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By Denis Oguzu Lee 

Dear Hon. MPs elect, Heartily greetings and congratulations to you upon your re (entry) into the 11th parliament. It is a great pleasure having you on board as we strive to render responsive legislative service to our dear nation and to our constituents as mandated by the constitution.

After a careful evaluation of the performance of the various offices of the Deputy Speakers including the 10th parliament in which I was a member, following wider consultations with different stakeholders, building on the legacies great past leaders, I am contacting you today about an urgent need to collectively reform the office of Deputy Speaker in which many Ugandans have shown lots of disdain.

As we ready to swear-in to deliberate on critical issues in pursuit of our county’s progress, may I take this opportunity to seek your most honorable support and vote to deputize the Speaker of the 11th parliament.  My resolve to bring to the 11th parliament a new jig, a wave of freshness, vibrancy, collective refocus of our nation’s development agenda through responsible legislation irrespective of political or social affiliation among others is firm and unshakable.

Comrades, if you can allow me introduce myself, I am the Shadow Minister Science, Innovation & ICT, a member of the steering committee of African Parliamentary Network on illicit Financial Flows, a World Health Organization recognised Health Innovator, the MP Elect, Maracha Constituency; Founder, West Nile Rural Development Agency; Initiator, Maracha Academic Excellence Award and former Speaker, Makerere Arua Students’ Union, a position which propelled me to successfully challenge my then Constituency MP. Besides, I am also a student of law.

In 2016, with support of voters like you, we removed agents of socio-economic stagnation in Maracha.  And today an equivalent call to action is before us and it is the reason I am reaching out to you.

Honorable colleagues, many of us may not have been in this House or even limelight for long, but we have been around long enough to know what has become of the office of Deputy Speaker in the past several years. This office needs urgent reforms! It is one of those offices which failed to execute its mandate to a degree of impartiality unacceptable to Ugandans.

It is an office Ugandans will never forget for their state of indebtedness which now stands at Ugx. 1.5m per person. It is an office which put to question on several occasions Uganda’s democratic standing. It is one of those offices which has failed the president (H.E must beg resources for critical government projects). It is that office which has not led the fight against corruption. It is that office which has kept Ugandans poor and failed to modernize agriculture.

It is an office to be remembered only for fights rather than advance parliament’s oversight role. It is the office which has ignored equity and welfare of MPs.  It is that same office which has turned parliament into a rubber stamp by not allowing rigorous debate and in-depth scrutiny of issues. For instance, the NDP III, a tool for our collective posterity literally got passed without debate despite many areas being left out.

That office has turned parliament into a clearing house for many last-minute yet uncalled-for-borrowing demands and supplementary budgets. It is that very office which if not timely restrained, now has the potential danger of becoming a conduit for dealers for execution of all sorts of dubious deals and an office for persecuting divergent views and gagging honest aspirations of the Ugandan people. That is the office i seek to reform with your support so that sanity can prevail in Uganda and trust of the people of this great nation can be restored in the institution of parliament.

I know as many of you do, that this will be no easy ride. The enemies of progress will ask for our law degrees and where we come from. They will question our numbers and affiliations. Several colleagues will question our ability to deliver. Others will dismiss it as ‘fishing expedition’ but let us find courage and hope in the dismissal of President Museveni then and astute words of Martin Luther that, “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.”

Nelson Mandela too reminds us that, “it will always seem impossible until it is done.” We may not have a godfather in this. The Bible in 1 Samuel 2:8-9 assures us that in a moment like this,  “He will raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ash heap and seat them with princes and have them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of His faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails.”

Brethren, we have a God Father! As a believer, my faith is further strengthened by the word of the Lord in 2 Chronicles 20:15.  He Said, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Colleagues, under estimation is not new. It happened to Moses during the liberation of Israelites. It too happened when we began the journey for change in Maracha. The naysayers who sought to forever keep us hostage brought to the fore excuses of our experience, age and party affiliation to water-down our resolve. To further derail our effort and break our back, our enemies sought to advance fear but we deflated them flat.

I am very sure those who seek a parliament torn apart along partisan lines and riddled by controversy will seek to dismiss us as ambitious or even as comedians. In their maneuver to discredit our candidature, they will label us young and inexperienced. Even our own party could label us defiant.  The ‘mafias’ will stop at nothing!

They will seek to remind the majority, the NRM MPs in the 11th parliament of their numerical strength and the need to always toe-party-lines every-time a critical decision of this nature arises. Such stereotyping, harmful propaganda and ploys will not be new. It is a language and ploy of the selfish to deny opportunities to the most deserving. It is the language often used to hold the majority back and voiceless by those who seek a bleak future.

That is the ploy Hon. MPs of the 11th parliament must reject as did the people of Maracha when they braved all sorts of maneuvers to throw-out a State Minister and an Ambassador to cast their votes for me, an FDC parliamentary candidate and NRM’s presidential candidate.

Toeing party-lines blindly too is a prompt I ignored to stand with the President Museveni on the GMO law which had sought to colonise our more than 2000 years old seed inheritance system; to stand with Bobi Wine against OTT Tax; to campaign for Jacob O’ulanya to become NRM’s National Vice Chairman Northern Uganda and for Mr. Saka Wilfred, an ANT candidate to emerge the LCV Chairman of Terego District.

Blind allegiance to party positions is a ploy every honorable member of this 11th parliament should reject if the dream of an independent and pro-people parliament as quest-for-by Ugandans is to be reached. For I know patriotism is never about standing with an individual or any other party. It is about standing for Uganda first at all times.

Comrades, that is the choice before us! The choice is whether we want more of the same or reforms. As we deliberate on who to put in that office, let us not forget that Ugandans today are not looking for extremists nor the most loyal of the party cadres to polarize the debates. They are not looking for the most controversial of the personalities capable of raising the heaviest of storms in parliament or even in local dailies.

They are not even in the search for the richest of the candidates. Not even are they searching for those who have been in this House the longest; for they know being in parliament is like being in an African marriage—its success is not measured by the length-of-time spent in it but rather the productivity of the couples.

Ugandans thirst for someone with charisma and good sense of humor to blend well with the Speaker to steer debates without taking sides unreasonably. Ordinary Ugandans long for a Deputy Speaker who can see and hear rather than gag their aspirations.

The youth who bear-the-brunt of poverty and are the majority jobless long for a Deputy Speaker who can restore their hope. The president wants a speaker who will not unnecessarily derail his vision. Opposition parties want a speaker who can bridge the growing gap among them.

As we ponder on who suites most, let us not ignore the plight of women who have long shouldered our family burdens and now desperately deserve a rescuer to share part of their burden through an enabling legislation. As we strive for admiration and exaltation in our parties, let us not forget the long-ignored farmers of this country who have long waited for a helper to fix the hurdles in the agricultural value chain.

As we examine our options, entrepreneurs would like to see all major bottlenecks to enterprise development and growth removed at the earliest opportunity. While we debate who among us is best suited to take this seat, rural folks seek relief from imprisonment of poverty and so do urban dwellers who have long braved the deplorable conditions of the slams.

Shaping debates and presiding over a House that can honestly provide lasting solutions to aspirations of Ugandans of different walks-of-life is what my candidature is about. It is about helping the many helpless Ugandans help themselves through legislation anchored on respect, consensus, fairness and impartiality.  I feel I am the best bridge over which both government and the opposition can cross with less friction.

In so doing, I pledge to be a catalyst of development not an impediment. I seek to be an agent of job creation not wiper of investment.  I promise to be partner of the voiceless majority and loudly few.  If voted in, leveraging on my strong ICT background, I believe independent, low-cost and transparent parliament powered by technology are some of the things waiting to happen.

To the youth who form the bulk of the 11th parliament, my candidature is a litmus test on your resolve to stand for the generational cause of the youth irrespective of your party affiliations. My candidature not only presents you with the huge privilege of being part and parcel of our country’s development planning and execution processes but also the unique opportunity to influence decisions in a manner that guarantees future for the next generation.

To sum up, allow me thank my colleagues who are in the race for their invaluable service to our nation and remind them that this election is not about reaching self-actualization mark or even to settling old scores or repositioning for privileges. It is about helping Ugandans help themselves.

Through inclusion, there is no doubt we will help the people of Uganda help themselves, help the president cement his legacy and help the various shades of opinion thrive in this transitional parliament. I sincerely invite you to enjoin me in this mission.

For God and My Country! Oguzu Lee Denis, MP Elect, Maracha Constituency and Aspirant, Deputy Speaker

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