged as the winner of the hotly contested race with 15,638 votes, beating four other contenders. He was followed by NRM’s Phillip Oucor with 13,206 votes and Alice Alaso of the Alliance for National Transformation who had 3,335 votes.
Engineer Martin Onguruco and Emmanuel Eratu of FDC came last with 2,523 and 1,252 votes respectively, according to results announced last night by Serere District Returning Officer, Sylvia Cheptegei.
More to that, three salient features of the contest shouldn’t escape public scrutiny. One is that for the first time in a by-election since 2021, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party appeared visibly divided on the choice of the candidate to support, resulting in a blame game as the Electoral Commission finally named the victor. Powered by maverick party Vice Chair for Eastern Uganda, Capt Mike Mukula, Omoding put up a spirited fight that gave a bloody nose to those who call the shots at the party he himself subscribes to.
The loss seemed to have been a bitter pill for leaders in the party to swallow, with party EC boss Dr Tang Odoi reserving special reprimand for Mukula whom he accused of sidelining the official party candidate in favour of independent Omoding.
Nonetheless, NRM shouldn’t be grieving over the outcome in Serere as much as the opposition pack should.
Muntu’s Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Amuriat/ Besigye’s FDC, Kabuleta’s NEED, and most prominently, Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform( NUP) should deservedly mourn the loss like no other, but also, Alice Alaso in capital letters.
This is so because Omodingbis was publicly said to be a member of the ruling party and there is no doubt he will work very well with the yellow team while legislation for the people of Serere. That Auco, the first runner up is also a member of the party also speaks volumes. That means that nearly a third of the electorate in the by-election voted in favour of the NRM candidate or the NRM-leaning one.
The opposition left with an egg on the face
Veteran opposition kingpin Alice Alaso had initially appeared headed to give the ruling side the run for their money following the announcement that she would carry the flag in a loose alliance for the opposition. Leading opposition party- NUP openly backed the former FDC Secretary General, with Bobi Wine taking the commitment a notch higher with his physical presence along with his Secretary General Lewis Rubongoya and other top heads of the Kamwokya outfit.
National Economic Empowerment fit Dialogue Supremo, and former Presidential candidate Joseph Kabuleeta was another bigwig to throw his weight behind the veteran politician, Alaso.
Even though Alaso had relentlessly called upon her former FDC family to forget their differences and back her in the polls, the Amuriat group were not to give in at any cost and fielded a candidate of their own.
Shockingly, however, 4587 was the total opposition vote shared between ANT/ NEED, NUP’s Alaso and FDC’s Emmanuel Eratu!
A sizable challenge by Alaso in Serere would have been a fertile ground for the rest of the opposition to castigate FDC as usual for frustrating opposition chances at the polls but this was a humbling humiliation that leaves all of them with no option but to return home, sob and move on.
But before that, one salient question pops up, requiring an answer from, who, we can’t tell.
Is it the end of the political road for Alaso?
Once feared as one of the top opposition men and women that kept President Museveni on the sword, the former firebrand Besigye lieutenant seems to be fading into her former self each day that passes.
One of the people that made decisions at Najjanakumbi since the mid-2000s, Alaso fell out with the leadership of the party at the peak of a supremacy war between Besigye and Mugisha Muntu. Following the loss of the former in the 2017 contentious internal elections for the new party president at the hands of the ‘farmer” Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Alaso, then the party’s Secretary General was the first name on Muntu’s packing list.
Key among the points advanced by the Muntu group to leave FDC was a disagreement on strategy, prioritising a strategy of building structures that would finally outsmart the NRM government on electoral fraud it had been accused of perennially. Five years down the road, however, there appear to be no structures strong enough to ensure victory for Alaso, one of the top most figures of ANT, and in one constituency where she hails from.
Signs the battle-hardened politician could be on her way to no return had already started manifesting from her native Serere after she was tipped off the Serere district Woman MP seat by NRM in 2016, a time when FDC was still very vibrant in Teso. Efforts to reclaim the district in 2021 bore no different results either.
Gauging from what had happened in by-elections with big-name opposition personalities like Betty Muzanira, Paul Mwiiru, Asuman Basalirwa, and Kassiano Wadri, in 2018, among others, it was highly anticipated that the by-election would have been a perfect opportunity for the opposition to boosting their already inferior numbers in the House with some ease, especially with the mega endorsement from Bobi Wine.
” Ladies, and gentlemen, allow me to announce the one and only strong, efficient, powerful and charismatic leader that Serere needs, Alice Alaso as the official flag bearer of ANT” Former Leader of Opposition Winnie Kizza announced last month at the ANT offices in Kampala.
On Alaso’s final campaign rally, voters, predominantly young people listened attentively as Bobi Wine rallied them to vote for a leader who would guarantee efficient representation and also repay the ruling side for keeping them in abject poverty by the barricades they have put on Lake Kyoga, a key source of livelihood for the population in the area. But at the end of the day, only 3500 voters all over the constituency are adjudged to have taken the message seriously.
With an enviable span of 15 years in Parliament in the 7th,8th, and 9th parliaments, coupled with multiple roles in the top hierarchy of the opposition hierarchy over the years, this week’s performance should have left her shamefaced. Her backers too, the likes of Bobi Wine and company will certainly be disappointed in the choices they made.
Whether Alaso can pull a miracle in the future to stage a political comeback is a matter of intense debate. What appears obvious is that once upon a time a powerful politician has seen her weight plummet significantly she may need to do a lot if she is to float again.
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