On the eve of NRM’s national conference, President Museveni delivered a deadly blow to Bobi Wine in northern Uganda.
In a surprise move, Mr Museveni snatched People Power vocal coordinator and kingpin in Acholi sub-region, Lucky Bosmic Otim.
Bosmic’s fans were shocked, with some saying his pictures with President Museveni, published on social media, were photoshopped.
To them, Bosmic was an acerbic and incorruptible critic of President Museveni, his ministers and NRM party.
Bosmic had not spared President Museveni for his overstay in power and similarly attacked his team of political praise singers, especially in Acholi.
To most, Bosmic could not become disloyal, betray, and desert his People Power friends and political cause for which he was an unbowed co-ordinator.
But soon, more new pictures were released with Bosmic attending the NRM conference at Nelson Mandela Stadium Namboole, on the outskirts ok Kampala City. Bosmic was also pictured in the company of pop artiste and NRM party diehard Bebe Cool.
A singer in Lira then quickly accused Bosmic of snubbing a planned joint concert, and choosing instead to meet President Museveni at State House Entebbe. But what remained unanswered was, had Bosmic truly joined NRM and ditched Bobi Wine and People Power?
Opinion was divided between his admirers and detractors.
But Bosmic settled the puzzle only two days after Namboole with a categorical response in a video clip on his Facebook wall.
Indeed, the Nile Republic singer had abandoned Bobi Wine and his People Power and crossed over to NRM.
Bosmic listed four reasons.
Bosmic says his sacrifices for People Power, including crusading their cause in the north and printing posters have all gone unrewarded.
Like Bobi Wine, Bosmic has had several of his music shows blocked by security agencies. He has also been tortured and was blocked at Entebbe airport as he prepared to jet out for music shows in Canada, Australia, and USA. But Bosmic says Bobi Wine has not seen it fit to tag him along on his foreign trips.
However, Bosmic’s real reason for exit seem rooted in risks to his security, fear of torture and pressing family needs.
Bosmic says for nearly seven months, he has been a man on the run, with Bobi Wine helping to tip him off about impending arrests.
Even then, Bosmic says he has been abducted twice by security operatives and forced to confess to rebel recruitment he knew nothing about.
He says his pleas to People Power leaders for guidance and way out of the fix did not yield any help.
Bosmic blames his woes on some top three Acholi politicians, who he did not name.
He says his willingness to meet President Museveni was forced by the need to clear his name on the rebel talk and secure his safety.
Bosmic also accused People Power top leadership of being Buganda-centric and offering preferential treatment to those at the centre.
What next for Bosmic
Bosmic says he will now challenge his NRM critics in Acholi from within. He says he told President Museveni he would take on Kitgum Municipality MP and minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar in the 2021 parliamentary race. President Museveni reportedly gave a hearty long laugh as a response.
But Bosmic’s pain and defection continues a growing saga of music stars abandoning Bobi Wine and People Power.
Could it then be said that Bobi Wine and team are under sustained attack from President Museveni from which they cannot escape?
Only time will tell, but what is clear is that all celebrated musicians who have met President Museveni have changed tunes.
Virtually all have redirected their guns to target Bobi Wine and his People Power group, despite their formerly close ties.
So just how do these People Power music stars end up at the feet of President Museveni?
Perhaps this question can only be ably answered by tracing the rise and rise of Bobi Wine and the People Power frenzy.
Rise of Bobi Wine
Music pop star Bobi Wine burst onto the political scene with a surprise announcement in March 2017 to run for a parliamentary seat in Kyadondo East, a constituency on the outskirts of Kampala city. Bobi Wine’s surprise by-election win in June came with crushing defeat of candidates backed by ruling NRM party and FDC, the largest Opposition party in the country.
Bobi Wine’s campaign rhetoric was: “If the leaders have refused to bring Parliament to the ghetto, we shall carry the ghetto to Parliament.”
Quickly, his meteoric rise from the shadows of the ghetto to the plush parliamentary buildings, charmed many, especially the unwashed youths from the ghetto. Bobi, their hero, then announced he had brought the ghetto to Parliament.
The rest of Ugandans were soon forced to take note when the Bobi Wine-effect swayed voters to back Opposition candidates to win similar parliamentary by-elections, first in Rukungiri, then in Jinja, and Bugiri. By the time another by-election came up in Arua, Bobi Wine had to be stopped and he was reportedly tortured to semi-consciousness.
Bobi, alongside tens of other Opposition politicians, were later charged with treason, with the case still in court.
Bobi Wine later sought treatment abroad as his popularity soared, both at home and abroad. Bobi had become the ray of hope with his brand of youthful swag to challenge the out-of-time and aging NRM party politics and leaders.
By the time he returned from abroad, Bobi Wine’s popularity had sky-rocketed and was hard to pull him down.
Soon, Bobi Wine was composing emotionally stirring political songs, among them Situka tutambule, Uganda zukuka, and Tuliyambala engule, and Afande.
Threatened by Bobi Wine’s wave of popularity, security agencies moved to block his shows to stop his huge “negative” influence among his rabid music fans and political converts. Quickly, the Bobi Wine allure became irresistible as more artistes took up his call and joined his political crusade against President Museveni’s government and overstay in power. At 34 years, the NRM regime is older than the majority of Bobi Wine’s fanatic youthful followers.
Among top musicians to jump onto the Bobi Wine’s wagon were gospel artiste Pastor Wilson Bugembe; northern artiste William Otim, aka Lucky Bosmic of the Nile Republic; and Ronald Mayinja. Others were Edirisa Musuza, alias Eddy Kenzo; Mark Bugembe, aka Buchaman; Michael Mugwanya, alias King Michael; Jenifer Nakanguubi, aka Full Figure; Ibrahim Mayanja alias Big Eye; and Hassan Ndugga.
Museveni handshake strategy
Worried, the President’s handlers had to quickly devise a counter strategy. By October last year when his Independence Day concert was blocked, Bobi Wine said the police had violently disrupted 156 of his music shows in one and half years.
Bobi Wine’s last two performances were the Kyalenga Concert in November 2018 and a cameo appearance during the Nkuuka, music gala organised in the same year by Buganda Kingdom to usher in 2019.
The police had earlier in the year blocked his Boxing Day concert slated at his personal property, One Love Beach, in Busabala on the shores of Lake Victoria. Again in 2019, police blocked Bobi Wine’s Easter concerts, which had been planned for Busabala, and upcountry in Lira, Arua, Gulu, Masaka and Busia municipalities.
Then came a more tactical manoeuvre of musicians’ handshake with the president to break the growing constellation of music stars and influencers around Bobi Wine, who had declared his intentions to run for president in 2021.
President Museveni then reached out to the musicians, beginning with appointing emissaries Catherine Kusasira and Moses Ssali, aka Bebe Cool. President Museveni had previously worked with and assigned them to represent him in the ghetto.
Mr Museveni then in a public statement signed posters and announced himself as “man of the ghetto.” Thus began the President’s intrusive penetration into the ghetto. The Opposition clutched on this to accuse the President of deliberately impoverishing the youth and exploiting them to his own political advantage.
Most of the artistes Sunday Monitor asked how and why they meet President Museveni and quickly shift allegiance, cited fear, risks to their lives, poverty and need for survival of their families.
The artistes also say they had either been ushered to the President by events promoter Balaam Barugahare or Ms Catherine Kusasira, who are charged with fixing the appointments or are tapped by the president himself.
“Most of these artists come to me and tell me they want to see the President, so I only take them there. Whoever sees him gets saved, even if I took you today, you would also get saved,” Mr Balaam said in an interview with Sunday Monitor.
“These [musicians] have their own problems and when they share with me, I take them there and President solves them,” he added.
But the sudden turnaround of William Otim, better known by his stage name Lucky Bosmic, has amplified President Museveni’s mission to cut off music figureheads of People Power.
Jenifer Nakanguubi, aka Full Figure
An ardent People Power enthusiast, Full Figure’s defection to NRM surfaced when pictures emerged of her meeting with President Museveni at State House in Nakasero, Kampala.
Full Figure, who said she was connected to the President through Balaam, told Sunday Monitor that her joining NRM was prompted by Bobi Wine’s appointment of the 150 People Power coordinators across the country last year in July. She felt slighted for not being named among the top 150 bigwigs.
“I advised Bobi Wine not to go into this thing of appointing coordinators but he didn’t listen to me. This discouraged me, yet I was one of those backing Bobi Wine despite the fact that there was no money,” Ms Nakanguubi said.
But she was quick to confess during the interview that she had always been eager to meet President and bask in the glory of being close to him.
“I have since realised that even merely being close to President Museveni, blessings just flow even without getting any money. When I am with him, I make sure I touch him, just to confirm whether I am not in a dream world. He is a heaven send. Besides, Bobi Wine gets too much money from donors abroad but he eats the money (sic) alone with is family,” she says.
To recognise his commitment and unwavering support for People Power for nearly three years, Bobi Wine named singer Ronal Mayinja as the coordinator of musicians in Uganda and his team constituted several star singers across the country.
So bold was Mayinja in pursuit of People Power ideals that he faced off with President Museveni during one of the music shows, Tears of a woman, organised by Ms Kusaira at Kampala Serena. Mayinja then taunted President Museveni in one of his songs, Bizeemu. The song laments that problems that forced the President into the bush in 1980s have resurfaced. This did not go down well with the President, but Mayinja excited the partygoers who cheered him on as they chanted People Power slogans. Not amused and being an avid Museveni fan, Ms Kusaira wrenched the microphone from Mayinja, forcing him off stage.
But early this year, Mayinja formed a loose organisation, Peace for All, All for Peace, largely seen as counterforce to Bobi Wine’s People Power. Reports had also indicated that artiste Mayinja had met the President and had been given a car.
But Mayinja, in an interview for this article, dismissed the claims saying the pictures of him and the President as well as the new car were “photo-shopped.” He also indicated that after the Bizeemu song, his life has since been threatened a couple of times with some people approaching him to meet the President but he has refused.
“First of all, I formed an NGO and not a pressure group as some people are saying. I have written to People Power and called leaders of the pressure group but they haven’t responded to me. I’m still waiting up today. I want to explain to them and see how we can work together,” Mayinja says.
“My life is in danger and I am receiving threats from many people I cannot name in public. They have brought to me taxes they claim I have been evading and the reason is because I criticised the President. I hope even this interview does not cause even more problems. I have not eaten any money (sic) from President Museveni or People Power,” he adds.
Edirisa Musuza, aka Eddy Kenzo
Mr Musuza played a vital role after the violence in the Arua Municipality by-election, which led to the widely reported torture, arrest, and prosecution for treason of Bobi Wine and scores of other politicians and wananchi. As emotions ran high, Kenzo composed songs such as Biwoobe and System Volongoto – songs that ridiculed the regime, which he mocked for causing endless tears and suffering in the country.
Kenzo’s support for Bobi Wine continued with a couple of meetings with the musician-cum-politician till late last year when the multiple award winning singer’s marital relationships hit the rocks.
With his singer companion and artiste Rehema Namakula opting for the hand of a city doctor, Kenzo called on government to intervene, saying some religious leaders were mocking him despite the heartbreak he was enduring.
Kenzo was unavailable for this write up to say how he had met the President when he returned from the US. It was also unclear whether he had been called by President Museveni or was connected by his emissaries.
But after a meet-up with the President, Kenzo addressed the media and announced he would not support Bobi Wine and People Power anymore. His reason was that the political outfit had had not come out openly to comfort him in his hour of trouble.
“I went to see the President because I have contributed to this country immensely without appreciation. This was the right time for me to be recognised by the President,” he said during the media briefing.
Mark Bugembe, alias Buchaman
Buchaman served as Bobi Wine’s vice president in the music recording outfit, Fire Base Crew, for more than a decade before the two fell out around 2013. But the fallout became more pronounced and took on political overtones in October last year. President Museveni at the time met NRM youth from the ghetto who had gathered near the Kibuye Roundabout on the Kampala-Entebbe highway.
President Museveni then announced Buchaman as his special envoy to the ghetto in an effort to galvanise his support in Kampala slums and counter the Bobi Wine and People Power frenzy.
“We were with Bobi Wine but when I left he did not call me or help to educate my children. I asked him for at least Shs10m so that I could take my children to school but he did not respond, why is he bothered now? He should know that he has moved to Parliament and no longer in the ghetto. We are the ones who know it now,” Buchaman told Sunday Monitor in an interview at his home.
“The President has told me to work and deliver. All those people you see have come to see me. No one directed me to the President, he identified me because he knew I was the right man to represent the ghetto,” he added.
The Kadongo Kamu artiste has outed many songs criticising President Museveni’s government and his long stay in power. His songs such as Term agenda, done when he is donned in People Power red clothes and a red beret, sounds a reminder that President Museveni’s time in power has come to an end. Others as Byavada, and Taata Twagala naye are equally critical of the current regime.
But during President Museveni’s Great Trek in commemoration of the Bush War, artiste Ndugga was introduced to President Museveni by the government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa as a newfound political ally.
“I have joined NRM because I want to become rich. Those criticising me have never given me even a single penny, not even Bobi Wine, apart from praising me. I don’t want to die poor,” Mr Ndugga told journalists in defence of his shift to the President’s side.
Ibrahim Mayanja, aka Big Eye
Artiste Big Eye has since suffered two disruptions as he was forced off stage and revellers hurled plastic water bottles at the singer. His guilt was that he “betrayed” the People Power fraternity when he changed sides and joined the “Silent Majority,” group led by singer Bebe Cool and affiliated to NRM.
Big Eye was not available for a comment as his known cellular phone contacts were inaccessible for this interview. But during an earlier interview, he had vowed to perform only at NRM gatherings as he feared for his life. Sources indicated that the singer had been lured to President Museveni through Bebe Cool, but Sunday Monitor could not verify this information by press time.
Responding to the accusations from the various artistes, People Power spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi said they were not aware of the many accusations against them from any of the individuals.
“We hear some of these people complaining. For instance, [Lucky] Bosmic was abducted twice and we have always gotten this information prior and tried to alert them. That is how the regime is trying to feed them with this kind of information which is not correct,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.