Around the 1990s, we walked long distances, lined up along the road waiting to catch a glimpse of President Museveni, sometimes we would wait the whole day only for him to show up at 7pm. I don’t think this happens anymore. NRM now has to transport people, provide fuel to boda boda riders to bring people to listen to Museveni. That points to declining political support for one of Africa’s longest rulers.
As he often does, address a bored staring crowd of spectators lecturing them about how poverty will be history by 2016, how to improve household income etc…but many times, the hungry people are only waiting to be served food, soda or water so they can eat and go back home.
On the other, if Bobi Wine organises a concert in Kaunda Gardens in Gulu, the place will be full capacity yet no one will be given money for transport or fuel, no food, instead, people will pay money to listen to some ‘political music’ and a dose of what the Government has failed to deliver in 30 years. In Bobi Wine, young people especially see the future that Museveni has been promising for a long time.
President Museveni hangs on to power because he can’t find a young potential successor of our generation who can associate himself with today’s challenges. Yet, the country seems to yearn for a new leader that will depart from the usual narrative of ‘we fought in the bush and brought peace, making promises, we liberated the country etc.’
When Museveni started a war in 1980s, he was campaigning against corruption, sectarianism, injustice, state sponsored violence. That’s how he gained the support of the local population in Luweero and beyond. Today, with growing poverty and brutality by security services, the public is no longer enthusiastic about this talk. Instead, for citizens, Bobi Wine fits in, the same way Museveni rose from a humble background to a national leader, albeit with no background in politics or family connections.
Among the NRM young ‘turks’, no one can dare speak out against these evils because they are busy ‘eating.’ That has ruled them out of the Presidency because people feel that they are ‘eating’ at the expense of the citizens. That’s what makes Bobi Wine relevant and likely to succeed where others have failed. The people want ‘freedom’, he says.
If the intellectuals think that he is not worth anything, let him mobilise and see where this leads. If he is nothing, he will disappear the same way Amama Mbabazi did. But he cant be allowed because those in power have become complacent and more paranoid. They know that he is a threat because he speaks what people want to hear. If President Museveni calls a rally in Masaka to lecture peasants about Uganda’s historical problems and Africa’s ‘bottlenecks’ and Bobi Wine holds a concert in the neighbourhood, the matter will be resolved in broad day light. All evidence points to the fact that Museveni is no longer a popular leader.
Bobi Wine’s biggest ‘mistake’ is breaking into the rural areas, the traditional political support of Museveni. His maiden contribution Arua and Bugiri came as a shock. What followed was brutality.
Many NRM politicians speak from a position of privilege because they are directly benefiting from the patronage.
They cant come forward to promise a better future for Ugandans. Those who could have had the potential to lead are so busy amassing wealth that considering being Museveni’s successor is no longer a choice. They have become part of the political elite. A leader who builds for himself a house a house worth Ugx1bn in the village has no moral ground to promise starving peasants that the future is bright.
Bobi Wine may not be poor anymore but it seems he has not forgotten what it means to be poor and disadvantaged. His approach is different- speaking for the underprivileged people who are facing poverty on a daily. Many in the ruling class, when they are lucky to get out of poverty, they forget to talk about it, forget the people and wallow in their in new status.
It’s very unconvincing for Museveni to talk about ending corruption and patronage when the public sees his whole family holding public offices. Its possible that former Presidents were easily removed from power because none of them had as many relatives in top Government positions as President Museveni.
Bobi Wine is a sensation and appeals a certain group of people that have the numbers to change the game: the unemployed youth, those who have been evicted from their home etc…thats what a country needs, a wave of change, a President who can balance the boat, end corruption and get the civil servants to do their job.
Defeating NRM in an NRM organised election is only a dream. The only way is to expose Museveni as a brutal autocratic leader considering that Facebook now has over two million users in Uganda.
With elections rigged, political association and mobilisation restrained using the apartheid-like law in form of Public Order Management Act (POMB), the best way to remove Museveni is through a nonviolent popular uprising, like the one going on right now in Khartoum.
If the State continues pushing the boundaries, limiting citizen’s freedoms, rich connected businessmen evicting people from their only source of livelihood, it’s possible that young people will say enough of this. A young educated person yet unemployed person supporting Museveni’s continued stay in power is like a campus girl who dates an old married man, that relationship is untenable. It does not lead anywhere apart from temporary pleasure.
A piece of advice for Bobi Wine: A lizard that chooses to wear a trouser should know where to put the tail. The times are going to be tough, you will need resilience. Don’t try to do this alone, you need other forces on your side. If you try alone, they will break you down. Whoever is pitting you against Besigye is your enemy. You need him and he needs you.
Looking at what happened in Parliament during the removal of age limit, its clear Museveni will rely on his military and police to silence dissenting views, at whatever cost. You need everyone in this struggle. Time and the future are in your favour.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Africa Tembelea’s editorial stance.
Mr Fortunate Ahimbisibwe is a seasoned Kampala journalist currently in the UK