The story goes that during his campaign for the Kyadondo East parliamentary seat, Bobi Wine approached Betty Nambooze for support.
The story continues that the eloquently gifted legislator from Mukono municipality asked for Ush 10 million for her to make the journey to Kyadondo. She never pointed to her membership with the Democratic Party, which had also fielded a candidate.
She could have announced a conflicted position as Kizza Besigye did. Instead, her support was merchandise in the marketplace. The story ends that Bobi Wine refused to pay. And as the cliché goes, the rest is history.
I am not telling this story so as to throw Betty Nambooze under the bus, and perhaps portray Bobi Wine as a saint among devils. Neither am I elevating Bobi Wine over those who opposed him.
Instead, I am saying, it is a waste of time and resources to rely on these opposition fellows who are simply sketching an existence – as the opposition. Politicians never fight for change; ordinary people do.
Rumours that our many God-blessed opposition stalwarts – Kizza Besigye, Norbert Mao, James Akena, Abed Bwanika (and several others, active for over a decade and are sworn to carry on) – have pocketed Museveni’s money are commonplace. Nobody is innocent.
And why should we not believe these rumours if these fellows have turned activism into a career – imitating the fellows they claim to oppose! (By the way, I have pocketed Museveni’s money too; I once merchandised my editorial skills to a PR firm directly working for the NRM).
Neither are your columnists pristine – they only represent no political constituencies. But if the fire-spitting and principled-sounding opposition figure Betty Nambooze could choose to merchandise her support to a budding newcomer on the scene, surely there is more she and co. have done under the blessing of darkness.
To this end, it is not true that Uganda’s so-called opposition politicians are disunited: these fellows have been united in money making, camouflaging, and endlessly debating Museveni’s brutality, which unwittingly (although I also believe knowingly) only serves to legitimate Museveni’s credentials as a democrat.
They have been united in their pursuit of a good life as career opposition politicians. They have been united in their showy fights and innumerable contradictions – just like the man they seek to dislodge.
They quickly learned to cherish their wealth and fame, and have learned to cherish their big salaries. Instead of mobilising their constituencies, they are endlessly and meaninglessly debating and whining. You will see them sulk lazy and pretentious that Museveni has made it difficult for them to mobilise.
Like he were supposed to roll them a red carpet to oust him (as equally-conflicted journalist Andrew Mwenda often scolds them). If challenged, they arrogantly shout back asking the challenger what they are doing on their part.
Surely, the revolution will not be led by this current crop of opposition politicians. Aware that they will sanctimoniously claim the reins after Museveni has been overwhelmed by the masses, we need to blow their covers.
This is why I have maintained that a confused, disunited, in-fighting opposition is good for Uganda. Because infighting both brings out their true selves, and also enables the masses to see through their fakery.
Bobi Wine’s meteoric rise is partly – and a big part – thriving on the general disgruntlement with careerist opposition politicians who have created the perfect ground for him to thrive – as one genuinely interested in changing the status quo. He is also a recognisable member of the downtrodden. People have been searching for leadership while our careerists enjoyed their comfortable lives.
Again, this is not cultist support for Bobi Wine. Not at all. But Bobi Wine symbolically represents a time of the return of the ordinary folks into active politics. This is not only because he is calling them to do so – through his otherwise accurate slogans such as ffuna endagamuntu or twebereremu.
He simply found the ground ready for him to do exactly what he is doing. It could have been somebody else – as long their CVs and packaging enabled them. There is no explanation why current DP and FDC politicians are now hobnobbing – quite opportunistically though – in the direction of Bobi Wine if there were no moral challenges within the parties to which they still belong.
The people now chanting People Power were once [choice-deprived] supporters of Kizza Besigye, Norbert Mao and Betty Nambooze.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.