By this time last year, there were still doubts as to whether Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine would be able to mount a formidable challenge and threaten President Museveni’s 34 year stranglehold on political power.
Yes, he was popular and his message resonated among the youths, but some analysts argued that this popularity needed to transcend the central part of the country if he was to become a truly national politician in the mold of Dr Kizza Besigye, who for 20 years remains the doyen of opposition politics.
In many ways and judging from the excitement that has greeted his campaign in the parts of the country he has traversed so far and the riots sparked off by his brief arrest last week, one can say that he has shot into the premier league of politicians in this country. Up there.
To rephrase this using the analogy of European soccer, Kyagulanyi is now eligible to be seeded in the Champions League group draws, alongside President Museveni and Dr Kizza Besigye.
Over the last three years, Police and security operatives have teargassed Kyagulanyi and his entourage 16 times, according to a count conducted by The Nile Post, while he has been incarcerated four times within the same period. The count on both fronts looks set to go up.
That is what they call proper political initiation, for those unfamiliar with the way our local politics is played out.
Yet his political resolve to push on appears unbroken.
Upon his release from Nalufenya prison and with his fist in the air, Kyagulanyi said “he will start from where he stopped.” Other politicians in a similar situation would have recoiled or tried to stay under the radar.
Bobi Wine, it seems, embodies the rebellious streak prevalent in people who believe they are on a bigger mission.
Some people have argued that Kyagulanyi has not articulated any “concrete policy alternatives” and the party he leads, National Unity Platform is not anchored on any firm political ideology.
Yet it can also be counter argued that since when did an ordinary Ugandan, trying to make ends meet, mind about ideology of a political party or politician? Many can’t even spell the word.
Since when did a sick person who wants to go to a health facility and find medicine, mind about ideology?
How many youths, marauding the streets of Kampala with job application in tattered khaki envelopes, mind about a party ideology?
The amiable late Dr Muhammed Kulumba, a political scientist at Makerere University, once told me that in poor countries like Uganda where people are still struggling to meet the basics of life, talk of ideology is illusionary.
Ideologies, he said, work well in developed countries where there is a critical mass of educated people and where majority of people are not pre-occupied with where they are going to get their next meal.
In these countries, animal rights are enforced with the same zeal like human rights.
Not in Uganda.
The bulk of people who continually vote for Museveni are rural peasants. If you sampled ten of these people, nine will not tell you off head what NRM stands for.
But some of them will tell you they vote for Museveni because they no longer have to worry about education of their children thanks to Universal Primary Education, issues of quality notwithstanding.
That is the same with Kyagulanyi.
His admirers and the people who line up the roads to receive him are enchanted by his message and his style of delivery. They are less concerned about his past or his suitability for the highest office in the land.
To them, he represents a break from the traditional politics as we know it, the politics as taught in the course unit: Introduction to Politics 101.
He represents a change to the way we look generally at life.
Kyagulanyi is like that rebellious teenager, who tells his parents to their face that he will not become a lawyer, doctor or engineer like their neighbour’s son.
Rather, he wants to become a reggae artist, a DJ, fashion designer or social media influencer, professions that are not in the traditional realm.
Whether he can defeat Museveni and deliver on his promises once elected to office, is a debate for another day.
For the time being, Kyagulanyi has become a political phenomenon, that even if you love or hate him, you can’t ignore him.
The author is the Editor of The Nile Post.