By David Martin Aliker
In 1996, at the climax of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) conflict, a young ambitious lawyer who had previously been elected President of the then prestigious Makerere University Students Guild Norbert Mao competed against Former Minister Hon. Betty Bigombe.
Norbert Mao recognized that Hon. Betty Bigombe who had the backing of the state had more resources than him and stood a better chance to win in the MP Gulu Municipality elections.
So he designed a strategy coded: “Tuki Iya, Pe Ituki Wiya.” literally meaning you may play around with my stomach but not my mind in making a decision in this election.
This were times when electorates listened to ideas and Hon. Betty Bigombe lost the election despite governments heavy campaign funding and involvement to influence outcomes of the elections.
A few days ago, students of Gulu University based in the same Gulu Municipality started their campaigns to elect its Students Guild President.
One of its contestants launched his campaign with a porridge contest and all competitors required, was to turn up with a big bowel for porridge.
In his opinion, this is a strategy to unite students of Gulu University and of course feed their empty bellies.
Electorates are currently trying to make sense of this strategy hence this blog post.This has generated a lot of online debate on the strategic nature of his proposition.
As a student, porridge was a preserve for the poor students or low cost colleges as others enjoyed coffee and tea.
It was also offensive for your mind to be referred to as full of porridge for not getting right a simple question.
In any case, the philosophy of porridge is that it may be cool on top but really hot inside. Could this be the real identity of the candidate? Only time will tell.
However, if my experience in the last unsuccessful Gulu Mayoral election is anything to go by; then this is a potentially winning strategy.
We live in unique times where ideas are not necessarily important to win elections but identity with the poorest electorates.
Politically, this is a strategy that immediately gets your message across and introduces you instantly to the electorates.
The candidate is speaking the language of his electorates and there is a possibility that majority of electorates whose lives relate to the porridge philosophy will identify with it.
This could be those from humble backgrounds (read poor) who could be the majority poor students vote.
It’s politically correct to identify with the poor electorates who normally determine the winners of the election since their turn up and commitment is guaranteed.
But step back and get to think it of it; what does this strategy say of the University as a fountain of the intelligentsia of our community? Are ideas still important at our University elections?
In the most likely event that this candidate wins the election, would the public contend that our university students voted for porridge? Is porridge (food) the only thing that unites our University students?
This are not questions that deserves answers but reflections. In most cities, their university is their identity. For instance, University of Minnesota, University of Toronto, University of Nairobi, University of Cape Town. What identity do we want?
This election is not just about the University’s identity but also about the identity of the post war new city-Gulu just like its name Gulu University.
In view of the fact that Hon. Norbert Mao later became a distinguished local and national leader and President of the Democratic Party (a contender of the presidency of the country); the university therefore is where our leaders are natured.
The type of local leaders we will have is exactly what we have produced while at the University.
The author is a blogger based in Gulu and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org