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THE LOST ONES: This is a long piece because the subject is Nabilah Naggayi Ssempala, the Kampala woman MP, arguably one of the most cunning female politician I have known.

After the 2011 election, I went to interview Nabilah (I have decided, on second reference, to use the legislator's first name because of its common usage locally) at her home in Buziga, a Kampala suburb for the affluent.
After one term in parliament (2006-2011), Nabilah's political career had appeared to be on the wane. She had had run-ins with her party leadership (including Dr Kizza Besigye and some opposition leaders in Kampala).
Yet she had just handily defeated NRM's Margaret Zziwa in Kampala and she was basking in glory. What was her magic?
With a pen and a notebook, I listened to her for over two hours, while making myself comfortable in one of the leather seats that dotted her expansive living room (I also took some of the best cocktail juice at her place).
But in short, she told me she had won because of working closely with people at the grassroots especially women and youths and starting small income generating projects for them.
Still something did not add up. And I did not want to urinate on her parade (may be until today).
I first met Nabilah in 2005 at UMA conference hall at the height of the referendum campaign to change political systems (I think the EC had organized a consultative meeting with parties participating in the referendum).
She was a district councillor in Wakiso but was already a leader of a party, SDP, which like the NRM, was agitating for a change to multiparty democracy.
She was seated next to Muhammad Nsereko, the Kampala Central MP (I have known Nsereko since 1989 in primary school. He is one of the craftiest and dodgiest people I know).
She was quite persuasive in her political arguments then and it appeared that the sky would be the limit for her, politically speaking.
The next I heard from Nabilah was 2006, when she stood in Kampala this time on an FDC ticket.
I still believe Nabilah was elected largely because of the ekisumuluzo (FDC wave) that engulfed parts of the city and also because of her stunning beauty (Mpadde eli emboko eyambbade gomesi eyabulu-several men confessed that they could not remember Nabilah's name).
To cut her some slack, Nabilah hit the ground running and within a couple of months, she had become a new political force to reckon with in parliament.
In committee meetings, she was always unrelenting in her questioning. Her star was rising in parliament.
Towards the end of her first term, she started to lose it.
On the floor of parliament, Erias Lukwago, then Kampala central MP, alleged that Nabilah and other MPs had been bribed by Hassan Basajjabalaba, to write a favorable report, exonerating the businessman of any wrong doing in his ownership of key city markets.
She denied and vehemently attacked Lukwago, with whom she bitterly fell out.
Later as the army of her critics kept growing, Nabilah surrounded herself with a brigade of goons, basically hardcore criminals who would not hesitate to beat up whoever attacked their boss (the victims included FDC officials, journalists and fellow politicians).
She also started paying some prominent "radio callers" (in case you are confused by the term, this refers to people who phone into radio talk shows) to shore up her image.
Nabilah's brigade wreaked havoc in Kampala during the 2011 elections, which she won.
After her victory, Nabilah started playing a dangerous political game.
Figuratively speaking, she was "sleeping" with the NRM while insisting that she was "married" albeit unhappily to FDC.
She became an opportunist of the highest order. Here is how.
At first Nabilah was critical of the Besigye-led walk to work protests and said they could not change government (here I agreed with her).
Yet when she realized that to chair one of the influential accountability committees in parliament you needed Besigye's blessings, she unquestionably embraced the protests and made a show of it (one time after a protest, she wrapped herself up in bandages claiming she had been badly beaten).
Besigye turned down her overtures and she went into attack mode again.
Before long, the 2016 elections were knocking at the door and a number of prominent female opposition politicians had expressed interest in the Kampala woman seat.
Some analysts billed the election as the biggest test to Nabilah's political career.
Shrewd and cunny, Nabilah somehow figured out how to play this.
She decided that she will court all the three biggest political shots in the country for various reasons.
From President Museveni, she needed money; from Dr Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, the newest kid on the political block, she needed influence and support.
One time as President Museveni and the NRM were putting final touches on their nomination and campaign programme, the president invited some senior NRM leaders to State House, Entebbe.
The leaders led by Kasule Lumumba were shocked to find Nabilah seated beside Museveni. They protested that they will not discuss anything in Nabilah's presence because she was a political enemy.
Museveni calmed them and assured the NRM leaders that Nabilah is a good friend and she would work with NRM in Kampala (these are some of the stories that mainstream media journalists never write, largely because they are difficult to corroborate. This account is from highly credible sources within the NRM).
With Museveni's money in the bag, Nabilah hopped to Mbabazi of the Go Forward slogan. Mbabazi's entry into the race had created some excitement and a feeling among the Kampala opposition elites that he would become the biggest opposition leader and surpass Besigye. Nabilah tapped into this feeling and with a couple of days to Mbabazi's nomination, she placed adverts on some local radio stations calling on her supporters to escort Mbabazi to Namboole for nominations.
On the nomination day, DP's Nakiwala Kiyingi, another cunny politician beat her to Mbabazi's side.
But Nabilah had another plan.
She turned to Besigye who she had demonized for the last couple of years.
When FDC was making preparations for Besigye's nomination activities, Nabilah was not part of them. In fact, the party had written her off. Then come nomination day at Namboole, Nabilah unexpectedly showed up and sat in a chair beside Besigye. Besigye's facial expression (of discomfort) said it all and some FDC officials attempted to lift Nabilah out of the chair. Besigye restrained them.
During the campaigns when it became clear that Besigye was still the undisputed political king in Kampala, Nabilah stuck to him like a leech (when Besigye was arrested near Uganda House and was being driven to CPS, Nabilah jumped into the police pick-up, literally "begging" to be arrested with him).
And she won, quite comfortably.
Yet by 2021, Nabilah will have served 15 years in parliament, a time in which she has not realistically made any meaningful steps forward.
She entered parliament at the same time as Winnie Kiiza, the Kasese woman MP, who is the Leader of Opposition. To a large degree, Kiiza exudes political maturity and temperament.
Like Trump, Nabilah is a cunny politician who somehow knows how to play voters and politicians.
But this is a game you cannot play forever. Sooner rather than later, you are found out.

Allaah gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him."And if Allah touches you with harm, none can remove it but He, and if He touches you with good, then He is Able to do all things." (6:17)

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