Last Thursday, June 29, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine was elected Member of Parliament for Kyadondo East.
Much as he is not the first artiste to go political, this particular election was special for many reasons; for instance, unlike past situations where politics beckoned to artistes losing their fan base and popularity, Bobi was not one of them.
He has a dedicated clan of fans that will not only fight but also defend his image on social media, wear shirts with his slogans and attend all his annual concerts at One Love beach, Busabala.
Bobi Wine was still a force on the music industry by the time he made the shock announcement a few months ago that he was throwing his hat in the ring for the seat.
Probably that is why this by-election not only became talking point for weeks, but it also was the first by-election to be broadcast live on more than one TV station for the entire day.
And it was even more heated on social media with two hashtags used concurrently: #KyadondoEast alongside #BikwaseKyagulanyi, the latter inspired by a song of the same title.
In the campaign song, he dispels belief that people from poor backgrounds cannot make it in life, asking all the broke chaps feeling marginalized by the big shots to take their issues to Kyagulanyi [himself].
FROM LADIES’ WINE TO PEOPLE’S WINE
The man from the ghetto is no stranger to personal branding. He first made his big break calling himself “the ladies’ wine” as the head of the Firebase crew, before convincingly elevating himself to Ghetto President.
But joining elective politics at a time when he is still musically relevant, not mentioning being a nominee in the inaugural Uganda Music awards slated for August, Bobi set a precedent as an artiste leaving before his time; many believe that unlike others, Bobi’s heading to the august House will have lots of implications on the industry.
While starting his weekly show Talk And Talk on Dembe FM last Saturday, after playing a medley of Bobi Wine’s music, Isaac Katende alias Kasuku said the industry will miss the Bada singer; not because he was the most talented, but because of what his music represented to those that believed in him.
“There’s a certain element Bobi Wine brought to this industry and we are going to miss him.”
Speaking to the media after being declared on Thursday night, Bobi Wine told the press music has made him what he is and he was not about to give up on it. Well, he is believable, since even during the heated campaigns, especially on Eid al-Fitri, there are videos of him performing at one of the concerts.
But artistes such as Julius Lugaaya, the brains behind the annual Dance Week festival, believe the industry has lost yet another artiste.
“The office Bobi Wine is occupying is very demanding and it will be so hard for him to juggle the two,” Lugaaya predicted.
But Bobi said music does not take even 60 per cent of his time; that while people mostly know him for the music, he has other things he has already been doing, including farming and pursuing his law degree at the International University of East Africa. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music, dance and drama from Makerere University.
“I have an album that I think I will release when all this madness is done,” he said.
Many may think Bobi Wine is new to this, but while talking to Sheila Nduhukire on NTV’s Talk of the Nation during the news bulletin, he said he grew up in a political family but only decided to stay away from politics because it was dirty.
Indeed, his elder brother, also Afrigo band singer, Eddie Yawe, has been dabbling at politics for a while. In 2011 Yawe lost the Kampala Central MP elections to Muhammad Nsereko, and in 2016 stood against Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda in Kira and lost. Bobi told the TV show he increasingly saw things that needed to change but were not, and he realized he needed to be the change he was looking for.
“After the 2016 elections, it was a very emotional one and I thought who is going to deal with this, because options were running out,” he said in the interview.
ALWAYS BEEN POLITICAL
For some years, his songs were littered with veiled politics, notably his 2012 Tugambire Ku Jennifer, which targeted the Kampala Capital City Authority boss, Jennifer Musisi, and her controversial eviction methods then.
In fact, Bakayimbira Dramactors’ director Charles James Ssenkubuge told The Observer, Bobi Wine was never an artiste, but a person that used his talent as a vessel to transport his message; “He had a mission and music was just a tool”.
Ssenkubuge said the election has left music and musicians with a lot of work now that the government has seen their potential.
“Now the way people look at musicians and artistes is going to change and I pity artistes that don’t take themselves seriously,” he said.
Veteran Afrigo band singer Rachel Magoola seemed to echo Ssenkubuge’s sentiments in a lengthy social media post: “All manner of professions seek political office, among those there are a range from brilliant to mediocre… When we seek to lead, we are labeled thugs.”
He also said there has never been a by-election like the one Bobi swept with 78 per cent of the vote.
“Bobi Wine’s campaign posters were in Masaka, Nakaseke, Entebbe and other parts of the country, which is very scary,” he said.
The election has also inspired other artistes to dare to dream. Golden band’s Ronald Mayinja is reportedly plotting a parliamentary contest come 2021.
Before all the credit is given to Bobi Wine, maybe the people who truly opened his and others’ eyes were gospel singer Judith Babirye and actor Kato Lubwama, whose 2016 wins sent the first happy ripples through the arts.