HOW TESO HEAVYWEIGHTS GANGED UP ON SERERE NRM’S PHILIP OUCOR
By Mulengera Reporters
The death of Serere County MP Bp Patrick Okabe, who died in a tragic road accident days ago and was buried on Saturday, has created more political problems for NRM leader Philip Oucor who narrowly lost to him in 2021.
Oucor stood as the NRM flag bearer having decisively defeated Bp Okabe during the party primaries. In the general elections, Okabe (the independent) whose victory was subsequently disputed, won with 17,826 votes against Oucor’s 12,631 votes. Martin Onguruco, an independent, was 3rd with 10,513 votes. Others were Emmanuel Eratu (1,035), Joshua Eyaru (945) and NUP‘s Richard Okodel Mukhalu (338).
Adversaries within Serere and beyond immediately began plotting chaos for Oucor as soon as Okabe‘s death was confirmed. The first rumor was that Oucor, who quickly conceded defeat on 15th January 2021 before Okabe‘s win had even been officially proclaimed by the EC, had a hand in the tragic accident. This was calculated to demonize and frighten him to the extent of not attending the burial. Yet staying away was simply not a prudent option for him because such indifference towards the death of a political opponent can politically be costly as the one staying away can easily be misunderstood.
Urged on by opinion leaders and diehard supporters, Oucor turned up for the burial of Okabe who was both his political opponent and neighbor. The speeches leaders ended up making amounted to attempting to stampede him into political concession.
In the presence of VP Jessica Alupo (who carefully avoided controversial statements) and Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, speeches were made emboldening one of Okabe’s children to run for the Seat and become the next MP on the NRM ticket never mind that his late father was an independent running against the party’s candidate, an act that ordinarily is supposed to be sanctioned inside NRM.
First to speak out on this was Elijah Okupa of nearby Kasilo County where he narrowly survived defeat in 2021 (got 6,415 against FDC’s runner up James Emaju who scored 4,572 votes). Okupa (who didn’t score a half of his opponents’ combined tally and now has no party) suggested the deceased Okabe be replaced by his son as a way of consoling the family. His plea was amplified by Minister Peter Ogwang and GCW Hamson Obua. The duo vowed to do all I their power to ensure the son replaces Okabe.
Next was Capt Mike Mukula who acted and spoke with more restraint. He notified Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, who was to speak after him, that Okabe had been independent and not NRM flag bearer. He signaled Oucor to come to the microphone and inform the gathering whether he was prepared to forfeit his flag for the deceased’s son or not.
Oucor emboldened his supporters present when he said he had come for mourning and not for a political rally where such political pronouncements can ideally be made from. Mukula indicated there was need for harmonization before any party leader or Minister would earn the right to proclaim any of the deceased’s sons the next flag bearer for NRM. To his credit, Mukula implied there is no way anyone can force Oucor out of the flag bearer office which has to be his for 5 years.
In NRM, the flag bearer office can only become vacant after 5 years or if the incumbent waives it and voluntarily bows out for someone else. Indeed, in the case of Soroti City East, Jimmy Ekemu the flag bearer for 2021 (polled mere 397 votes) had to be persuaded with money and the URA Assistant Commissioner Job which he currently holds. Poor as he was, Gen Museveni had to eat a humble pie to persuade Ekemu to forfeit his flag bearer office for Herbert Edmund Ariko Okworo, the ANT-leaning independent who in the 2021 general elections had finished 2nd (with 7,167 votes) against eventual winner Moses Attan Okia‘s 7,606.
Tayebwa, who initially didn’t know that Oucor had been the flag bearer having all along considered or perceived Okabe to be the NRM flag bearer because he was friendly to the ruling party, spoke cautiously after a candid Mukula made him realize the truth. He nevertheless registered his wish to have the deceased replaced by his son though social media users have since been contradicting all that while wondering if the same Ubuntu (decency) would have applied if the fallen incumbent had been opposition (and not NRM-friendly independent).
Oucor’s supporters have since taken to social media to accuse the NRM party of anti-democratic tendencies while targeting their anger at especially leaders who have so far come out to demand Okabe being succeeded by his own son.
Such social media users have accused Ogwang and Obua of misconstruing situations which are clearly different. Careful not to antagonize Serere residents, majority of whom are thought to be sympathetic to the deceased’s son, NRM Secretary General Richard Todwong on Tuesday evening was interviewed by NBS TV and he implied it would comply with established practice if Okabe was replaced by his own son.
The social media users, who are pro-Oucor, have since contradicted this by arguing that the examples of Usuk, Jacob Oulanyah‘s Omoro County and Rehema Watongola‘s Kamuli Municipality which the SG Todwong made reference to involved dead incumbents who were NRM flag bearers which isn’t the case with Serere County’s Patrick Okabe who was an independent Member of Parliament.
Whereas for the case of Soroti City East it was easy to get Jimmy Ekemu forfeit his flag bearer office because he was financially struggling and without a job having emerged from a very bruising political defeat, it’s most likely going to be totally different in the case of Serere County whose incumbent flag bearer Philip Oucor is wealthy and gainfully employed at one of Kampala’s top beverage making companies. He also doesn’t have godfathers through whom Gen Museveni can soften him very easily. He is a self-made politician with a lot of political support on the ground.
He also has a vast PR and celebrity musicians’ network in Kampala (largely because of the strategic position he holds at the corporate company where he works) all combining to imply he will exactly not be very easy to cow out of the race. In saying no to those wanting the flag given to the deceased’s son, Oucor’s supporters have a lot of contempt towards Teso leaders wanting to frustrate their man on grounds that such leaders are merely scared of being eventually overshadowed by the charisma and great mobilization credentials that Oucor carries with himself.
And to his credit, being the seasoned political strategist he is, Capt Mike Mukula has demonstrably opted for persuasion as opposed to coercion as the only way to overcome Philip Oucor who many party supporters have vowed to rally behind during the impending by-elections with or without the NRM flag. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at email@example.com).