If Rebecca Kadaga loses the contest of the speakership of the 11th Parliament, she will have dug herself into a political hole from which she might not climb.
As President Museveni prepares to meet the two antagonists at State House today, analysts reckon that Kadaga has more to lose than Jacob Oulanyah, her deputy turned rival.
Should the president insist that the Kamuli Woman MP steps down for Oulanyah in respect of the 2016 Central Executive Committee ‘gentleman’s agreement’ it will pose a serious headache to Kadaga who has been a mainstay on Uganda’s political scene since she was elected to NRC in 1989.
Kadaga has already thrown everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, in her attempt to remain speaker.
Over the last one month, an unofficial count by The Nile Post shows that she has re-affirmed her intention to remain speaker at least 57 times in various forums.
Writing in Sunday Vision, government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo noted that Kadaga had literally put NRM on gunpoint to have her endorsed as speaker.
“Kadaga is literally standing on the doorway with a grenade in her hand demanding that NRM opens the door for her to enter,” he wrote.
By officially launching her bid for the speakership, analysts said she was trying to pull the rug from under Museveni’s feet, who sources said, has contemplated appointing her vice president.
“She is indirectly telling the president that I don’t want to be vice president. I want to be speaker,” said a political analyst.
Constitutionally, the vice presidency is the second highest ranking position in the country’s political hierarchy.
But in reality it is an empty shell whose holder relies on the mercy and goodwill of the president.
The president can drop a vice president at his time and choosing.
Secondly, unlike the office of the speaker which guarantees the holder a hefty budget, the vice president has no separate budget vote.
It is precisely because of this, sources said, that Kadaga is not interested in the position.
Kadaga has watched her predecessor, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi occupy the post for the last ten years, without any telling impact.
‘Museveni is NRM and vice-server is true’
Yet with all things said and done, power in the NRM resides in one person: President Museveni.
So ultimately is President Museveni who is going to decide who NRM will front as speaker even if he will do so ‘under the cover of CEC.’
If the president endorses Kadaga, she will be home and dry.
If he chooses Oulanyah, it will most likely be game over for Kadaga, whatever protestations could arise.
While Kadaga has previously stood up to Museveni on some issues, the president has always got his way on the really important matters where he can’t compromise.
Two instances illustrate this.
In late 2012, when some MPs were mobilising to have another sitting in relation to the controversial death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda, Museveni told a meeting of MPs at Rwakitura that such a sitting can only happen over “my dead body.” The sitting did not take place.
The second instance was the 2017 chaotic debate on the removal of the presidential age-limit, where security operatives raided Parliament and beat up the House, in clear view of Kadaga.
Kadaga, studiously guided the debate including suspending some oppositions MPs who were questioning her modus operandi. In the end, she granted Museveni his wish.
Yet Museveni can still let the two heavyweights tussle it out but control the contest from behind the curtains.
In this case, sources said, Museveni can employ the carrot and stick method to ensure that his preferred candidate sails though.
He will personally call the star-struck MPs, promise them ministerial appointments or he will use threats against some of them.
Either way, Museveni would win.
‘What if…Kadaga loses?’
Kadaga has been in the top leadership of Parliament for 20 years now, half of which she served as deputy speaker to Ssekandi.
Should she win the race, she will become the longest serving speaker in Uganda’s post-independence history.
Yet should she lose the speakership race and is not appointed vice president, it will be a bitter climbdown for someone who has gotten used to comforts and privileges that come with the power.
Those close to Kadaga say she is not someone who would easily adjust to a back bencher role.
In Uganda’s post 1995 Constitution history, only two speakers have occupied ‘lesser positions’ after leaving the office.
Having served as speaker for two years (1996-1998), the late James Wapakhabulo was convinced by Museveni to leave the role and become the National Political Commissar (NPC) of the Movement system.
He did, grudgingly.
His successor Francis Ayume, too, was tapped for the position of Attorney General, having served as speaker for three years (1998-2001).
Suffice to say that Wapakhabulo and Ayume, who died two months apart in 2004, grumbled privately to friends and journalists that they were not happy about the changes. In fact Ayume withdrew to golf.
Therefore as Kadaga prepares for the speakership race, her options are limited. She either wins or Oulanyah loses. No third option.