I once read a book called “The Tyrants’ Handbook”. It’s message is that tyrants want the people to feel powerless.
Tyrants feel vulnerable when they get a sense that the people have developed an awareness of their own power.
Tyrants that cling to power through bogus elections do outrageous things for the sake of stamping fear in the popular psyche.
Even if they don’t carry out acts of ballot stuffing or other forms of rigging, the tyrants will still arrest opponents, make sure the coercive organs of the state are prominently visible during elections and beat up supporters of rival parties.
As we head into 2016 the opposition can take it for granted that the incumbent regime is not likely to change its behaviour.
The Bank of Uganda will still be used like Museveni’s private ATM, the military and police will serve the role of appendages to the regime and the Electoral Commission will be but a figurehead as state operatives run the elections behind the scenes.
But there is also something called the power of the powerless. The opposition in Uganda should focus on its strengths. The opposition is not as weak and unkempt as it seems.
If the opposition was so weak and utterly in disarray as some people seem to think, Museveni would not be running around scared of losing elections. He would not be seeking to be guest of honour at every little ceremony in the country.
Museveni is running around scared because for once he can smell defeat and he knows that the army will not defend him and keep him in power when he is defeated at the polls. He is desperate for a semblance of legitimacy.
On the other hand the opposition suffer from a crisis of confidence. Every time opposition leaders talk about their electoral prospects they sound like they are reading from the Book of Lamentations.
These lamentations have to stop. We need to construct a new narrative. There are reasons for hope.
The current divisions in the NRM are not minor. For someone like General David Sejusa to denounce the regime and call for its ouster while still in uniform is not something to dismiss.
For a former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya and former Prime Minister and NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi to stand up and call for regime change is not a small matter.
When people like these decide to be part of the unified opposition there will be a conflagration that will set Museveni’s crumbling house on fire.
Museveni knows this and that is why he gave the lion’s share of cabinet appointments to Kigezi in the recent reshuffle. Even dinosaurs like Philemon Mateke came back from Jurassic Park to sit in the front benches.
Competence is no longer in issue. I watched the pathetic performance of Mateke as he struggled to present a ministerial policy statement to parliament. Despite the dismal performance a “heroes’ welcome” was orchestrated for him in his backyard of Kisoro.
Museveni is desperately looking for counterweights to the likes of Amama Mbabazi. When Mbabazi was recently asked why he was so silent his answer was that if his silence is making Museveni panic, why should he speak?
Another fact that exposes Museveni’s weakness are the recent by elections. In Luwero Gilbert Bukenya’s appearance forced the fence sitters to cast their lot with Brenda Nabukenya the joint opposition candidate.
Other NRM heavyweights who were expected to campaign for the NRM candidate read the tides and stayed away.
The battlefield was left for the likes of Mbale NRM strongman Galiwango and the NRM Deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong. Even the Luwero strongman Haji Nadduli did not show his usual enthusiasm.
Busia showed that the opposition can be competitive at the local government level. Previously Bugiri was an untouchable NRM stronghold at the local government level. That the opposition can subject the NRM to serious pressure in Bugiri is a cause for celebrations.
Imagine the NRM candidate losing at the polling station where Secretary General Justine Kasule Lumumba voted! The ground is moving underneath the feet of Museveni and he knows it.
So let’s find ways to combat the sense of despondency in the opposition. Like David facing Goliath, we should affirm our strengths. David had a track record. He had once killed a lion that attacked the sheep he was tending. He was accomplished in using the slingshot. He knew that the secret of victory is to depend on one’s trusted weapons.
That is why he cast aside the heavy sword, shield and armour given to him by King Saul. He also knew that every opponent however formidable has an Achilles Heel.
In the case of Goliath it was his arrogance which made him remove his helmet and charge at David who he saw as a mere boy. This gave David the opportunity to take a good shot at Goliath’s exposed forehead. The end of the story is well known.
There are serious problems we face in the Ugandan political terrain. But a good hunter doesn’t listen to naysayers who speak of the terrors that await him in the jungle. A good preacher doesn’t extol the terrors of the devil. He extols God’s might and the devil’s inevitable demise.
We should also disabuse ourselves of the mindset that in order to defeat Goliath, we must become like Goliath. That is the root of the obsession with army officers as the opposition candidates most likely to defeat Museveni.
We also have to change our messaging. Ugandans should hear us state the obvious that the one thing Museveni has failed to offer our country is a legacy of peaceful change. We are yet to see a peaceful handover of power from one president to another.
If this has not happened even in the NRM which Museveni leads, how naive are we to think that it can happen in the country? We have to state unequivocally that Museveni is not a guarantor of peace.
He is actually a threat to sustainable peace and stability. He must go before he goes down with the country like Gadaffi and Mobutu.
Like most of those known for their long stay in power rather than tangible and enduring achievements, the likes of Joseph Mobutu, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Robert Mugabe, Hosni Mubarak and Mouamar Gadaffi, Museveni has overstayed his welcome.
Museveni was a Minister at the time when I was a primary school pupil.
I am now 48. Museveni is combatting the onset of senility. He struggles to present an image of youthfulness. He does press ups to dupe the unsuspecting public that he still has stamina.
He dabs in rap music to project the image of a man in tune with modern musical trends. But all that cannot beguile Ugandans.
As Bob Marley sang, you can fool some people all of the time and you can fool all the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.
Norbert Mao, the author, is the president of Democratic Party (DP)