OPINION: John Nasasira: A Politician Who Fixed Roads & Built Churches, But Did He Win Hearts?
After 27 years as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Kazo County, Kiruhura District and one of the longest serving ministers in the Ugandan cabinet, Hon. John M Nasasira finally retired from active politics.
His exit from cabinet has generated less public debate as result of the seeds that he sowed during his active service. He was media shy and those who know his subtle ways of operation will testify that he prefers working far away from public scrutiny. He’s so far the longest serving minister of the highly resourced Ministry of Works (1996 to 2011); a docket punctuated with mass corruption allegations.
His immediate predecessor, Hon. Byandala is facing charges before the anti-corruption court. And Byandala’s replacement Hon. Byabagambi with hardly two years in the ministry has now been transferred to the Karamoja docket and today, we have a new minister designate to take up what has become a poisoned chalice. Friends and foes alike credit him for making a good case to increase funding for national infrastructure. As a result, the budget was astronomically increased and he presided over the creation of institutions like Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and the Uganda Roads Fund.
The northern by-pass and other critical roads were constructed under his reign. In Kazo, his predecessor Hon. Bafaaki Gordon must be coming to terms with challenges of replacing a man whose shoes are bigger and its only time that can tell on how fast and well he fits. The discussion about the political life of Nasasira is relevant given his credentials as a long time close confidant of President Yoweri Museveni. And why he chose to retire at a time when his boss has just embarked on a fresh new term with some of the other long serving ministers like Foreign Affairs minister Hon Sam K Kutesa. Publically he has hinted on poor health as his immediate influencer for this early political exit but various commenters think this could ably explain the exit at the constituency level but not at the national level. So the question is whether this is a Museveni strategy or a Nasasira strategy. Conclusions may be speculative since getting the truth from the hearts of these two men could be harder. On the national scene, Nasasira was a power broker. A minister with real power. An NRM historical and often speculated to become the prime minister or a possible replacement for his boss.
He was in a category power and he looked every inch befitting such characterization. Legacy back home Back in the constituency, Nasasira was Kazo and Kazo was Nasasira. His aura could be felt even in the smallest convergence points of power. He towed above petty tribal and religious qualms, fixed public infrastructure by opening up feeder roads, contributed immensely towards construction of both public and private schools, Churches, Mosques et..al. He kept close cabal of loyalists who nearly worshipped him. He often hosted constituency loyalists at his country home in Tangiriza. And the Kampala group (Like he fondly refers to People of Kazo living in Kampala) he often met them both at his home and occasionally at Kabira Country Club. These gatherings were a vote of thanks to the status quo with permanent faces and unchanging resolutions. By the time he exited the Kazo seat, a tarmac road, clean water and electricity had reached the seat of the constituency’s headquarters in Kazo. This fulfilled his manifesto promises and armed his loyalists with postcards to prove how ‘their man had delivered” Behind this shinning legacy, ugly faces of a myriad of failures continued to haunt him at each electoral turn. His opponents accused him of leap service and sometimes alleging that he used national plans of general government extension of infrastructure like Rural electrification and construction of roads to hoodwink the unsuspecting public that these were his own initiatives as the MP.
The opponents accused him failure to fix the quality of public education standards with an example of his own former primary school. He was able to pass and qualify for admission at Ntare School during his time in 1970s’, but now the school’s standard is glaringly wanting. Today, Kazo hardly has a functioning health center with an operating theatre and most caesarian operations are still carried out in the neighboring constituency of Ibanda as it was 27 years before his reign. They accused him of creating a special group in the constituency seen by how often he visited or attended their functions and helped out either by monetary contribution to family projects or helping in access of government jobs /commissions while others were left to fend for themselves. In tracing his legacy, he is a man so calculative in his political actions. He fixed the hardware of Kazo to a larger extend but failed on the software which was to win the hearts of the majority elite youth who felt he could have done more given his national political profile.
As he retired, Kazo exited from the nation scene, you hardly have a person of his stature in any influential national position be it in politics or permanent secretary nor head of a government authority, a fact that tastes as a bitter pill on the lips of many for his failure to mentor and position a number of young politicians who supported his long hold on the Kazo seat, even at times offering to challenge him. He focused on remaining the “big boy” or the only bull as illustrated by the New Vision cartoonist after the 1996 parliamentary elections when he went through unopposed in the constituency and this has had inadvertent consequence of failure to give an opportunity for others to emerge. Politically, Kazo finds itself in the same spot 27 years back. A spot to build a new personality or persons with high credentials in a party they support overwhelmingly and in a country where it lost most of its sons during the liberation struggle.
This reminds even the emerging leaders to care about creating an all-inclusive strategic platform that will curb the mistake of building strong individuals. When they exit, it requires rebuilding all over again. On what will be his retirement contribution to redeem what he considers positive criticism to his service only time can tell. So how will Kazo history remember Eng. Nasasira? History will be kind to him. He will be remembered as the people’s MP, who demystified and made the office of a member of parliament friendly.
He will be remembered as the MP who was more comfortable meeting Kazo people in their villages than in the leafy suburbs of Kampala. He will be remembered as the first MP of Kazo with a towering intellectual pose and who brought the constituency to the national grid. He will be remembered for his down-to-earth attitude and charming traits. He will be remembered for refusing openly to get connected to the power and tribal Kazo grids. And he will be remembered for his diligence, decency and rectitude.
Agaba Ronald Bills is youth mentor.