When the high court in Kampala nullified the election of Forum for Democratic Change’s Apollo Kantiniti MP representing Kyadondo East constituency due to non-compliance of electoral rules governing the Parliamentary Elections Act by the Electoral Commission, few actors in the Ugandan political game knew that it would be a turning point to Uganda’s political landscape.
Upon hearing the news of a by- election, the pop star who had been making his hustle from singing and was never interested in politics, Bobi wine ran to Dr Kiiza Besigye to seek endorsement for the forum for Democratic change to take part in the elections when the EC announced the polling dates. The pop star was seen as a mere musician and was turned down by the FDC and instead ran as an independent candidate using the watch as his symbol.
On the polling day, the then 35-year-old artiste, Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine swept the votes with 77.7 percent win, losing at only two of the 93 polling stations. As was evident from the onset of his campaign trails where many musicians and politicians were all around to give him support and indeed the voters didn’t disappoint him. He would later be sworn in as the elected member of parliament of Kyadondo East constituency.
Bobi wine’s win was followed by his triumphant entrance to parliament which raised mixed reactions from all over the political domain locally and internationally. This was few weeks to the tabling of the highly contested constitutional amendment of Article 102 B that seeked to eliminate the age cap for presidency in the pearl of Africa.
Whatever happened indeed happened in parliament and because of numbers, President Yoweri Museveni took the day when majority of the members of parliament who happen to be from the ruling party voted for the removal of the article which had paused a big threat to his efforts to cling to power.
First forward several by elections came through and Bobi wine was a steering force of the opposition in Rukungiri which was won by FDC’s Betty Muzanira, Jinja East which was also won by FDC’s Paul Mwiru, Bugiri which was won by JEEMA’s president Asuman Basalilwa. However, for the case in Bugiri and Arua it was not business as usual since the FDC and JEEMA had failed to front an joint candidate so it was Bobi wine vs the FDC and indeed the candidates (Asuman Basalirwa and Kasiano Wadri) won with huge margins and this defined the future of Bobi wine who was grappling with the People Power slogan which later turned into a pressure group of those who felt oppressed by the regime.
His arrest during the Arua by-election during the nasty crash with the presidential motorcade sparked country wide protests and gave Bobi wine a political mileage and recognition both locally and internationally after surviving the bullet that took his driver Yasin Kawuma by a whisker. This was a turning point to Bobi wine’s young political career where he got chance to be interviewed by international media houses like BBC, CNN, VOA, Aljazeera, France24 among others that defined his potential to challenge President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986 and is seeking to extend his time to 40 years.
Upon his declaration that he would challenge the 35-year-old Museveni’s reign of terror in 2019, many politicians and regime apologists watered down his dream and labeled all sorts of words towards the Kyagulanyi who rarely pays attention to efforts aimed at dwarfing his presidential ambitions. For the 3 years Bobi wine has been in active politics, he has changed the face of opposition politics in Uganda and would later be seen as a messiah of change for the change that the country has been yearning for.
Bobi wine being the first prominent musician to join active politics, the country has seen a paradigm shift in the game of politics where president Museveni has made a lot of efforts to employ many of Bobi wine’s former friends to talk ill about him and deter his political ambitions, among these are Bryan White, Bebecool, Butchaman, Full figure, Bebecool, Big Eye among others who have continuously attached Bobi wine to serve the interests of their masters.
In his exclusive interview with the BBC last year 2019, the disappointed Museveni labeled Bobi wine as an enemy of progress without considering the time he has been in politics. Many analysts described this as political pressure exerted to Museveni by the young politician.
Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu has defied odds in the political history of this country and many of those who understand politics are yet to conclude that he has watered down Dr Kiiza Besigye’s long political dominance because the self-styled ‘ghetto president’ owes much of his support to a growing educated but unemployed and disenfranchised youth who are expected to shape Uganda’s political future and these make up almost 77% of the population who are below 30 years.
Now after morphing his people power pressure group into a political party which he quietly acquired and rebranded it to National Unity Platform (NUP) ahead of the 2021 general elections, Bobi wine has now grown politically since his support base has grown from strength to strength and has been widely recognized both at home and abroad, as a serious threat to President Yoweri Museveni as efforts for a single opposition candidate are yet to yield something.
Lastly to note is that Bobi wine’s ban on his musical career has yielded more harm to the Museveni regime and exposed the Uganda police in the way it rides over political activities in the country, has pushed Museveni to waste taxi payer’s money in buying off many people from Bobi wine’s pressure group and was last year endorsed by some youths as a man of the ghetto because of the Bobi wine effect and his smart move to register a political party, re brand it and do it without Museveni’s knowledge has caused tension at the electoral commission were 8 top bosses were sacked.
And whether Bobi wine wins presidency or not, the face of opposition politics will never be the same.
Written by Paul Ssenabulya: He is a Nairobi based Ugandan Journalist