To be president of the republic of Uganda, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine argues, he doesn’t have to be an intellectually or economically savvy political strategist.
His declaration comes on the coat-tails of fierce critical public opinion of his weak grasp of deep fiscal policy issues when he appeared on NTV last week. Bobi Wine insists he does not have to know everything for him to be president.
His reaction over the weekend comes in the wake of doubts being cast about his abilities, with sceptics jumping onto his performance during the television talk show as proof of his inadequacy.
Speaking at a thanksgiving ceremony for Mityana municipality MP Francis Zaake in Mityana town last Saturday, Kyagulanyi said he is just an ordinary Ugandan seeking to help change people’s way of life.
“I’m here because I have come to be the voice of the ordinary person because people on the ground need not be professors to know that they are living in terrible conditions,” he said. “I’m not a professor and anyone who was expecting a professor in me, I want to tell you, you are in the wrong place.”
“I’m not anybody’s saviour but one of you who has come up to do something to change our situation. It is not me who is going to explain why Bank of Uganda is not working, it’s not me to explain why our currency is depreciating but I know that if the right people are given opportunity, things will improve…If we need somebody to explain the economy, we have people like Muwanga Kivumbi (MP Butambala) who will explain these things. Therefore, we have the people who can do the work, only that we have a poor manager,” Kyagulanyi said.
There has been a torrent of criticism, especially on social media, following the Thursday television talk show in which he seemed not to know what fiscal policy is and which tools he can use to stem the runaway inflation.
Many critics declared that this was fresh evidence yet that the first-term MP is not ready to deal with the intricate affairs of state, a tendency which probably prompted the talk show host to ask what “fiscal tools” Bobi Wine would employ in containing inflation and unemployment.
A popular musician who took pride in his ‘ghetto roots’ before he stormed parliament following a sensational 2017 by-election victory, Bobi Wine caused a stir when he recently declared his intentions to run for the highest office in 2021. But his answers during the NTV’s On the Spot talk show left moderator Patrick Kamara looking unsatisfied.
Kyagulanyi said he would abolish the unpopular Shs 200 ‘over the top tax’ imposed on social media use last year. The member for Kyadondo East also promised to confront the prevailing impunity by arresting army generals like Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza.
The retired general drew considerable public outrage when he recently joined his bodyguards in assaulting a traffic policewoman. Prodded further by the moderator, Bobi Wine insisted that his ‘newly improvised’ fiscal tools would readily grow the economy.
After the Thursday night show, social media burst into a wild frenzy. Kyagulanyi was roundly denounced as being extremely wanting. Morrison Rwakakamba, a former aide to President Museveni who broke ranks with the establishment in 2017 but recently crept back, accused Kyagulanyi supporters of being his greatest enemies by shielding him from scrutiny.
“Those pressing him against a hard surface for clarity on his values and policies are helping. Uganda should not gamble on individuals who just want to undertake leadership experiment. Look at the Hansard (official parliament record) for his record so far zero,” Rwakakamba tweeted.
Rwakakamba echoed former minister for ICT Aggrey Awori views. Awori had told The Observer in an interview months ago that Bobi Wine must prove himself.
“What makes you think that when Museveni leaves, Bobi Wine will come up with a policy on education or unemployment? You must have good ideas before you enter that State House,” Awori said.
He observed that even a president with advisors must still show direction.
“Museveni has held this government together for more than 30 years because he has got certain instincts on how to lead people. With due respect to his academic qualifications, Museveni is not the strongest in that cabinet academically but he has got the capacity to wield together minds to come up with something. Whoever wants to take on from him, we want to see how he is going to handle certain issues…,” Awori said.
In general terms, fiscal policy refers to how governments spend public money and levy taxes to influence the national economy in respect to inflation, employment and economic growth, among others. Alongside monetary policy, fiscal policy is used to stabilise economies within a given period.
Yesterday Dr Sam Kazibwe, a journalism lecturer at Uganda Christian University Mukono, observed that Bobi Wine should have prepared more before the interview.
“Preparations are important, even in presidential debates, candidates are allowed time with their advisors to consult but there are questions that come up that your advisors might not have addressed. So, the mishap that happened to Bobi Wine can happen to every politician, even the smartest, because you can’t be knowledgeable on everything,” Kazibwe said.
He also suggested that the question seemed like it was meant to trap Bobi Wine.
“As a journalist, you’re not a prosecuting lawyer whose aim is to trap a witness. You should ask critical questions expecting an answer but not questions that are aimed at discrediting your respondent…,” Kazibwe said.
He called on Bobi Wine and his supporters not to lash out at criticism even when it’s unpleasant.
“… As he tries to gain more momentum, those against him are also laying traps and once they get him, they will maximise the opportunity. When a mishap happens to you, you don’t tell others that because they haven’t done anything tangible, then they have no right to criticise you. The moment you drag yourself out of your house and you want to lead others, people have every right to critique you. People attacking him have not sought a mandate to lead this country. It is him; so, they have the right to question his character and behaviour,” Kazibwe said.
Zaake, meanwhile, said that Bobi Wine is not working alone.
“We have a team that is behind Bobi Wine that is very strong that will enable us get to State House. Whether he is a muyaaye (street lumpen) or he doesn’t know anything, it doesn’t matter; it’s him we want,” Zaake said.
The same message was echoed by the Justice Forum president Asumani Basalirwa (Bugiri municipality MP).
“Bobi Wine declaring that he is going to stand for president was a good thing. Whether he is young or he doesn’t understand some things, there is no problem. He will learn from the job… he will learn from his mistakes because he has able people to work with,” Basalirwa said.
Bobi Wine also acknowledged in Mityana that he is “not the most knowledgeable”.
“My life journey is not new to any Ugandan…It’s not even two years that my life has been transformed; the reason I have come out is not that we don’t have professors and other very educated people but the problem is that these educated people have not done anything to change our situation,” he said.