If there is any lesson that we can learn from President Donald Trump’s rise to the helm of American leadership, it is that once people are fed up with a certain style of governance, they are likely to put a hold on their usual moral sensibilities and support anybody who promises to bring about the desired change.
Similarly, when Robert Kyagulanyi expressed interest in representing the then-vacant Kyadondo East constituency, many people thought of him as a joker who was seeking extra popularity. Real attention was paid to him when he beat two seasoned politicians (Sitenda Sebalu and Apollo Kantinti) to become area MP for Kyadondo East constituency.
He would later become kingmaker in the campaigns of Bugiri, Jinja and Arua by-elections that saw Asuman Basalirwa, Paul Mwiru and Kassiano Wadri win convincingly to become members of parliament.
Consequently, he was officially baptized into the typical African opposition politics by a string of trumped-up charges, including the illegal possession of a gun; faced several forms of physical harassment; was detained; banned from holding public concerts, and so on, so forth.
Following the “official” initiation into opposition politics, he has favourably planted himself in the hearts and psyche of many Ugandans. With or without his name on the 2021 presidential ballot papers, he will undoubtedly be a pivotal player in the entire general elections.
In an effort to justify their privileges, several government officials and propagandists who masquerade as political analysts, have severally reacted by referring to Bobi Wine as “empty-headed” and a ganja man from the ghetto who cannot be trusted. This is simplistic and hollow.
First, the ghetto can loosely be referred to as a part of a city in which members of a minority group live, typically as a result of social, legal or economic pressure. Ghettos are often known for being more impoverished than other areas. Given the absurd conditions that are associated with living in ghettos, it is unlikely that anyone with a better and alternative choice will deliberately choose to reside in the ghetto.
The silence about social, political and economic policies that foster alienation have left many people with no choice but to resort to living in wretched places such as ghettos. If we are going to discredit anybody’s leadership credentials by pointing to the places that raised them, we must begin by acknowledging our share of responsibility for not only creating ghettos, but also encouraging the circumstances that are constantly pushing city dwellers to the ghettos.
Secondly, referring to Bobi Wine as a former drug addict is a punch below the feet. For many, drug use starts with mere experimentation. This can stem from curiosity about what it’s like to be “high” or peer pressure. Others stumble upon drugs as an escape from the uncomfortable feelings of sadness or anxiety. Whatever the motivation or cause of substance dependence, the battle against substance use is one of the most difficult ones to beat.
There are several people who have lost their marriages, families, careers, jobs and good health due to drug-related causes. While their regaining of such crucial strands of life hinges on their ability to beat substance abuse, they have still failed.
Therefore, by continuously referring to Bobi Wine as a ganja man from the ghetto, the conversation automatically changes from one of blame, to one of praise by indirectly shining a light on his extraordinary abilities and luck to succeed at winning one of the most difficult battles and create a life for him that is enviable by many.
So, whoever refers to Bobi Wine’s history of drug use as a core tool to poke holes into his abilities to lead is unconsciously suggesting to the young people to find out exactly what Bobi Wine was smoking so they can smoke it too.
As Henry Ford once famously said, “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.”
Bobi Wine thinks he can be president and he has made his presidential ambitions loud and clear several times. He, therefore, ought to be subjected to deeper scrutiny and very rigorous engagements that transcend the mere rhetoric of his intentions, promises and abilities to dislodge President Yoweri Museveni from power. Such engagements have to include serious questions regarding alternative political and socio-economic policies.
The writer is a social worker.