Everyone in life has had or is about to have a turning point. If you have had a turning point already, you look back at who you were and thank the Almighty for enabling you to overcome the chains that had once held you captive.
I bring this up because presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi’s (Bobi Wine) past is being held up against him in the general election race. No doubt you have already seen the posters that were plastered all over Kampala as Kyagulanyi headed to the Independent Electoral Commission (EC) on Wednesday, December 2 to protest the brutality meted out against his supporters during his campaign rallies.
The posters show a younger Kyagulanyi blowing out a puff of white smoke as he stares out at the camera, the embodiment of the bad man from Kamwokya. Kamwokya being the ghettos Kyagulanyi made his name from as a musician known as Bobi Wine.
Kyagulanyi’s detractors hope that his new fans or believers in his political message will be shocked to see their “saviour” like this. These detractors do not seem to realise that the people who admire Kyagulanyi do so because he managed to overcome this background that many of them may still be struggling to rise up from.
The posters confirm, not dispel the message Kyagulanyi has been preaching for the new Uganda. Kyagulanyi says anyone can rise up from poverty, hardship, having nothing if they have a chance in their country. Kyagulanyi wants to increase the chances for everyone to overcome poverty and a life of hustle to get food on the table. Those posters remind the public of what Bobi Wine once was not too long and that he overcame it.
This sort of “blackmail” from President Yoweri Museveni’s supporters is nothing new. National Resistance Movement (NRM) strategists have always tried this tactic of blackening the reputation of their main challenger in a presidential race.
In past elections, NRM strategists depicted Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Kizza Besigye as a bitter, angry man who would “finish us all” if he won the race to state house. Before Besigye, they depicted Democratic Party (DP) chairman Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere as incompetent and unable to prevent the country from sliding into the civil war of 1980 that claimed hundreds of Ugandan lives and destroyed the economy.
Over time, those blackmail tactics have lost their sting the longer NRM and Museveni held onto state power.
All the gloss and advertising showing off “NRM achievements” cannot disguise that many Ugandans can no longer expect free, quality medical care in government hospitals. That is if there is anybody to offer even rudimentary first aid in a government hospital. The farmer can barely make it to a market because roads constructed at exorbitant rates degrade in a matter of months. Overworked teachers begin each school term with a strike that sometimes stretches to two months of standoff.
These are also “NRM achievements” that Ugandans live with everyday and Yoweri Museveni cannot escape their hold on him. This is his past and our present. Kyagulanyi believes it should not be our future.