We are getting media reports that this time round in the forthcoming election cycle, there are probably going to be more Members of Parliament voted to the House on independent tickets than those coming straight on party tickets.
To exemplify this rather awkward development, it is also being reported that there are four prominent figures of the NRM party and who happen to be current Ministers that have offered to contest as independents.
Now, may be we need to first make a distinction between two types of independents in the sense of our current political dispensation.
There are those contestants who have chosen not to be directly aligned to any political party. These have chosen to contest as independents and they never participated in any party primaries or party vetting of any sort. These are mostly new comers in the political contest.
They argue that they don’t want to divide the voters based on the differences in party ideologies – whatever that means!
In reality, these are the “Johnnies” who came late and just want to take advantage of the squabbles within the political parties so they are positioning themselves as the “saviors” to the gullible voters.
The other group of independents is composed of those disgruntled individuals who participated fully in their party primaries or voluntarily subjected themselves to their party vetting process of choosing a party flag bearer but in the end they never got the endorsement of being the party’s flag bearer.
In case of the NRM, this category of the candidates that have chosen to contest as independents are people who after going through the party primaries and lost, they petitioned the Party Election Dispute Tribunal.
After conducting a hearing, the Tribunal pronounced itself on whom the Tribunal assessed as the eventual rightful winner based on the evidence that was adduced before it by the petitioner and the one petitioned against.
Although, the Elections Disputes Tribunal was meant to be the final appellant and its decision final, for purposes of executing justice and fairness, many petitions that had been decided on by the Tribunal were forwarded to CEC, the top most organ of the party for further review.
Such cases mainly included those where Ministers and high profile members of the party were involved.
The party’s CEC considered these petitions and the rulings of the tribunal individually. In most cases, many of these petitions, CEC upheld the findings and rulings of the tribunal, thus maintaining that these ministers weren’t the winners and that the party flag goes to the rightful winner in the primaries.
So it becomes not only interesting but also ironical too to see that the very party cadres who should have been exemplary in upholding party ideals and guidance, instead they are the ones that have chosen to be defiant and decided to contest as independents.
There are probably a few things that one can conclude from this behaviour.
Firstly, we can infer that may be these cadres no longer have confidence in the party leadership and the party institutions to be able to dispense justice and fairness to its members.
Secondly, it can also be inferred that may be that over time, there are party members who have come to believe that they are too important in the party to fall. These might be of the feeling that it is the party that needs them more than they need the party!
Thirdly, it might as well be a case of just outright impunity and big headedness coupled with the attitude of entitlement!
Whichever the motivation for these cadres going against the party position and opting not to rally behind the party’s chosen official flag bearer for the sole purpose of maintaining party cohesion, ensuring party victory and minimising squabbles within the party, one can only describe it as sad.
Since the phenomena of independents is now becoming an acceptable reality, one wonders as to whether it is still attainable to describe or prescribe some members of the party as “rebels/nakiwagi” as what characterised the 8th, 9th and 10th Parliament when a few of the party members were sanctioned and expelled from the party.
The case was only settled in the Supreme Court which eventually insulated the so called rebel MPs from expulsion from the party.
Given the aforementioned, we shall have to wonder as at what stage does one become a rebel or described as rebellious to the party ideals and therefore when do sanctions of the party start to come into play!?
Could it be that by allowing its members who participated in the primaries and lost to contest as independents, the NRM party leadership is accepting that the party has now become inept and that it has no sanctions to apply to such members or simply the leadership is agreeing to the fact that there are members in the party that are indispensable and cannot be reprimanded even when they defy the party ideals and position?!
I can’t imagine what the scenario will be in the next round of election probably in 2026 when most NRM intending contestants decide enmasse’ to contest in the general elections as independents.
I hope that by trying to be accommodative and serve every interest, the party is not digging its own grave where people will only be confessing being NRM faithful only in words but not in its ideals.
Most raffling to many candidates is the realisation that even after subjecting oneself to the challenging and resource consuming party primaries, there is no comfort at all in emerging as the flag bearer. Many flag bearers are ending up facing the very people that they contested with in the primaries.
The question is then; do these party primaries really matter anymore? Should anyone ever bother to subject oneself to these primaries that actually yield no ultimate winner?
In order not to be seen as setting a precedent and also not to be seen as if the party is loosing it’s grip and wit, I hope that the issue of the independents that participated in the primaries and were not lucky to be preferred by the voters will be given considerable attention in order to help our party remain cohesive, strong and vibrant.
The author is a member of NRM and former MP