4 October 2017

Uganda: Bobi Wine for President? That Is Suicide!

Photo: BobiWineLive/Facebook
Bobi Wine in Mubende

In a feat of pure excitement, in one of his victory speeches, singer-cum-politician Bobi Wine (Robert Kyagulanyi) thrilled his sweetheart, Barbie, that he will not die before making her first lady.

Since then, there has been a growing constituency of cheerleaders chanting "Bobi Wine for President."

Living all other factors constant (especially about death), I want to assume Bobi Wine was not promising Barbie that she would be replacing Janet Kataaha Museveni - at least not in 2021.

This is not because he should be afraid of taking risks or high-stakes gambles. His ghetto upbringing and accomplishments so far are evidence of his unflinching persona.

Frustrated with the current breed of politicians, it is tempting to gamble with this bold and straight 'kid'. But under the circumstances, competing for the highest office in the next election is suicide - in both political and real terms.

There is no doubt that after his victory in the Kyadondo East by-election, Bobi Wine (Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) has taken the Ugandan political stage by storm.

As the newest political sensation in town, he has continued to attract both local and international recognition - to the envy of many old-timers (I guess including President Museveni).

Indeed, a combination of poesy, a celebrity aura and strategic positioning on several issues of the day have kept Bobi Wine's political candle burning bright. However, neither of these turn him into a viable candidate for the next presidential election. Not even an inch!

The explanations for this rather gloomy (and seemingly cowardly) prediction of mine are both personal and structural.

First, it is difficult to use the victory of a parliamentary by-election in a sub-urban constituency to forecast a nationwide election under a pseudo-democracy. Winning a nationwide election requires, among many other things, far-reaching structures of both civil and vigilante nature.

As the civil structure formally manages the election, vigilantes threaten violence in the event of theft. My contention is this: even if this were a smooth democracy like say the United Kingdom, it would be difficult to build civil political structures and also strike all necessary alliances in three years!

Secondly, just from the brutality surrounding the presidential age-limit debate, it is too evident that Mr Museveni will do everything under the sky to stand in the next election. And as is well known, Museveni's candidature equals to victory.

I worry that if Bobi Wine were an approved threat to Museveni's life-presidency bid, the incumbent may not stop at trying to buy, bankrupt or imprison him.

Our politics is filled with rumours of poisoning and assassinations - championed by the president's innumerable hangers-on harvesting the country on the cheap! We never have evidence of these terrifying claims, but their existence alone reveals a rather cruel world.

Amateurish politics may simply sacrifice a promising talent to the invisible but deadly vampires. At a personal level, Bobi Wine's genius - as an artiste - is his very undoing.

There has been a great deal of excitement following Bobi's well-received music tours across the country, fanning the presidential bid even further.

Sadly, agitators forget that these receptions are for a mega music star, whose celebrity appeal was recently accentuated by an election victory.

But my point is this: because of the colonial school, which trained us in some oppressive Anglo-centric values of gentlemanness and civility (neck-ties, good English, monogamous), we have compartmentalized politics as a profession for political and social scientists, political economists, or historians (akin to the way Oxford University's PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] graduates run Great Britain).

In the process, we have confined certain professions - especially the cultural industry - to the lowest rungs of society. These are simply entertainers, and cannot be anything else! This sentiment is not likely to change soon.

Indeed, despite being a political artiste of note, Bobi Wine remains an artiste in the first sense. No wonder many people have expressed shock upon learning that Bobi Wine speaks good English, has a good grasp of issues and is also eloquent.

Therefore, Bobi Wine has to rebrand himself. For ten years, he has marketed himself as an organic intellectual who used the craft of music and art to speak for, and mobilize the downtrodden. He will have to take time to market himself as a politician in the traditional sense (elite, tough and smart).

Not that he lacks these qualities, but they have to be marketed - a process, which might look like de-musicianising himself.

This might entail being a panelist on either NBS TV's Frontline or Capital FM's Capital Gang, but also keeping his place as the "ghetto gladiator!"

The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.

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