Bukenya: I turned down Museveni’s deal to keep me as VP
President Museveni asked Gilbert Bukenya to quit the 2011 race for the NRM Secretary General slot or lose his position as vice president.
Prof Bukenya reveals this in his new book titled “In the Corridors to Power” which Sunday Monitor has a pre-release copy.
The former vice president on Tuesday shocked the ruling NRM party establishment when he climbed the podium and campaigned for Opposition DP candidate Brenda Nabukenya in the Luweero Woman MP by-election instead of rooting for his party’s candidate Rebecca Nalwanga. The opposition candidate won the seat by a landslide.
This is the second book in which the former vice president is documenting his political journey. The first, titled Through the Intricate Corridors to Power was published in 2008 by Fountain Publishers and largely dwelt on his humble beginnings as a peasant child and skirted around the political controversies understandably because he was still a member of the executive.
In his latest book, Prof Bukenya comes off less inhibited and makes some startling revelations about his interactions with his boss, President Museveni.
The big decision
One incident he dwells on is the events in 2009 which he describes as “perhaps the most formative” one for his political life at the vice presidency.
He says, that year, he made a decision to run for the slot of Secretary General of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party that many scoffed at or at the very least, were puzzled by.
Prof Bukenya says at one time, he felt stuck as vice president because the office of the vice presidency is to a large extent a ceremonial one and as months and years went on, he found himself increasingly limited to roles that were of less value and useless to the nation.
Prof Bukenya says for the previous six years, he had tried to involve himself in activities that were of value to the poor but the vice presidency office had limited him to do so and therefore, he hoped by clinching the post of Secretary General, he would be able to reach out to the poor and help uplift their standards of living.
But this revealed a side of his party that he had never known.
He tells of an incident at the peak of his secretary generalship campaigns when one of his friends, whom he identified as Madvani, called him and advised him to think twice before he offered himself for that post because he (Mr Bukenya) was “an outsider” whom they would use and dump at anytime.
“Gil, you are an outsider to the NRM. They will use you but will never accept you. This thing of Secretary General, you will never get it and they will do whatever it takes to fail you. Don’t you see your friends, Sam Njuba and Wapakhabulo? When time comes, they will knock you down”, Prof Bukenya quotes Madvani telling him in one of the meetings.
Prof Bukenya reveals how President Museveni summoned a meeting to ring fence the post of Secretary General at State House that had attracted three party heavyweights that had joined the race.
The three were Mr Bukenya, then Security Minister Amama Mbabazi and then Trade Minister Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire. Mr Bukenya says the President was not pleased by his declaration to take on his then blue-eyed boy.
“In June 2010, the President called me in for a meeting. I had already formally told him of my plans to contest. The moment I walked into his office, I could see that he was not happy with me. He scanned my face with a somber expression before asking, ‘Why are you scrambling for this small job as Secretary General while you are vice president?’ I was caught up over which response to give to him. I wanted to participate more actively in consolidating the party in rural areas, and I wanted the party to be a participatory organ for change. I then asked him if that was not what he wanted to see happen. He looked absent minded,” Prof Bukenya writes.
He continued: “I took a deep breath and said to him “I can do away with the ceremonial position of Vice President, Sir.” He locked eyes with me instantly. I could see that he was shocked by my statement. He merely looked at me, neither supporting nor dismissing my wish. Just silence. I was puzzled because I had prepared myself to hear him say at the very least “Do not vie for that position”.