How COVID-19 has exposed Museveni’s application of Robert Green’s 48 Laws of Power

(Last Updated On: 12 May 2020)

By Odaka Asuman

In the recent past, I have heard many people liken President Yoweri Museveni to a supernatural being. 

The deputy speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah once likened him to a “Jesus”, Mr. Sewava, an ardent NRM activist recently told the country of his dream about Museveni being G (g)od, there is even a religion started in the name of Mr. Museveni as their prophet and yellow is their uniform.

Even President Museveni himself once referred to himself as an assistant G(g)od. 

From my Muslim concept of knowing God (Allah), this always irritated me but also interested me to want to understand why his admirers want to elevate him to the level he is obviously not. 

The COVID-19 quarantine that volunteered to some extra time and necessitated his frequent appearance on media gave me an opportunity to keenly watch and listen to him talk, carefully correlate his words and body language to how he exercises both the hard and soft power at his disposal. 

It then downed on me that Mr. Museveni is a very ordinary human being who is only a good practitioner of social psychology, an admirer of Robert Green in light of his book The 48 laws of power and a practical Machiavellian himself. This, applied in combination or interchangeably, becomes very sophisticated for an ordinary mind to comprehend how a human being would be so smart to outwit and outperform his opponents almost all the time. 

Mr. Museveni has selectively and systematically, but deliberately, tested to himself and proved to all who cared to observe his total grip on power in Uganda using among other things “INCONVINIENCES even in inconveniencing times like the one we live in. 

He has mastered the right time to strike at his friends and the opportune moment to use his former foes.

On his own terms and convenience, Museveni has set and made known infrastructural bases of his power (Reward, Coercion, Legitimate, Referent and Information) with the degree of compliance only determined by a measure known to him alone. This has made him retain the power of hidden actions which is also known to him alone.

This can only be associated with a good mastery of various theories of power like that in Nicollo Machiavelli’s The Prince, Robert Green’s 48 laws of Power, Gen. Sunzi’s Art of War, the protocol of the Zionist elders of Israel among others

For the purpose of having this article short, I will restrict it to Robert Green’s 48 Laws of Power, where I will only pick a few of the ‘laws’ he suggests and demonstrate them with how Mr. Museveni has applied them during the Covid-19 times before including the current fight with parliament and, specifically, Rt Hon. Rebbecca Kadaga, to help us understand how and why certain things happen the way they do in our political infrastructure and the games president Museveni has played to hold onto power, to the extent that now some people are worshipping the son of Kaguta.

I also hope it may help contextualise the ‘good dog’ behaviour of some of our selfishly calculative politicians who spend their times reading the lips of he who pays the Piper.

Greene’s first law: Never outshine your master which I purposely call ‘the art of sycophancy’ i.e. here Mr. Green counsels you to always try to make your bosses feel superior and perhaps more intelligent than they actually maybe. He further adds that one may need to show his or her talents, but carefully, not to steal the boss’ show and make him feel insecure.

This is where I always think that Sekandi is the most successful vice President to Mr. Museveni

Compare for example Prof Gilbert Bukenya and Edward Ssekandi as Museveni’s vice Presidents. Didn’t Bukenya just go too far in showing his abilities, ambitions and visions, for example with his Upland Rice initiatives and showing how he could even be Museveni himself – by perfecting mimicry. What about sending his son in the same military school as his boss’s son to do the same course? Okay, what was Gilbert Bukenya trying to prove to his boss?

Sekandi drew a fundamental lesson from this, he learnt how to act ambitionless. Even sent to represent Mr. Museveni, Ssekandi sticks to the written speech without adding even a coma. This is because he knows that in a kraal, there can only be one bull at a time! 

According to Law 2, Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies. It’s good to keep your historical ‘allies’, but continually court new converts because these will tend (or try) to be more loyal because they have more to prove. Beti Kamya, Henry Mayega, Eric Sakwa, Atim Anywar aka Maama mabira, etc are the perfect illustration of this as of now.

Properly put to use, they will get stuck in there, for it’s hard to win back credibility outside where you have caged them.

Law 39 instructs the power seeker to Stir up waters to catch fish. Make your enemies/ opponents (current or potential) to fight within themselves as you stay calm and cast your net; the vanquished (or both) will run to you. 

Nearly all political parties in this country are in fights, many times engineered and sponsored by Mr. Museveni. Even potentially imaginary opponents like Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga’s led institution has fallen into this net on mere suspicion that Kadaga might be consolidating parliament with aspirations to use the members and their structures as her primary power centre for her presidential ambitions in the next elections. 

I have watched with pity and amusement how some MPs who had previously postured as closest to Kadaga rushing to return the money on orders of Mr. Museveni, contravening the speaker’s orders. In this way the power seeker fishes from the troubled waters. 

Law 3: Conceal your plans. People shouldn’t be able to read your intentions, lest they plan for counteraction.

Dr. Robert Green advises that you must reveal your intentions piecemeal. After their disagreement in 2005 over the issue of term limits, the late Eriya Kategeya while on Radio One’s Spectrum, told a story about his childhood friend that revealed President Museveni’s mastery of this law when they were only in Primary Five.

The young Museveni whose nationality his friends didn’t think was Ugandan, surprised Kategeya by telling him that he will be president.

In a very demeaning tone and attitude, the young Kategeya asked the young Museveni “…to be president, of which country…? According to Mr. Kategeya, Museveni reportedly replied to Kategeya he would be president of any country. 

Although his friends didn’t take him seriously, this was also a piecemeal declaration of ambitions on which your enemies could hardly prepare against.

Mr Museveni also Kept them guessing about term limits until it was removed; kept us all relaxed about age limit until it was struck out; he is now keeping everyone guessing about life presidency until he most likely dies in power.

People have always realised his true intentions when it’s too late to prepare a fight with him.

According to Law 4, in the exercise of Power, one should always try to guard his/her reputation while placing others’ in positions where theirs will come out damaged. Let them be exposed to the public and be rebuked while you sit aside and watch as the good one or saviour. 

The picture here can best be demonstrated by the current 10bn MPs cash Bonanza. 

Whereas the biggest portion of the cash was taken by state house and the president’s office, more so under classified expenditures during the times when Ugandans are already dying for luck of food since they are not working, the government is quietly forcing companies, factories and big businesses to donate,  Mr. Museveni’s handlers have successfully turned what would ordinarily be squarely  Museveni’s cross for his intransigence and insensitivity against Kadaga and his MPs for the peanuts they helped themselves with compared to what is being taken to state house.

The essence here is that When in wrong, blame another for having caused it or misled you.

We may need to also remember the scandals in what came to be called Danze, Handshake, Bujagali, Bassajjabalaba, Bank of Uganda etc. 

And, as stated by Law 26 whatever bad or dirty idea to push forward, delegate an Anite, a James Kakooza, Simeo Nsubuga, Magyezi Raphael, Kale Kayihura, Amaama Mbabazi etc. Let them take the blame and public anger not you.

Because you avoid accumulating much dirt around you, though. And at an appropriate moment, dump the used fellows unceremoniously to avoid excess buggage but also, importantly, so they don’t get too familiar to think that they are indispensable. After all they will get no public sympathy on being dumped, anyway.

Mindfully so, Law 12 advises that you use selective honesty and generosity. Publicly appear to be truthful and caring (give some posho and beans, abuse the LDU that they are pigs for beating Ugandans etc.)  then your huge supplementary budget can be covered by these few actions. In line with that, you must remember Law 6 which commands you to gather as much credit as possible

This is to say never miss any opportunity for being seen to be more caring and hardworking. For example tell the LDU to flog citizens but can later come back to stop them abuse them and arrest some, parade them for a few days and reintegrate them into the system to continue your command, donate 1.4 million shillings after all you have billions in unclassified expenditures, go where women are killed and take notes from residents, take photos carrying matooke on a bicycle from your water bottle-irrigated farm, launch whatever you can attend, appear to make the most important decisions, even in dockets of others.

According to Law 7, you must present collective achievements as yours (I did A or B) because appearances matter a lot

With regard to Law 11; make people dependent on you almost entirely. Construct a system to make it seem almost impossible to imagine life without you. Be the strategic leader in everything, the only visionary, the Ssabalwanyi of all seasons, the provider of scholarships, pledges, donations, the champion of all sorts, the undefeated etc.

Never teach anyone enough so that they can do or imagine life without you. You even have no business mentoring any possible replacement to you.

Neither should you risk any internal competition to be compared to others; be a sole candidate. 

Together with this, remember Law 17 which commands you to create a mystery around yourself. You need friends, but for only strategic reasons. Do you remember statements as “I don’t have any friends, am not anyone’s worker…,” Although Law 14 counsels you to always pose as a friend but work as a spy.

Infiltrate your enemies to know what they are planning so that you can plan ahead of them. Use moles/spies to learn about your adversaries’ weaknesses and use the information to your advantage.

As you do all the above, Law 20 demands that in the long run, you commit to no one but to yourself. This way, you can control others and play them against themselves.

Law 25 cautions that you always remember to re-create yourself. Always go for that identity that commands attention. Don’t bore the audience, ensure a dramatic public appearance. Use proverbs and metaphors that carry away people with humour (Sabalwanyi, lubengo, bean weevil, cotter pin, etc.)

Law 31 tells you to control the options. Let there appear to be room for free choices when there is actually little or none.  For example, you must organize a campaign leading to an election which only you and your party must emerge as the winner.

You must also always control the alternatives as well through creating pseudo opposition parties, deceptive presidential competitors to legitimise your planned win. 

You must also operate an autocracy within a democratic framework; a hybrid regime. Organise elections, but do the counting.

You don’t always have to promise only what you can do. Law 32 calls upon you to tap into people’s fantasies because many times people want to have hope and to hear nice things. So, feed them on “…we shall give you food, Entandikwa, Bonna bagaggawale, middle-income status, electric car manufacturing etc.

To these, remember Law 46: Make it appear like you are just helping them. Have you heard statements like “I have what to do but we have to help our people, it’s just a patriotic duty to be president, we are just sacrificing for the sake of Africa etc?”

With this, who doubts if Uganda is not being ruled by Robert Green reincarnate?

The writer is an aspiring MP, Tororo Municipality (next elections)

WhatsApp: +256753195384 Email.

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