On Wednesday 1st April, I woke up to the good news of change in Nigeria. This was peaceful change. Change by the ballot. Change that saw an incumbent president defeated at the polls. This type of change had never happened in Nigeria, so I can understand why they were euphoric!
That kind of change is yet to happen in my own motherland Uganda. All we know, for the fifty plus years that we have been an independent nation, is change of power through the barrel of a gun – until the current government came into power in 1986. Since then, for nearly thirty years now, we have known only one regime, for though we have regular elections every five years, we are yet to experience a peaceful handover of power from one regime to the next. We had an opportunity once, in the 1995 Constitution, where we had included a two term limit on the presidency. But the Parliament removed that article in 2005, to enable the incumbent run for as many times as he wants.
And now, another Constitutional reform process is at hand, and we hear of machinations to remove the age limit for the presidency – again aimed at enabling the incumbent to rule as long as he wants.
My greatest wish, even as I celebrate with the Nigerians, is that one day, in my lifetime, I will experience a peaceful handover of power from one regime to the next through a ballot. I think we have shed enough blood for power. We can’t go down that route again. But we can’t go forward either, if one person keeps changing the rules for his benefit, in order to cling to power as long as he wants to. One day, change has to happen. It’s an inevitable part of life. But we need to be deliberate to make that change happen in the right way.
We keep avoiding that mountain in Uganda, but the only way to climb a mountain is to climb the mountain. We will never know peaceful change if we don’t give peaceful change a chance.