Obote Dominated UPC Because of Charisma
In his reflections on the NRM published in The Weekly Observer of August 14-20, 2008 Amanya Mushega is quoted accusing Obote of dominating UPC (Mushega: Why I am not NRM).
“There was the question of a leader dominating the organisation to the extent that between the party and the individual, you cannot tell the difference”, he says.
“When you personalise something, when you die, it also dies. This has now happened to UPC. It has died with Obote”.While this kind of reasoning could appeal to some half-baked minds, it cannot withstand serious scrutiny. Obote never sought to personalise UPC. Given the level of social development attained by the areas where UPC was, the personalising of issues was inevitable and could not be avoided.
No less an authority than Fredrick Engels had this to say: “At a certain stage, through which all civilised peoples passed, he (mankind) assimilates them (forces of nature) by means [of] personification. It was this urge to personify which created gods everywhere…..” (‘Anti-Duhring’ by F. Engels).
The daily life of a peasant in a village in Uganda cannot be explained to him by way of economic theories or sociology or political science taught at Makerere because of the unlikelihood of him being educated at all. However, the absence of that education does not stop the peasant from attempting to explain his environment as well as finding his way through life and society.
In their attempt to explain and find their way, the simple minds of the peasants tend to project the simple model of interpersonal relations they are accustomed to in their daily life in all social events, processes and structures. They sometimes extend this projection to natural phenomena as well. And in this extension, just as they experience people controlling aspects of their social existence, they also end up supposing that, likewise, there are super ordinate beings beyond their comprehension which control these natural events and processes.
In the absence of any other explanation other than immediate experience, these super ordinate beings take the form of human beings. Its nature is conceived as a process set in motion (creation) and controlled by gods who also control social processes.
And those human beings who demonstrate greater ability to handle social processes and forces such as politics much better than others are also ascribed supernatural powers. This ascription is what the famous German sociologist, Max Weber called charisma.
We may not agree as to whether Obote had exceptional ability or not. What however is important is that his followers believed he did. With that belief they allowed themselves to be led by him. This is an objective fact we cannot dismiss.
Of course educated people like Amanya Mushega and Aggrey Awori do not share the mind-set of the members of UPC who are susceptible to Obote’s charisma. People like Amanya
Mushega and Aggrey Awori, by virtue of their education, are endowed with the necessary knowledge to explain social and political processes.
As we have already seen, UPC needed and does need charismatic leadership. Space does not allow us to delineate the social conditions that spawn a charismatic leader.
I shall however give some examples of political parties which are organized through charisma, beginning with the Indian National Congress.
Mahatma Gandhi, the legendry leader of the Indian National Congress was a charismatic leader. He passed on this quality to Jawaharlal Nehru. From Nehru, the charisma was passed on to his daughter, Indira Gandhi. An attempt was being made to transfer charisma from Indira to her son, Sanjay Gandhi when he died in a plane crash. In a very suave move, Rajiv Gandhi was made Secretary General of the party. While holding that position, charisma was transferred to him. And then when his mother died, he took over the mantle of the party.
With the assassination of Rajiv, Congress had run out of he biological relatives of Nehru. However, Congress did not give up on charisma. They bestowed it on Rajiv’s widow, Italian- born Sonia Gandhi and run her for the last elections in India. We know that congress (I) scored a resounding victory.
And yet the Indian National Congress is not the only party where charisma has been an instrument of political organization.
The same process is being played out in neighbouring Pakistan after the death of its one time leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, where Aggrey Awori could have argued that since Bhutto “personalised” the party, his death was the end of his party, Pakistan Peoples Party. Once charisma has taken root, it can be revived at any other time.
The given examples I believe should be enough to refute Aggrey Awori’s mediocre attempts to run down Milton Obote. It should also explain to Amanya Mushega why Milton Obote seemed to dominate UPC to the point where it was difficult to tell the difference between him and the party.
Yoga Adhola is the former Editor-in-Chief of The People Newspaper and a leading ideologue of the party.
Charisma is a personal attribute. It can be inheritted, but it is never passed down as the estate of the deceased, like Mr Adhola is trying to imply as he talks about the political organisations in pre-industrial Asia, as if to justify the frailties of UPC by asserting that even the Pakistanese and Indians do these things. Those parties in Pakistan and India have been turned into dynasties…that is not to credit them; and it is no cause to emulate their example.
L/Cpl (rtd) Otto Patrick.