Would you vote for me if I gave you money?

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Does money really buy a vote? Or: would you vote for a candidate you had no intention to vote for because he gave you money? That’s a question I found myself asking myself this morning in the bathroom. The news that the NRM pumped an estimated 600 billion of public money into their 2011 campaigns is still haunting me; it dangles like a pendulum bob – in and out of my mind. I am not going to go into the macro-economics of this brazen economic assault. All I will say about it is that I told a buddy, last November, that Ugandans will have brace themselves for the shock economic after-effects of shillings gone wild.

So to the question: Would you vote for me because I gave you money? Apparently that’s what happened this February. Okay to be objective, some of the voters who got this money were probably genuine NRM voters. Same goes to FDC voters; word is they dished out money too but details are scantier compared to their arch nemesis, NRM. So money was cake-icing for them. Right? In a moment of mental lapse, the minister who survived death in her, rolled over 4 x 4 would say that all the money went to genuine NRM voters for instance; or the guy who lost the money to hooker in the lodge. When common sense makes a comeback to the NRM candidates, they would say the money was for funding campaign expense and not bribing voters. My ass! In a small country like this, the expense should be a trickle of the figures we got wind of. So we firmly agree then that money influenced a large section of the vote as the Common Wealth observer team pointed out.

Now what makes a Ugandan vote for money? Figuratively about 70% of Ugandans don’t understand clearly what the Government’s responsibility towards them as citizenry is. Supposedly that they do understand, it is for academic purposes only.  People power is an amusing illusion to them, and it is manifested by the spectacle of elections. Much of this electorate is the rural folk, who’ve stratified into a unique social class. They are your and my relatives; your uncle, cousin and village buddies. These folks live lives where they don’t see the positive role of government in their lives for more than 99% of every presidential/parliamentary term: no paracetamol in dispensaries; no cash flows;  no engineered water; estimated education; no electricity; and yes no tax-collectors these days … that too. Many crimes like voodoo related deaths, or sexual abuse of minors, even go unreported and are instead resolved locally. That’s the life of rural folk people; year-in year-out. There role of government is almost entirely absent. So election time hits our villages into life. The miracle of government suddenly appears in the remotest village paths and the smell of fresh bank notes hits the pure rural air. Ask BoU’s Mutebile if in doubt. Then the trade in values and sense, for cash begins. I have had the chance to witness one such spectacle; there used to be this semi-illiterate renowned cigarette smuggler in Tororo, whose campaigns boys would dish out cash, then he says habari yenyu and the convoy speeds off. He won.  His opponent was an old doc who wanted to hang up his stethoscope.

Does this mean the greatly handicapped opposition has no chance to scoop a chunk of this electorate? Does it mean that a man or woman, born free, would trade his convictions because of 5,000 shillings without a breaking a sweat? This is about what defines a person in the walk of his or her life. Am I for instance, writing from my swivel chair, so detached from the hopeless reality of rural life so as to question the merits of switching a vote for money? The answer lies with all of us: the handicapped politician and the rural voter. The handicapped politician should make the rural folk his parliament for 99% of his presidential/parliamentary term. Tell rural folk about what they deserve. Tell them government responsibility is not a privilege unto them and reassure them that eating a briber’s money is okay as long as you don’t trade in your values. There will always be such money.

As I end, on a lighter note, the rivers of money kept his Evilness Kakooza Mutale out of the scene this time round. Certainly many lives were saved by his absence 🙂


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