“He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be president.”
Those were the words of Walter Lippmann, a political commentator and public opinion leader in the U.S.A. They were directed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who with a quick google search you will find has a very good approval rating unlike James Buchanan, a skilled lawyer and politician who ranks as one of the worst presidents in America history because for example, his failure to take a position on slavery.
Now, I am not the biggest fan of drawing the American comparison but they are a popular polity. But, it is 2021 and if one is to answer the question of whether another requires some sort of experience (readiness) at presidency, it is only fair to consider good international practice. We may be the pearl of Africa but the waters are full of mussels and oysters.
Ugandan history suggests you can attain presidency (and are therefore ready for it) if you are a general who has won an epochal war, a breed or apprentice within the political corridors. It is a perfectly sensible preference for the benighted. Nonetheless, the question that births it is, too, a perfectly sensible one, and yet we have instances where it hasn’t been.
Presidency scholars like Richard Neustadt argue that a president’s prior experience is immensely important. On the other hand, other presidency scholars like Paul Quirk argue that a president’s past experience is not so important, that the lack of this experience need not pose much difficulty for a president; Like any technical skill, which in a sense it is, the necessary expertise can easily be hired.
This leaves us with a puzzle. Or may be not. Voters may choose presidents largely for their policy preferences, party affiliation, or persona. Presidency scholars like David Nice, Dean Keith, David Crockett and an endless list of them have sought to explain presidents’ success in broad terms, they have focused on a variety of causes outside of previous experience. These have included the forces of history, institutions, and personal traits not necessarily linked to prior experience.
Having been a Minister for example does not equal the experience one might get from extensive non-political work. Theperson in question, Kyagulanyi, in his 3 years has probably had more exposure in the mentions than most ministers have in 10 years.
The intuition is that perhaps, to be ready (qualified), you ought to have rubbed elbows with the same system they are trying to get rid of. That the system corrupts and imposes a priority other than their betterment; Then you were perhaps right to say that Kyagulanyi should qualify himself as disqualified. To me, there’s a feeling that the unexceptional voters do not care about the construct called qualification because it has overtime given them more of the same anyway. I watched Nancy Kalembe in a news clip trying to vend this qualification “ideal” to a journalist, must have been English, but most Ugandans aren’t qualified either. Perhaps she does not know who she wanted to lead. Her judgement was poor. Perhaps why the numbers did not go in favour of the ready Nancy, Mao, Muntu or Amuriat, at least for second place.
I allude that we have no way of knowing which experiences benefit presidential performance, or in what ways since quantitative comparisons between a president’s prior experience and his in-office performance consistently find no link. In fact, John Balz’s analysis is that there is no evidence that political experience improves the likelihood of strong presidential performance. What to me is left is the most obvious qualification is judgment; starting with the judgement to hire the right team. (See paragraph 5).
I can tell that judgement is a skill that has eluded our ready leaders: Obote 1 and his judgment on Buganda and traditional institutions, Idi Amin with his military experience poorly judged a lot of things in his area of expertise, Obote 2 and his very learned accomplices made more poor judgment in the 1980 election, Yoweri Tibuhaburwa, a political science graduate has had questionable judgment on constitutional amendments. And these were and are all honorable and experienced men who fought epochal wars, walked political corridals and have the educated experience. Were they ready?
My opinion started with reference to Roosevelt, who lest we forget had been governor. It ends with reference toKyagulanyi, who has been Member of Parliament.
Your question was, whether kyagulanyi ready? Scholarly work and our own experience suggests you can never tell. Amenders of the Ugandan constitution also found it in their wisdom to open the space for presidency to 18 year olds; we have applauded a 24 year old for contesting, and we question the readiness of a 38 year old Member of Parliament? Should one’s readiness even be a question then?
My take: as long as we have an election, there is only one way to find out, as is elsewhere; pick and play.
By @lutaaya_ on twitter