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Is Bobi Wine Retreating To Music?

There’s growing belief within the National Unity Platform (NUP) party that its President Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine (pictured) is slowly returning to music and giving less time to the party and the struggle at large.

It should be noted that when Bobi Wine abandoned his successful 20-year music career to embark on a political career in 2017, it was not hard for him to smoothly sail through to parliament courtesy of a bi-election.

The singer turned politician would later enter Uganda’s most controversial and violent election to contest for the country’s highest office in 2021, but lost to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. NUP insists they won that election.

Bobi Wine got his wealth to buy chunks of land on the outskirts of Kampala largely from music. It’s from the same music that Bobi made friends with Museveni’s top brass including former Police Chief Kale Kayihura who tormented opposition figures during his reign.

Bobi’s other buddies included Museveni’s brother Gen. Salim Saleh and first son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

With Museveni’s nature of operations and investment in intelligence gathering through ISO, CMI, police and UPDF, Bobi’s closeness to Museveni’s family yet he (Bobi) nursed political ambitions raised questions on whether Bobi could have kept his political plans a secret or shared with his friends.

The Political Journey

When Bobi joined parliament, he never focused on his legislative roles only but on activities aimed at building political capital for 2021 presidential ambitions.

In fact, the number of times he spoke on floor according to Hansard, parliament’s official record, are less than 5.

Armed with musical background whose main ingredient is mastering tricks of making showbiz and stunts for selling music, Bobi is famously remembered for fierce fight inside parliamentary chamber over controversial amendment of article 102 (b) of constitution.

Despite this, Bobi and colleagues failed to stop the amendment of article 102 (b) which gave Museveni a leeway to contest for presidency beyond 75-year-cap.

After the 2021 general election, the public was sceptical about how Kyagulanyi would steer a young party that had now become Leader of the Opposition in parliament with very little political experience. However, his choice of Leader of Opposition (LOP) and opposition cabinet rested the hearts of many. It was now time to divide roles.

The expectation was that Mathias Mpuuga (LOP) at the helm of the parliamentary team would handle legislation and related assignments while Kyagulanyi and team at Kamwokya would deal with party structures and attendant issues particularly giving clear direction to the more than 3.5 million Ugandans who trusted him with their votes.

Up to now, the National Unity Platform has no grassroots structures, no party constitution and no clear plan.

Political observers say that Kyagulanyi has had the best opportunity to turn the tables on  Museveni and his NRM regime, with the current economic situation where fuel prices keep rising, food prices also steadily going up, the human rights situation worsening with many NUP supporters still languishing in prisons.

Kyagulanyi also enjoys support from the youth who make up Uganda’s biggest population but he has failed to take advantage of this, instead he is using them to accelerate his celebrity fame on social media rather than work towards political change.

At a time when Kyagulanyi as president of the largest oppostion political party is expected to provide leadership to the country over escalating commodity prices and probably rallying the masses for demonstrations, he chooses to address press conferences and telling the public to demonstrate if they wish to, as if he is not part of them. This, critics say, show that Kyagulanyi is no longer interested in the political struggle

While Museveni has made sure that Kyagulanyi does not appear on stage anywhere in Uganda, one would think that this would provide the Ghetto president with space, time and opportunity to further the political struggle.

However, he has instead opted to advance the music career abroad.

Those close to Bobi Wine say he is too obsessed with fame and popularity that he thinks the only window to remain afloat is by returning to his first love, music.

It’s said that his quest for stardom could have compromised the man from the ghetto into working for the regime, knowingly or unknowingly.

That is why there are still questions about the armoured vehicle that was allegedly bought for the ‘purinsipo’ by his supporters even before they could wear the victors’ crown.

When Museveni secured a contested sixth term only to be legitimized by dramatic withdrawal of a court petition, Bobi excited his supporters by announcing that he had been gifted with a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser V8, number UBJ 667F by diaspora supporters.

URA withheld the car due to reported outstanding taxes until Bobi’s tormentor, Museveni personally directed the tax body to release the car to Bobi Wine.

“This is to further inform you that we have received a directive from His Excellency the President to the effect that Uganda Revenue Authority should release your client’s motor vehicle immediately,” URA wrote to Bobi’s lawyers of Wameli & Company Advocates in June, 2021.

Bobi became the first Museveni’s serious challenger to be allowed to drive an armored car otherwise, categorized as a weapon and in full knowledge of Commander-in-Chief.

To supporters’ surprise, the released car has never performed any of its roles-carry Bobi to battle-field to remove the ‘dictator’.

With all this at play, sources say, the Ghetto man had to find a way of returning to music under the guise of fighting for freedom or fundraising for the cause.

The same Bobi Wine who recently announced at an NUP conference in Los Angeles that he had put a stop to fundraisers because of accountability issues, has resumed fundraising without any party engagement.

Retreat to Music career

In August 2021, Bobi returned to the studio to record music alongside his long-time singing partner Nubian Li.

Since then, Bobi and his music buddies have been on unending flights overseas. They have staged massive musical shows from Germany to US to Netherlands to Italy to Canada, and UAE.

Although they have been earning from all other performances, it is only recently when questions started emerging, that Bobi looked for a justification of a fundraiser to rescue stranded Ugandans from UAE. NUP insiders say that earnings from the other shows didn’t benefit the party.

When he appeared at Kamwokya on September 20th, Bobi confirmed it. He told party loyalists, “at the beginning of this month [September], I traveled to Venice, Italy and later on in the Mountains of America. We had gone for official screening of our new documentary film called Bobi Wine, ghetto president although national geographic which is now taken over its distribution, has renamed it, the people’s president.”

Bobi could then be seen telling his hosts ahead of documentary premiering that he didn’t get into politics “because I was brave, no.” Bobi asserts, “I keep getting scared every now and then.”

Victim of Museveni’s patronage and cooptation?

“You should know that musicians who move from careers into political spheres without reflecting about their outcomes, reach their political apex quickly,” a political analyst, who asked for anonymity argued.

He reasoned that “Bobi might have thought, he would be handled with kid gloves given relationships he had with people within the system, but he might have realized that he wasn’t ready to stake his economic base and livelihood, thus refocusing approach.”

Our analyst gave Gunner (2019), Englert (2008), Allen (2004), and Fosu-Mensah (1987) as common examples which all noted that apart from satisfying other crucial purposes, political music can be used as a form of expression but can similarly be manipulated by dictatorial regimes to renew their legitimacy.

Back to Uganda, the analyst said that considering that Museveni’s main approach against Bobi has been banning his live concerts from where he derived livelihood, he might have felt severe negative impact that threatened him and those closest to him.

“I can tell you that in nations where leaderships sustained tight grip on financial sector following economic liberalisation in the 1990s, business is persuaded into remaining politically-aligned to regime that even without having to be explicitly told to be loyal to them, your economic self-interest silently guides your political behaviour,” our analyst said, “Bobi must have been either told or situation forced him to retreat, the only challenge is that he may not tell his supporters some of which are still languishing in prisons.”

Are Bobi’s musical shows for fundraising or personal profit?

For now, those of in Boston, USA get ready, yours is the next stop for the musician Bobi Wine. Will musical shows benefit and drive forward the “siturago”?

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