SOROTI: The National Resistance Movement-NRM party has decided to drop Jimmy Ekemu and identify another candidate for the Soroti East Constituency by-elections.
Ekemu hoisted the NRM flag in the 2021 polls and came fourth in the race that attracted six candidates. When the Court of Appeal declared the Soroti East MP vacant, Ekemu was among the first former candidates to express interest.
“I am the NRM flag bearer and I am going to be on the ballot,” Ekemu said. He argued that the ruling presented an opportunity for him to go back to the people and push his agenda. Article 41(1) of the NRM Constitution states that the term of office of elected members of all organs of NRM shall be five years unless terminated earlier, and the incumbent members shall be eligible for re-election.
Subsection (2) of the same Article lists seven grounds for the termination of the services of any person elected or appointed to an organ of the NRM. Among the grounds include abuse of office, a conviction for an offense carrying a sentence of more than nine months, incompetence, and misconduct.
But the party members and top leaders seem to be taking another direction ahead of the July 18 by-elections. On Wednesday, the NRM top officials from Kampala, including the Vice-Chairperson for Eastern Uganda, Mike Mukula; the party Secretary-General, Richard Todwong; and Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Tanga Odoi, camped in Soroti to meet delegates from Soroti City East on the choice of their candidate.
The NRM bigwigs were in the company of Herbert Edmund Ariko, the former Soroti East parliamentary candidate. Ariko was given a heroic welcome by the party members who appeared to have prepared for the occasion. At Jeressar High School, the venue for the meeting, the officials asked the delegates to nominate people fit for the position of the party flag bearer.
The majority of the delegates zeroed in on Ariko, while a few others backed the former Soroti LC V Chairperson, George Michael Egunyu. The other aspirants stepped down in favour of Ariko. After hearing from the delegates, Todwong said that the final decision on the candidate would be communicated later in Kampala.
I have seen and heard from you. “Ariko has more than 80 percent support, but we shall communicate after further discussions on this matter,” he said during the meeting. Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, Captain Mike Mukula, the NRM Vice-Chairperson for Eastern Uganda, said that the decision to source for another flag bearer follows the performance of the 2021 candidate, who fell far below the expected mark.
When asked about the NRM Constitution, Mukula said that they would speak to Ekemu before making a final decision.
Herbert Omoding, one of the aspirants, said that the process that led to the election of Ariko was unfair and predetermined by the top party leaders.
Ekemu didn’t appear at the meeting. Sarah Inachu, who ran as an independent candidate in the Soroti City East race, stepped down in favour of Ariko. Inachu, the only woman in the race, came in third. NRM is preparing to face off with FDC’s Moses Attan Okia, who was thrown out of Parliament following a petition by Ariko.
The latter ran to court over the alteration of boundaries, which the court ruled disenfranchised more than 500 voters in Aloet and Opiyai wards. Ariko represented Soroti Municipality in the 10th Parliament under the FDC ticket before partying ways to join the Alliance for National Transformation-ANT.
He, however, abandoned ANT and decided to contest as an independent candidate in 2021. When he lost to Attan, Ariko ran to the NRM and was declared and welcomed by Mukula in Kampala. He is currently working with the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among.