Why Bobi Wine is surging and what the president can do to stem the tide other than beating him up
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | There is a wave of excitement in favour of Bobi Wine and his bid for the presidency. The recent riots and their spread across the country only provide a glimpse into the popular interest in him. Anyone who has seen the traffic on social media would know his appeal. To underestimate his potential would therefore be to bury one’s head in the sand. Yet NRM seems impervious to these realities.
Many factors favour Bobi Wine. He has been a popular musician, so he has name recognition and a strong brand. He is also fresh because he has not been in politics before. He is young, and our country has one of the youngest populations in the world. He is Muganda, Uganda’s largest tribe. He is a Catholic, our country’s largest religion. Then he has his roots in the ghetto where the poor and dispossessed in urban areas live; so they identify with him.
Meanwhile, our president is old and makes little effort to make himself appealing to the young. He is strong on public policy and affable but often looks exhausted. I wonder why he stages his televised campaign events in such a state. He gives a litany of his achievements but has failed to articulate any reason why people should give him yet another mandate to govern for another five years.
Now while Bobi Wine’s campaign has passion and enthusiasm, Museveni’s team also looks tired, bored and disinterested in what he is saying but in awe of him. They seem incapable of grasping the structural transformation that this government has engendered. So their campaign strategies are out of step with the new Uganda that Museveni has created. Given the rancour of Bobi Wine supporters, a sophisticated Museveni campaign can expose the dangers of this group.
The biggest structural transformation in our country has been in social technology. Social media is now the biggest influence on this campaign. Yet the Museveni campaign team, if there is any such thing, has no viable social media strategy, save for poorly designed and ineffective isolated, not coordinated, efforts. The paradox is that if Bobi Wine performs very well in this election, it will be more because of Museveni’s achievements than his failures.
According to the Uganda Communications Commission by October 31, 2020, there were 20 million internet subscribers in Uganda, up from 15 million as of December 31, 2019, and up from 4.7 million as of December 31, 2015. Internet traffic between July and October averaged 19 million. Part of this growth is global; a result of declining costs of both smart phones and internet access. But government policy has also made it possible.
Then the demographics: we have a population of about 43 million people. Of these, only 45% are 18 years plus. Bobi Wine is 38 years old while Museveni is 76. The people aged between 18 and 40 years constitute 80% of the adult/voting population. The people aged 75 years and above are 1.7% of voters. The people aged 50 years plus, the constituency most likely to appreciate where Museveni has bought this country from, are only 13% of the voters. Many young Ugandans not appreciate our gains and take them for granted.