OBOTE & CHARISMA


Yoga Adhola

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.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Reply by
Lt.Otto Patrick
That conceptual muddle by an individual who is touted as a ‘leading UPC ideologue’ clearly symptomatises the extent to which that party is ideologically barren.
Let me confine myself just to the concepts that Mr Adhola flippantly deploys in that article:
PERSONALISATION VS PERSONIFICATION:
Dr Obote (and other leaders in Uganda) have been accused of personalising organisations.  Mr Adhola, almost from nowhere, slides to the concept of personification in Marxist literature.  By quoting Engels, he commits the logical fallacy of ‘appeal to authority’, just like some one who wants to demonstate that he understands the word ‘gravity’, whatever context of its use, by reciting Newtonian physics.  Personalisation refers FIRST to the failure to institutionalise an organisation…failing to make it autonomous (from the Obote family in UPC case or M7 in case of NRM); SECONDLY, the failure to develop coherent procedures and systems and THIRDLY, failure make the organisation adaptable to new generations, new challenges, new functions etc.  The real test of the level of institutionalisation of an organisation is whether it can outlive the name of the founder….UPC, INC of India, and the party in Pakistan that has been passed on to the apolitical son of Benazir are typical examples of poorly institutionalised outfits.
On the other hand, the ‘personification’ Engels was referring to is man’s attempt to interpret his surroundings by dressing up every object, process and phenomenon with human characteristics, and even going ahead to give them names and gender…rocks, mountains, big trees, droughts…due to a low level of scientific know-how and ability to abstract phillosophically. The naming of hurricanes is a typical case of personification. Personification is a term that we use to classify approaches to perception, interpretation and formation of ideas/myths etc. Nothing to do with management style!
CHARISMA VS RABBLE ROUSING
Mr Adhola misses the point on that also.  Charisma has nothing to do with exciting, whipping up mobs, stirring up and provoking crowds (Everybody, UPC; ah, ah, UPC!…and then going through the alphabet of districts: Apac, Arua..etc end of speech!).  Infact what Yoga belabours in his article is Mr Obote’s capacity to excite ordinary  folks…populism, cheap popularism and demagoguery that may have nothing to do with principles/ideology.  Charisma refers to compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires unwavering devotion, to the point of making people risk their lives for your purposes/cause etc…we did not see alot of that in Obote’s leadership/followership!
Mw Nyerere was charismatic, but he did not hand CCM the Wazanaki, or to the Kambarage family, so was Churchill, whose charisma did not affect the continuity of the Tory party.  Mandela is charismatic, but he did not pass the ANC on to members of his family, who by the way are also charismatic in their own right.  It is one thing to be personalistic and another thing to be charismatic.

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.



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Comments

2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Yoga Adhola,

    Corporal Otto,

    You wrote:

    “That conceptual muddle by an individual who is touted as a ‘leading UPC ideologue’ clearly symptomatises the extent to which that party is ideologically barren.”

    I find this remark very insulting to me personally and to my party. I thought we engage in dialogue with a view to educating ourselves on the situation in Uganda, and not to demean others. That said, I don’t normally engage in insulting communication, but when I am provoked I have the capacity to answer in kind. And in response to you, I am going to do so.
    _____________________________

    You wrote:

    “……..and the party in Pakistan that has been passed on to the apolitical son of Benazir are typical examples of poorly institutionalised outfits.”

    Let me educate you a little. In the first place it seems you don’t even know the name the People’s Progressive Party. In the second place it would benefit you to learn that Benezir’s father was called Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was a very illustrious leader of the PPP and Prime Minister of Pakistani. It is the charisma around Zulfikar which was transferred to Benezir.

    Secondly, when you talk of “poorly institutionalised outfits.” You remind me of FDC who talk a lot about institutions. In your case ask yourself you also talk of institutions but have no idea how they come about. May be it will drop from heaven like manna in the bible.
    ____________________________________

    You wrote:

    “The real test of the level of institutionalisation of an organisation is whether it can outlive the name of the founder….UPC, INC of India, and the party in Pakistan that has been passed on to the……”

    _________________________________________

    You also wrote:

    “Charisma refers to compelling attractiveness or charm that inspires unwavering devotion, to the point of making people risk their lives for your purposes/cause etc…we did not see alot of that in Obote’s leadership/followership!”

    I am beginning to learn how Uganda is gifted with geniuses. First it was President Museveni who placed himself in the category of people like Karl Marx. He one time even talked of making contributions to learning like the great thinkers. Now it is Corporal Otto who is finding that the definition of charisma given by Max Weber needs urgent upgrading. I tell you, you must be a great genius if you can find a man like Max Weber unable to define charisma. I don’t know if you know that it was Max Weber who coined the concept charisma. Just in case you missed it, you may wish to learn from a degenerate UPC like me that the concept charisma was coined by Max Weber and this is the definition he gave to the concept. Please take serious note of the last sentence.

    By charisma Max Weber meant “a certain quality of an individual by virtue of
    which he or she is set part from the ordinary and treated as endowed with
    supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or
    qualities.These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are
    regarded as of divine origin or exemplary, and on the basis of them the
    individual concerned is treated as a leader. It is often thought of as resting on magical powers. How the quality in
    question would ultimately be judged from ethical, aesthetic, or other such
    point of view is naturally entirely indifferent for purposes of definition.
    What is important alone is how the individual is actually regarded by those
    subject to charismatic authority, by his followers.”

    _______________________________________________

    You also wrote:

    “Mr Adhola misses the point on that also. Charisma has nothing to do with exciting, whipping up mobs, stirring up and provoking crowds (Everybody, UPC; ah, ah, UPC!…and then going through the alphabet of districts: Apac, Arua..etc end of speech!).”

    This statement reminds of an article, “Ignorant Elites,” Okello Oculi wrote in the East Africa Journal in the 60s. It is one thing for Patrick Otto to learn all these fine theories ( and even that I am not sure of how much he knows), it is another to communicate to the barely literate population of Uganda. For those of us in Uganda who are not as well-educated as Patrick Otto we need mediums of communication we can RELATE with. It is here where dance and music may be the medium by which you may communicate with us. We are unable to comprehend the erudite lectures that Patrick Otto may deliver to the internet discussion fora (forums). And this is where songs like Obote’s “eh ehe mama” appeals to us and Otto lectures make no sense to us. I really mean they make no sense to us the illiterate masses of Uganda.

    If I may be presumptuous as to pretend to educate Patrick Otto, let me say one thing: DEVISE APPROPRIATE MEANS OF REACHING US THE UNEDUCATED IN UGANDA.

    _________________________________________

    You wrote:
    “………..clearly symptomatises the extent to which that party is ideologically barren.”

    Museveni and the NRMs introduced some ridiculous conception of the word ideology. To them it means some kind of science very much like Physics or Chemistry which you have to progressively learn. They came to this absurd definition when studying at the University of Dar es salaam. The University of Dar es salaam was teeming with some sort of left-wing ideas. these ideas normally came out of certain course being taught at the University. It is these left wing ideas which were mistaken to be ideology. Yes, it was ideology; but the problem is that it was thought to be the only ideology. The reality is left-wing ideas are not the only ideology out there. they maybe very attractive and may be even rigorously articulated and organised but they are not the only ideology. Please Mr Otto before you use words like ideology for purposes of demeaning people, just make sure you know the meaning of the word you are using. Don’t get carried away with aping Museveni. He is an intellectual mediocrite. Obote used to correctly call him a charlatan. Mr Otto you are also a charlatan.

    _________________________________________________

    You wrote:

    “The naming of hurricanes is a typical case of personification. Personification is a term that we use to classify approaches to perception, interpretation and formation of ideas/myths etc. Nothing to do with management style! ”

    Mr Otto, you and I live in different worlds. Sometimes this called being in different leagues. When Engels talked of personification he was not talking about Americans giving names to hurricanes. In any case the giving of names to hurricanes is a very recent thing. It was not there in the days og Engels. I am talking in anthropological terms. I am referring to the personification that can be found for instance in Greek mythology. You could also find the same thing in ancient Buganda where you had for example Kibuka being the god of war; Kiwanuka god of lightining; Muwanga, the creater of the universe etc.

  2. chirley,

    There was nothing charismatic about Obote.

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