A marked survival characteristic of a chameleon is changing its milliard of colors depending on the environment and emerging potential dangers.
In politics, changing colors is a typical survival instinct and Joseph Mayanja is learning the hard way that his bestselling alias Chameleone has become his biggest liability. Big political players are holding back; they don’t trust his changing ways.
The Leone Island boss with an unbroken 20-year career in music announced recently that he had crossed to the Democratic Party to contest the Kampala lord mayorship and dispossess the incumbent Erias Lukwago.
But two weeks earlier, he had said in an interview published in The Observer issue of June 5 (Yes, I am running for lord mayor – Dr Jose Chameleone) that he doesn’t believe in political parties. He said people have moved away from parties.
“Apparently if you observe, people are tired of the bickering in politics. Politics should be like religion, a Muslim should be able to sit harmoniously with a Catholic and a Catholic sits with an Anglican and that is the environment I’m trying to look at. Most people on particular tickets realize that the party they are standing for starts dictating the way they do their work. I’m coming as an independent although I would love to associate myself with all the parties around. People of late have put themselves on pressure- I’m FDC, I’m NRM, I’m People Power, which is not healthy for our country,” Chameleone said.
But his sudden change of heart has unsettled some political players and created suspicion. Many think Chameleone is up to something sinister. They think he is working in cahoots with the ruling NRM and President Yoweri Museveni, who he helped prop up in the 2016 presidential elections.
Speaking to The Observer, Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson of People Power, and its leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine said, “Chameleone has been a supporter of President Museveni for a while but if he’s now on the side of the oppressed majority Ugandans, he is welcome. But we shall know him by his fruits.”
Asked whether People Power will support his mayoral bid, Ssenyonyi said the time to decide the flag bearer has not yet come. His boss Kyagulanyi, who Chameleone visited Sunday evening moments after he returned from Qatar for a music show, is equally skeptical of Chameleone’s intensions.
Kyagulanyi wrote on his timeline that people who doubt Chameleone have a legitimate point given his recent history – singing and promoting the ‘oppressive regime’ of President Museveni.
“I assured him that it’s only his actions that will clear him,” Kyagulanyi wrote.
But Asumani Basalirwa, the Bugiri municipality MP who prides in being one of the very few people who have opposed Museveni’s government from the onset, said;
“For us in the traditional opposition, it has been our way of doing things by attracting those in NRM to join us. We welcomed Dr Kizza Besigye (founding FDC president), Gen Mugisha Muntu (former FDC president) and a host of others. Of course some have come with ulterior motives but others have joined genuinely. But you can only tell their motives after some time. It’s too early to judge Chameleone now. We should avoid creating a situation that scares away people from joining us.”
Dr Sam Kazibwe, a journalism and communication lecturer at the Uganda Christian University and a senior journalist at CBS radio, said Chameleone will need a lot of effort to defeat Lukwago.
“Chameleone thinks that he’s in Bobi Wine’s mold but the difference is that Bobi Wine doesn’t change his mind all of a sudden. It might be a little more challenging for him to convince the public that he’s there to pursue their interests…” Kazibwe said.
Speaking at the DP weekly press conference Tuesday, Chameleone said he should be given a chance to prove he has changed.
“If we want to get back our power, we must move as a body without discriminating. Don’t look at tribes; don’t look at religion or where I have been. Even leaders you are praising today were once somewhere. If you want to tell me that People Power is a movement that throws me out because I’m Joseph Mayanja, then that is not the revolution we are looking for. Ours is as revolution where we all must move together as a united Uganda,” Chameleone said, adding that some in People Power are calling him a mole.
“I have been in Qatar; recently I was in Bukomansimbi singing looking for money; if I was a mole, why would I go through all that trouble? I once took the money but now it’s nowhere to be seen. I’m also a Ugandan who has a lot of energy to put in this struggle to liberate our people,” Chameleone said.