The afternoon is tense with dust and a crowd of people starts to swell in the least affluent Tongilo business area of Arua, from a distant mosque the singsong call to prayer shoots through the buzzing town, some youth are lined up on one of the streets, chewing khat and indulging in drunkenness and on another a group of meretricious boda-boda riders hoot incessantly ahead of 30 or so women most of them draped in kitenges emerging from one of the streets chanting ‘Abiriga oyee’ and ‘NRM oyee’ slogans over and over again.
Ibrahim Abiriga it is understood plans to run for the Arua municipality member of parliament seat come 2016, the year many local pundits predict Arua will properly evaluate its politicians and librate the performers and non-performers and when that time of reckoning comes, be sure to find the controversial Abiriga’s name on the ballots.
Maj. retired Abiriga is a man who is known widely for his frankness than his exploits with the gun, after having been appointed the Resident District Commissioner of Arua by President Museveni in 2008, the die-hard NRM supporter is no stranger to contravery, in his tenure at the helm of government business in Arua he clashed, allegedly assaulted and even had many political nemesis arrested for reasons as scrimpy as challenging him at a radio talk show.
Not much is known about Abiriga’s past but I understand the then Capt. Abiriga was a member of the defunct West Nile Bank Front rebel outfit that terrorized the west Nile region in the 1990’s. After hanging up his gun he was quickly absolved and integrated into the UPDF at the rank of the captain, His love for the ruling NRM didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be, he rose through the ranks to become the notorious RDC that many know today. He has a knack for following orders just like any soldier would be and his love for courting controversy is an open invitation for scrutiny; anybody would at one point love to assess the performance of their leaders, wouldn’t you?
According to Groucho Marx, politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies, whereas the former is a superlative befitting Abiriga, the latter is an exaggeration considering that he is a man who delivers and hardly minces his words.
Corruption is everywhere, and fighting this vice needs not anti-corruption laws and institution but rather honest leaders with the attitude and conduct befitting of a leader of people. For many times in his tenure Abiriga demonstrated that he has a knack for identifying and uprooting the evil vice. In 2012 Abiriga openly castigated the police CID of Arua for failing to investigate and arrest the then D.E.O Nicolas Tembo on mismanagement of UPE funds for a local school. Quite frankly it takes a fella with ‘balls’ to taunt a corrupt government official.
Many critics contend that Abiriga’s albatross is his frankness and no nonsense attitude, his rebuttal of the religious leaders about restoration of term limits did as much harm to his reputation as there could be, He cleverly cited the bible and the Qur'an as books that don’t have any mention of presidential term limits and wondered why the religious leaders hold a lot of power and reign supreme over their followers. Enter Atiku Bernard the popular and much loved Member of parliament for Ayivu county, Details had emerged that Gen Salim Saleh intended to grab land in Barifa Forest, The former quickly organized his constituents and a demonstration was in the offing, however the police did quite a job quelling it, Although the actions and the comments that followed were un desirable, Abiriga demonstrated what few politicians can do, talk big and walk the talk, anyway the rest is history.
Abiriga is widely viewed to the less privileged members of the population as a man of the people, often politicians ignore the masses when elected into office, Democracy is an expensive venture because all the time a politician or a party spends a reasonable amount of time and resources trying to demonize their opponents with a view of selling themselves as the most competent, this strains the politicians and they out of utter frustration shun their electorate only to appear when the polls are near, in other wards in democratic Africa voters are exploited based on their ignorance and poverty, Whether Abiriga will be like them remains to be seen but I think in his tenure he’ll attract a lot of support from the ruling NRM government to Arua, He should be able to identify opportunities for the youth and the elderly.
Many a politician in this era will coin a language, for lack of a better word we will call it lies, they will make it sound truthful, in this political language they’ll say anything that will get them to parliament, some will promise dams and others will tell tales of how they will build hospitals and schools as if it is a mean feat, the few wealthy will have medical clinics organized to treat the sickly citizen’s only to fall back to their luxurious apartments in Kampala, considering his distaste for vanity atleast a lot of it, Abiriga will tell you what he’ll do and that’s it.
The middle class is on the rise in Arua, the social class is widening thanks to the entrepreneurial opportunities in the nearby DRC and Sudan, This will be Abiriga’s Achilles heel because he is known to find fault with the technocrats and educated folk, he will find a lot of resistance in his bid to become the next member of parliament for Arua Municipality, Sometimes for a community to develop the elite must re-examine their conscience and understand and accept the uniqueness of everybody and circumstances prevailing, this will pave way for positive criticism and upsurge of developmental ideas.
God luck Maj. Retired Ibrahim Abiriga, in case you choose to represent Arua Municipality in 2016 be sure you have my one vote.