OMORO: Until his father’s demise, little or nothing was known about Andrew Ojok’s political ambitions in his native home district of Omoro or around the country. The 32-year-old had spent most of his career working as an Information and Technology professional at the National Information Technology Authority -Uganda (NITA-U) and other organizations.
A few days after the demise of former Omoro County Legislator and Speaker of Parliament Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah, his clan from Puranga Chiefdom quickly declared his eldest son as his replacement in Parliament. Oulanyah 56, succumbed to cancer on March 20 at the University of Washington Medical Center Hospital in Seattle, United States of America (USA).
During Oulanyah’s burial on April 8, 2022, at his ancestral home village in Ayom lony in Lalogi Sub-county, his eldest brother, Joseph Emuna reaffirmed the family position to front the deceased son unchallenged. Emuna told thousands of mourners in attendance that they wanted Ojok to continue with the legacy of his father and asked those interested in the race not to challenge him.
“Jacob has his first son Ojok Andrew. Ojok is a very educated person we would want the government and the people of Omoro who believe in NRM and otherwise to know that we are fronting Ojok to take the legacy of his father. We want Ojok to stand in the by-election of Omoro, we want your full support,” said Emuna.
A week later, the Premier of Puranga Chiefdom, Francis Mawa reiterated the same message during a clan meeting in Acet Trading Center in Odek Sub-county where he told five other aspirants who had expressed interest in the by-election to step down.
“The deceased family came out last time clearly that they are fronting Oulanyah’s son to finish what his father had started, he was offered to the people of Puranga and we all know this,” he said. This forced one of the aspirants, George Aligech Lapir from the National Resistance Movement (NRM)Party to step down in favour of Ojok.
Ojok would later declare his interest in the Omoro County Parliamentary race publicly before his clan elders, local leaders and residents of Odek Sub-county. Although five other aspirants from the NRM party had expressed interest in the race, Ojok got the favour of the President, who is also the Party Chairman, after he endorsed him as the flag bearer in the Omoro by-election.
Francis Rwotlonyo, the Omoro LC V Chairperson, Douglas Peter Okello, Andrew Olal, the District Council Speaker, Richard Bongowat Luganya and Ben Acellam, Oulanyah’s former political aide also stepped down for Ojok.
In fact, during an interview with URN, Ojok confirmed that it wasn’t his interest to join politics if it were not for the calls of his people.
“…I want to tell you that it wasn’t my interest but the interest of the people who saw the work my father started has to be finished. I’m focusing on four areas; unity, working together, development, and reconciliation. If we work together, we can bring development home, if anyone else enters this, they may disorganize because I’m the one who can wipe the tears of Omoro people…,” he said.
Whereas his family and the NRM party believe Ojok is the right choice for the job and would achieve what his father had in plan for Omoro, political pundits in the region think otherwise.
Arthur Owor, the Director of the African Center for Research in Gulu City, said that evidence has shown that not all young people who join leadership after great political giants have fitted in their shoes. He says rather than playing sympathy, questions need to be asked on the effectiveness of the youth in leadership.
Owor says Ojok has a huge task ahead of him on whether he will deliver and match the standard of his father, adding that he should brace himself for the uphill assignment.
Another researcher at Gulu University, who asked not to be mentioned in order to speak freely, says the Politics of patronage is killing the future of Uganda’s leadership.
He says that although Ojok, is capable of standing in elective politics, his relatives or the NRM party, shouldn’t force other contestants to step down in his favour on account of carrying his father’s legacy.
“This is not politics of democracy, it’s a family politics, it’s a politics of rewards where a particular group of individuals is deemed fit to occupy offices. I don’t buy the notion that he (Ojok) can perform as his father did,” he said.
Prof. Ogenga Latigo, the former Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Agago North County legislator, say the politics of succession in the country is not new, adding that sadly no lesson has been drawn from it. He however says people should not doubt Ojok since he possesses the requisite academic requirements to become a member of Parliament.
But Ojok defended himself in an interview with URN, saying that he isn’t a newcomer in leadership as alleged since he had early preparation by his father.
He also noted that whereas he might not necessarily replicate his father’s approach to getting work done, he will ensure that the output of his leadership remains the same.
Ojok maintains that he brings servant leadership to the people of Omoro and would be a bridge for unity that will help to ease lobbying from donors and the government.
Facing off with opposition
Nearly a week after the NRM endorsed Ojok as their flag bearer, only two opposition political parties, have responded and announced their candidates for the race.
The Forum for Democratic Change over the weekend endorsed 52-year-old Dick Denis Owani, a former contender in the 2016 Omoro County Parliamentary election.
This was followed by the National Unity Platform (NUP), which unveiled Simon Toolit Akecha, a former member of the FDC party as their flag bearer. Akecha isn’t a new name in Omoro and the politics of Acholi.
In fact, in the 2016 Parliamentary election, Akecha came close to defeating Oulanyah while contesting on the FDC party ticket after garnering 9,088 votes against Oulanyah’s 11,044 votes. The election results were disputed by Akecha who dragged both the Electoral Commission and Oulanyah to court before withdrawing the case.
The unveiling of the two candidates from the two top opposition political camps in Omoro County is expected to change the smooth ground Ojok seemingly started enjoying.
Some analysts believe Ojok is up against two tough contenders who will be backed by some of the toughest political figures like NUP’s party president Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi and FDC’s Patrick Amuriat and Dr. Kizza Besigye, all former Presidential contestants.
Prof. Latigo however thinks differently.
He says the opposition shouldn’t expect any victory alleging that the NRM party will use money that the opposition doesn’t have or even employ other means if money doesn’t work to win.
Owor on the other hand notes that Ojok has a higher chance of winning the by-election compared to the opposition being a son of the deceased former speaker and a member of NRM which has the resources and structure.
He says although NUP’s flag bearer, Akecha had been a strong political figure in the past in Omoro District, he has been out of the Political limelight for a long and lost the relevance.
On Wednesday, the Democratic Party Secretary-General Gerald Siranda sent out an expression of interest to its party members interested to vie for the Omoro County parliamentary seat to apply.
Nomination for candidates is scheduled for May 12 and 13 at Omoro District Council hall with the election set for May 26 according to the Electoral Commission election road map. The display of the voter’s register commenced on Monday, April 25 and will end on May 4.