Who is Robert Kyagulanyi?
At simple glance that question would seem straightforward. He is the MP for Kyadondo East, president of the National Unity Platform, a musician aka Bobi Wine, entrepreneur, father and president of the ghetto.
One could also add that he is a former presidential candidate in the recently concluded general election.
Yet with Bobi Wine, nothing seems as simple as it looks.
When he broke onto the political scene after his victory in Kyadondo East in 2017, rumours started doing rounds that he was eyeing the bigger prize: the presidency.
At first Kyagulanyi neither confirmed nor denied the rumours.
Out of public view, seasoned politicians in Buganda like Muwanga Kivumbi, Betty Nambooze and Erias Lukwago quietly said the excitement about Kyagulanyi would die out and normal business would resume.
DP, which was organising re-union meetings tried to lure Kyagulanyi into its fold.
Their thinking was that Kyagulanyi, whose father was a supporter of DP, would better serve his political ambitions under Uganda’s oldest party.
“DP is your home,” party president Norbert Mao told Kyagulanyi during a re-union meeting at Makerere University.
But Kyagulanyi, then the leader of People Power, had other ideas.
In a interview with CNN in February 2019, he said he was “seriously considering running for president in 2021.”
Now that he had let the cat out of the bag, more challenges followed.
No centre number/registering a party
One of the concerns that was raised when Kyagulanyi declared his presidential ambitions was that he did not have a political vehicle on which to anchor his bid.
People Power, it was argued was a pressure group that stood for everything and nothing.
Under the current electoral laws, Kyagulanyi would have to stand as an independent because pressure groups are not recognised political parties.
This posed a number of problems on several fronts.
How would his supporters/followers distinguish candidates of People Power from other ‘independent’ candidates on the ballot?
What would become of Kyagulanyi’s dream to build a political force in Parliament?
Like one politician put it, Kyagulanyi was like a school which had students but did not have a centre number.
Yet unknown to many people including intelligence services and those close to him, Kyagulanyi was secretly engaged in talks to “buy” or “take over” a registered political party.
He did and in a moment, he turned the tables on those that had not given him any chance.
With a political platform and a party symbol, Kyagulanyi looked set to remake Uganda’s political landscape.
Eclipsing FDC in Parliament and DP in Buganda, Parliament
And he did change the landscape in a number of ways. Never has the country witnessed a violent political campaign like the one we saw in 2021.
As his popularity grew, so did the efforts to combat him and prevent him from becoming a political behemoth.
Luckily for those intent on fighting him, Covid-19 and observing its SOPs became a very convenient excuse.
There was supposed to be no gathering of more than 200 people, the ministry of Health said, while those attending rallies where expected to wear masks and wash hands.
So wherever Kyagulanyi went, teargas became the backdrop of his campaign while bullets where the soundtrack as overzealous security operatives went into overdrive to enforce the SOPs.
His near clean sweep of Buganda had NRM reeling in the shadows and crying sectarianism.
Yet his performance also left DP and FDC deeply wounded.
Since multiparty democracy was restored in 2005, FDC had been the biggest opposition party in parliament and has provided the leader of the opposition.
Going into the 11th parliament, it will be Kyagulanyi’s NUP which got nearly twice as many MPs as FDC.
For DP, NUP’s performance in Buganda left it playing catch up.
The election petition
Kyagulanyi earlier this week indicated that he would be withdrawing the presidential petition he filed against President Museveni, attracting mixed reactions.
Supporters of the NRM were quick to chest thump and say this confirmed that Kyagulanyi had a weak case and he knew it.
Petitions in this part of the world are as political as they are legal.
On the legal front, Kyagulanyi, some argued was bound to lose anyway.
But what about on the political front?
What impact will this withdraw have on the image of the judiciary?
By withdrawing the petition, Kyagulanyi has set another precedent.
Four years ago if one told you Kyagulanyi would be the most popular politician in the country, you might have thought him mad.
Yet here we are, writing volumes and volumes of stories about him.
And we have not started on the furore caused by his “armoured car.”