There is a general assertion that the Ugandan electorate is feeble when it comes to discussing real policy issues especially during political campaigns. Candidates vying for various positions normally take advantage of this inherent supposition to churn out campaign content which is less on policy issues but high on sensationalism and spot-on when it comes to posturing personality over politics. However, if the above presumption is anything to go by, then it may be somewhat inconsistent with (again) the much-peddled narrative that Ugandans have in previous elections ‘voted’ for those candidates who have consistently sold security as their main campaign platform.
Whatever the case may be, the truth remains, the rhetoric of previous political campaigns has been very light on real issues affecting Ugandans. I use the word ‘rhetoric’ precisely to stress the point that many times there is always a glaring disconnect between what is contained in candidates’ manifestos and what candidates actually articulate when they get on to the campaign trail. This is partly because many of the manifestos are actually ‘boardroom manifestos’ – drafted and sealed by small groups of people who sit in boardrooms to write them – without necessarily drawing from any form of scientific research or studies around what affects their constituencies.
I remember in previous election cycles, a local political party was caught with its ‘pants down’ after copying a manifesto of one of the parties in the western world – word for word? Now, how would you expect the prescriptions contained in such a manifesto to be anything tailored to the Ugandan ‘clientele’ or context?
Because there is little or no time dedicated to understanding/studying the real issues that affect citizens, candidates in many instances develop manifestos as a matter of obligation and protocol rather than as tailored campaign tools. And that is why candidates find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of the ‘quick fix campaign alternatives’ – they end up constructing campaign narratives around attacking fellow contenders or they deliver ‘hand-outs’ to voters and ask them for reciprocated votes or they deploy threatening/intimidating maneuvers or ‘better still’, they mix all the above to get a menu that will guarantee them an easy vote.
May be, this is the time for those intending to stand for positions of leadership to give their manifestos or campaign projects real thought. Candidates ought to invest more – in terms of time and resources in appreciating what the electorate needs, what is good for it and how best to legitimately deliver that, which the voters want.
Just this small logical flow would ideally demonstrate to each potential candidate that making a responsive manifesto is not just a cup of tea, but a hard investment that calls for thorough interaction with the electorate.
Now that in a few months a number of candidate identification processes will kick-off, those with intentions should already be undertaking coherent groundwork in respect to establishing their constituency’ issues – a basis of which process should inform their manifesto content.
If candidates develop their manifestos in a more responsive manner, then they will not have problems articulating the issues therein to the public.
Am very worried that shouldn’t we raise the bar of political campaigns in this country, then we’ll all be headed for doom; we will continue to trade the cheap barter politics – mpa, nkuwe, or the politics of intimidation or the politics of outright theft – rigging, ballot stuffing and manipulation.
This of course does not portend well for the country.
If such habits are not arrested NOW through promoting real issue-based politics, then, elections may become more and more meaningless – mere gimmicks that will only outmaneuver the electorate.
But nevertheless, each one of us has the duty to shun ‘the politics of hoodwink’ and promote issue-based real politics!