The door to door campaign of a 36-year old musician has helped him garner the support of Ugandans. His music criticizing the president, Yoweri Museveni resonates with a lot of Ugandans, much to the annoyance of the government which frequently banned his songs and cancelled his shows. The musician cum politician, who is known for his red cap trademark, is thinking of shifting his approach of talking to doing, by aspiring for the office of the president. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by the stage name Bobi Wine, has noted that he is “seriously considering” running for president in 2021.
The Afro-beat pop superstar has launched a movement to challenge Museveni’s 32-year-old rule in Uganda. Clearly, Ugandans want a change; a change in government and Bobi Wine seem ready to become the face of Uganda’s change.
An activist is someone who organizes and acts for the purpose of changing public policy or law. A politician is someone who seeks election to a public office on behalf of a general ideology and/or a specific agenda on which they promise to act, and a President is an elected head of state. The three are intertwined and a person can be all three at a time, but it is difficult, if not impossible to function in all capacity at once.
When an activist becomes a president, the society loses the former to gain the latter, because a president must compromise to get results but an activist, on the other hand, need not compromise. So far, Bobi Wine has been an uncompromising Member of Parliament an outspoken artist and an activist, protesting against the decisions of the current president and those in power, speaking against oppression and soliciting for equality. This he may not be able to do while occupying the office of the president.
An activist and a president do not behave the same way. An activist may be required to carry placards to protest in the streets, be strident when expressing grievances, convey messages to the government in ways he deems fit as long as he is not violating any laws, but a president would not, except he is Donald Trump, who is liberal with his utterances. Quite alright, the president is in the position of power and can make laws and change the situation of things, but in a democratic system of government, like the one practised in Uganda, the President cannot just make laws without going through due process. Therein lies the problem Bobi Wine will face if he ever becomes president.
According to Gary Younge, author and editor-at-large for The Guardian, the problem with personifying a political aspiration is that it becomes difficult to see where that man starts and where the movement ends. Transitioning from an activist to a head of state, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal to satisfy personal interests or the interest of the select few who put you in power.
Uganda needs good activists and also a good president, not a revolutionary dictator who would engineer a constitutional amendment for personal gains. It is possible that a president can campaign to bring about political and social change, however, should Bobi Wine decide to run for president, Uganda would lose one of its most outspoken activists.