FDC stalwart Salamu Musumba says polls gauge the opinion at the time they are done and do not determine how people will vote in future.
In any case, FDC spokesperson and opposition Chief Whip Semujju Nganda says, polls conducted in the past have not been accurate about Besigye. They have showed Besigye to be unpopular yet he has gone on to score highly in elections.
In the run-up to the last election in 2016, for example, the emergency of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as a contender, had led many senior opposition politicians to write off Besigye.
They claimed Mbabazi had a better chance than Besigye of defeating Museveni. They insisted on Mbabazi as a joint opposition candidate. But Besigye rejected him and run as the FDC candidate. By the time the election ended, Besigye had posted one of his best performances ever.
Back in 2001, Besigye got 2,055,795 votes representing 27.82% against Museveni’s 5,123,360 or 69.33%.
In 2006, he got 2,592,954 or 37.39% against Museveni’s 4,109,449 or 59.26%. This meant that while Museveni lost over a million votes, Besigye gained over half a million.
But in 2011, Besigye secured only 2,064,963 or 26.01% against Museveni’s 5,428,369or 68.38%.
This was easily Besigye’s worst performance both in percentage terms and number of votes.
In 2016 Besigye was, as is happening now, told that he has no chance having been given three chances and failed to dislodge Museveni and Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu appeared set to be the FDC presidential candidate.
Besigye changed strategy. He repeatedly said he would not participate in elections if the electoral process was not reformed. He was even abroad during the party nomination period.
However, at the last minute, in the last week of June 2015, he wrote an email to the FDC’s Electoral Commission indicating that he was picking nomination forms – by proxy through Godfrey Ekanya and Ingrid Turinawe.
Besigye told his supporters that Museveni was at his weakest and would be defeated this time. A few critics reminded Besigye that he had pronounced Museveni to be at his weakest the previous times but failed to dislodge him.
Still, he ran against Muntu and defeated him to become, once again, the FDC flag-bearer.
But more hurdles lay ahead for Besigye. The opposition was planning on a joint presidential candidate under the Democratic Alliance (TDA).
The FDC under Muntu, Democratic Party (DP), Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA), UPC, the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), Justice Forum, Conservative Party (CP) and Pressure for National Unity leaders had all signed a protocol as members of TDA.
And majority seemed to favour former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi as the joint opposition candidate.
Besigye initially appeared to go along with the TDA process but later abandoned it when it became clear that he would not be picked as the flag bearer. He decided to run on his own.
At the time, Busiro North MP and DP stalwart Merdard Segona likened Besigye to tiny and cheap silver fish (mukene) in terms of political clout, with Mbabazi as the bigger, richer Nile Perch.
Then, while addressing the press on September 29, 2015, party spokesperson Kenneth Kakande said that with Besigye, the the opposition has been having a good player but never scored any goal and “we think Mbabazi knows the tricks as to how we can secure that victory”.
Some FDC MPs like Beatrice Anywar openly criticised Besigye and the party responded with threats to crack the whip forcing other members like former Leader of Opposition Morris Ogenga Latigo to come out and state publicly that they do not support Mbabazi.
Despite all this, Besigye ran one of the best campaigns in 2016 and posted one of his best performances so far.
He got 3,508,687 or 35.61% of the election. Amama Mbabazi who many had marketed as the better shot against Museveni only managed 136,519 or 1.39%. But Museveni still won; with 5,971,872 or 60.62%.
Besigye felt strengthened. He declared that he had in fact won the election, was clandestinely sworn-in and formed the `People’s Government’ that Bobi has ended up agreeing to “partner” with.
However, ever since Bobi Wine joined elective politics in 2016, the view of Besigye as the lead opposition contender since 2001 has changed. Bobi Wine is seen as the biggest political threat to Museveni ahead of the 2021 elections.