But what future does he offer?
Kampala, Uganda | AGATHER ATUHAIRE | When the People Power leader Robert Kyagulanyi commonly known as Bobi Wine named his coordinating team at his home in Magere Wakiso district on July 24, many were surprised to see prominent faces of people who are staunch members of other parties. The pressure group named at least 24 current MPs in its ranks.
People Power is not a registered political party and the rush by party stalwarts; including from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), to be listed among its leadership has caused many questions. Why would an MP from a well-established party or base in case of independent MPs, rush to join an undefined entity? What is the secret behind the Bobi Wine phenomenon?
Watching them, renowned political analyst Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, arrived at an interesting conclusion. Instead of concentrating on the present he focused on the future. According to him, there are myriad forces pushing these politicians to defect to People Power formally. But there is a likely dilemma that might complicate matters for those concerned and for their parties because People Power might not offer them an institutional home after the elections.
“That might force them to abandon Bobi Wine and return to their parties,” he told The Independent.
According to some analysts, by piling a multi-coloured group of political leaders into an amorphous vehicle and promising to drive them to political success, Bobi Wine is using the same formula as his political mentor; Kizza Besigye.
“He doesn’t believe in structured politics,” one analyst said, “He knows his followers don’t subscribe to a particular political philosophy. All they want is change, good or bad, directed or not.”
This group believes voters still follow individual leaders not parties. And like Besigye, Bobi Wine wants to create his own following in parliament regardless of their background and political affiliations.
A Bobi Wine supporter told The Independent that “parties are so limiting and some party leaderships are so rigid and gullible that even when it’s obvious that things won’t work, they insist on them.
Questions about Bobi Wine
But questions about whether Bobi Wine can get the endorsement to become the joint single opposition presidential candidate in 2021 persist. And what are MPs who belong to other parties expected to do when Bobi Wine runs for President in 2021 as he has already said he will, especially if their parties have candidates running?
Some analysts spot a negative tendency in the People Power phenomenon, saying it will eventually create confusion and further division within the opposition. According to this view; the politicians jumping on the Bobi Wine wagon are using Bobi Wine as their donkey; riding on his popularity to win the next election but ultimately jumping off as soon as they reach their destinations.
“These MPs are also stuck,” one analyst explained, “They can’t wish Bobi away. They have to stand with him in order to be elected or re- elected. No MP who wishes to return to parliament will stand with Mao for example.”
Some observers say these people are not with Bobi Wine because they want him to be President but because they seek to take advantage of his limelight to achieve their individual goals.
Bobi Wine’s mentor Kizza Besigye was the first to make similar comments a year ago. He said as Bobi Wine plans to run for President, it would be a mistake to rely on the crowds around him.
“The only mistake he can make is to think that he will go into a presidential election and people will elect him to remove Museveni. I know there are people trying to urge him to stand. They tell him you have support here and there, others want to ride on his popularity to become MPs or councilors…” Besigye said in an interview with NBS Television in July last year.
Back then, Bobi Wine’s supporters accused him of attempting to rain on Bobi Wine’s party.
Now, sources say, many of those around Bobi Wine might, in fact, not stick with him up to the end. One analyst predicted that by campaign time in 2020, up to 40% of People Power politicians will have ditched Bobi Wine.
“These people don’t care about who becomes President,” he said, “They care about their own political careers. They will stand with Bobi as long as they believe he will give them political capital to become MPs or councilors or whatever else they aspire to be. Many of them are looking for a way to parliament or to earn a living. Those whose constituencies don’t subscribe to Bobi will eventually fall off.”
Then of course, there is the question of what Bobi Wine would do with the presidency, if he wins it. It is a sign of his chances that this is now being debated seriously. Many people, including People Power diehards, openly discuss Bobi Wine’s inexperience. They say he is an amateur who cannot govern if elected.