Can Bobi Wine structures survive state machinery before 2021?

The hour of reckoning for the Kyandondo East Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine has probably come a full seven months before the whistle for the 2021 presidential elections is even blown.

When he turns to look behind, people he had thought shared his vision for Uganda, are no longer following. Maybe after all, they too think President Yoweri Museveni is the only visionary like he has said many times in the past.

Ronald Mayinja, Bosmic Otim, Flavia Namulindwa, Hassan Ndugga, Eddie Kenzo, Moses Bugirwa, Paul Mwiru, Bayiga Lulume, the list goes on, have either quit People Power, Bobi Wine’s political vehicle or have pulled back and are just observing at an arm’s length the happenings in the Kamwokya based political movement.

For the singers, it’s mainly the money and the charm offensive of president Museveni that has persuaded them to quit. To the established politicians, it’s the realization that after all their political destinies are not inextricably tied up with that of People Power; so they had to pull back and reflect, according to one who spoke with URN but preferred anonymity to speak freely.

Was it wise to form structures and appoint coordinators? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. To those dyed in the wool, structures are the ultimate panacea to defeating President Yoweri Museveni’s 35 year hold onto power. But the skeptics think it was ill advised as it exposed Kyagulanyi’s political inadequacies.

“People Power succumbed to the pressures of the time because people were saying it was everywhere and nowhere so it had to look for credible people to represent them on the ground,” argued Siraje Kifampa Nsambu, the Lubaga South parliamentary aspirant who belongs to the Justice Forum political party.

Kifampa further argued that the decision to appoint coordinators could also have been to try and circumvent a possible maneuvering by political parties.

“There was also talk that there would be another attempt at having a joint candidate for 2021 and Bobi Wine didn’t want to be left behind because using 2016 as a case study, political parties can decide not to include you. You remember at that time Erias Lukwago was one of the most powerful politicians in the country but he was left behind because he didn’t have a political party,”Kifampa said referring to the 2016 polls.

The Democratic Alliance tried in vain to front one presidential candidate against President Museveni in the election.

“It’s better to make decisions even if they are not very good and improve on them rather than not taking them at all,” Kifampa says.

Dr. Joseph Kasule, a research fellow at the Makerere University Institute of Social Research, says it would have been disingenuous if Bobi Wine thought he would appoint structures and the state just looks the other way.

“A government that has been in power for 34 years has a very big intelligence machinery that carries out investigations of who is who; their weaknesses and advantage and they will try many tactics to dis-empower people that want to run against them. So it’s a very big mountain for Kyagulanyi to climb,” Kasule said.

Adding that, in any case, many people didn’t think Kyagulanyi is capable of coming up with an air tight political strategy that the regime can’t scale. Kyagulanyi doesn’t have a lot of promises to make to Ugandans but he’s riding on the fact that the majority Ugandans are tired of the regime. Even if Museveni stood against a bee many people probably would vote for the bee and not him. Therefore, you can conclude that he miscalculated on this.”

To cut Kyagulanyi some slack, Kasule says it could be that by appointing structures, he wanted to know early enough who among his lieutenants is incorruptible.

“This government has been here for way too long, the things they have acquired for themselves they would do everything under the sun to stay in power. The only way Kyagulanyi can unseat them is to identify a group of Ugandans who even at the cost of blood are committed to unseat this government. They must be able to withstand temptations for small things like money, positions and the question for Kyagulanyi is, does he have a credible team of people who can stand with him regardless of what has been put on table?” Kasule wonders.

In answering him, Yusuf Serunkuuma, a political commentator and PhD Student at Makerere University, says Kyagulanyi doesn’t need any of them. To Serunkuma, he should even celebrate when the state fishes one after another. “I think people leaving People Power is helping Bobi Wine. I wish by 2021 he doesn’t have even a single person left with him. He must be alone warrior otherwise, the more he waits for a team, the more the struggle suffers. If I had access to people around Bobi Wine, I would tell them to keep their mouths shut. Let the man do the talking,” Serunkuma says.

He adds that by Bobi Wine shaving his long hair, dropping the jeans in favor of a suit and by stopping to walk with a swag, he loses his identity that made him different. “Every time he wants to resemble these career politicians he will do normal politics yet his edge is that he’s a creative thinker, he does unusual things that resonates with the people,” Serunkuma says.

However Serunkuma says these abnormal things are actually not to defeat Museveni’s regime but rather to instigate a revolt from the inside. “Bobi Wine is not going to bring this regime down, that’s a joke, the best he can do is to distract its flow, which gives him an edge to prompt those in the inside to overthrow their own regime. The best contribution against Museveni is to inspire Gen Salim Saleh or Janet Museveni to take the presidency but if he thinks he can defeat Museveni, he’s day dreaming. He must inspire the forces in the inside the NRM who have power to see Museveni as a liability to their access to resources because now they look at him as a guarantor,” Serunkuma said. We are not surprised.

Unlike the pundits who smell trouble in Kyagulanyi’s court, those in the inside believe that as much as they would want to keep everybody in their fold, anybody who breaks away leaves them stronger.

Roy Ssembogga, a former Makerere University guild president who’s one of the earliest recruits of Bobi Wine, says indeed many people have left the loose political grouping but likewise, many have joined their rank and file.

“Most people go to the government to pick money but inherently they are not NRM and they don’t believe in President Museveni. Appointing coordinators doesn’t mean that we have given up on other amorphous structures that Museveni cannot touch. That’s why he’s buying many people who he doesn’t even know what they have been doing in People Power,” Ssembogga said.

For Joel Ssenyonyi, the People Power mouthpiece, their organisation maintains an open door policy; you come in and leave at will. “There are those whose motivation is to make money and knowing that now People Power is the thing, they will come around, take selfies with us, abuse Museveni such that they can tomorrow seek audience with him and make some money,” Ssenyonyi said.

“But for us, its good riddance because the sooner those leave us the better because they are not committed to the struggle we are in,” Ssenyonyi said. He also defended the creation of structures, however vulnerable they are to state penetration.

He said although they are not a political party, they ought to be organized if they are to unseat an establishment that has been in power for 34 year. “Whatever you do you have to be organized because Museveni thrives on state structures paid for by us the tax payers. If we want to unseat him, we have to be more organized that’s why we had to have these structures,” he said.