By Ogenga Latigo, MP Agago North
Before I joined Parliament I absolutely opposed in a published article the idea of setting some minimum academic standards for Parliamentary reporters that saw the likes of Agnes Nanduttu debarred from Parliament. First, because there is absolutely no legal basis of doing so. Second because I knew that like “the camel and the Arab” one thing would lead to the other. I also warned against Parliament picking any fight with the media because it would always lose. I knew that it was important to caution and warn Parliament then not because I was merely some envious former MP then but because I knew it was right and important to do so. And I know it is so know.
I was not in Parliament on Thursday because I was on my way to bury Prof Ociti. Late that night I saw some posts by members but as I wrote my response my battery gave in. Let me recollect some of it.
My firm view is that the media is not the problem. The problem is that Parliament itself is the problem. In its present state it subconsciously perceives a problem that it does not want exposed. In this anxiety the body Parliament is most apprehensive about is the media. In that apprehension we now want the media to do our bidding. Sorry folks in this we are fighting a non-enemy and picking a wrong fight that we will always lose.
AMBROS EALA: Having been in the 7th and 8th Parliaments, I find myself new in the 10th but with a full hindsight from the two Parliaments I served and held responsibilities in. I am yet to appreciate what we the 10th Parliament perceive as our historical mission and the demands fated on us by being members of the 10th Parliament.
We may not like it but we are the best paid and best facilitated Parliament in the country’s history. But what is our benchmark response to it?
(1) What are the key businesses we have transacted to date? (2) How many foreign trips have we made to date?
(3) Which of our Committees have started business on time and enjoyed full complement of members attending?
(4) How many orientation meetings have we held and what attendance levels have we been registering?
(5) How many members have been hopping from one workshop, signing for allowances and flying off to another?
(6) How many of us have introspected on how much value for money we are delivering as MPs?
(7) And how many other questions have we asked of ourselves before turning our guns on the media?
Even with the huge complement of technical staff now:
(i) How much improved are the organization of Committee businesses?
(ii) How many of you receive early enough Committee notices or briefs before meetings even with the IT facilitation?
(iii) Which Committee did not receive suggestions for trips for “benchmarking” from staff even before we settled down?
(iv) Which Committee has consistently received prompt responses from staff to its directive without reminders or even cajoling? (v) Why is it that up to now we just even don’t have our official Parliament ID? (v) And how many of us are bothered by the quality and performance of our technical staff?
I could go on and on but do some of us not feel like we as a Parliament are being unfair to the country and its people given the sacrifice the country has made to facilitate our work? Is this fight with the media not partly a manifestation of our subconscious guilt?
Shouldn’t we first remove the huge log in our eyes before we remove the speck in the eyes of the media?
It is fortunate that I am a member of the Rules Committee. I will certainly raise this matter at the earliest opportunity. Nevertheless let me assure members: on the media the path we have taken is wrong and we are breaching our sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. We must deflate our over-inflated ego as a Parliament. Otherwise, with the enormous responsibilities we hold in this time in the life of our country, history will judge us most harshly and the electorate will slaughter us at the next election.
After my article on his motion, Hon Kafeero taught me a great Baganda saying that “When it is dark it is only the eyes of the elders that see”. In this matter of the media, let us heed that Baganda wisdom.
Prof Ogenga Latigo is the former Leader of Opposition in Parliament.