I used to think Bobi Wine, aka Robert Kyagulanyi, was a joke. A half-man who, when conversation swung to the economy, would think fiscal policy was a fitness regimen.
Then, the 2021 elections happened.
Bobi showed me, and the watching world, that leadership is about two things: inspiration and example.
By inspiration, he roused a nation exhausted with NRM’s maladministration. He did so as he, and his followers, were harassed and battered offline.
Online, President Museveni, through Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), wrote to Google requesting it to shut down at least 14 social media accounts broadcasting Bobi Wine’s campaign rallies.
When this attempt fell flat, cyber-attacks on Bobi’s accounts resulted in Map Media, Ghetto Media and Ekyooto International being hacked.
An ordinary man would have retreated with his tail between his legs, but Bobi is no ordinary man.
For an example of his leadership, let’s look back to a debate on the NBS TV show Frontline; held a couple of years ago.
It wasn’t a classic debate.
When I say ‘classic’ I mean in the tradition of Cicero’s Catiline orations. Or other ancients whose rhetorical flourishes we quote centuries after they were made.
However, it was a knock-down-drag-out affair.
Both Andrew Mwenda and Kyagulanyi fought their corners with the tenacity of two men in the grip of a messianic need to prove each other wrong.
Before this debate, I had never rated Kyagulanyi as a debater.
His sing-songy voice seemed to vocalise an unsung anthem whose chorus spelled, “I’m a Ghetto Child.”
So I was surprised with his strong showing against Mwenda.
Sure, his manner of speech still had the trappings of a hit song waiting to be released to his ghetto disciples.
But, this time, his words dovetailed with a lilting voice to score some major talking points.
As for Mwenda, as usual, he had a lot of information. I think, maybe, too much information as it threw off his delivery.
His words came a mile-a-minute like he was trying to squeeze everything he ever read into sentences filled with unwanted pregnancies of data as they had no periods. Or commas.
He rolled out arguments like he was on a rhetorical menstrual cycle which could only leave him bloodied.
The gladiatorial give-and-take of television debate is not his long suit.
He came across as disruptive and intolerant even as he accused Kyagulanyi of being disruptive and intolerant.
Mwenda is accustomed to having unanswerable viewpoints based on fact and learning. This has ensured that he stands out in any company of Ugandan thinkers.
Sadly, this has also turned him into the blundering titan of a self-made man (as poet Thomas Hardy would’ve said).
On other hand, Kyagulanyi was a revelation. His clarity of expression belied a confusion of mind which seems to characterise many of our political actors.
To me, Kyagulanyi won that debate. Mwenda seemed to think so too, and thus demanded a rematch. And, more.
“I went to NUP to register as a member, pick forms to be nominated as candidate for both party leadership and party presidential candidate! I will be running against Bobi Wine for both positions.”
Through this, Mwenda hoped to expose Bobi’s feet of clay as a leader. Mwenda was probably hoping to exemplify an African proverb which says, “A flea can trouble a lion more than a lion can trouble a flea”.
However, Bobi had moved onto to bigger game and thereby “managed” Mwenda’s boss. We all know who that is.
We also know that, as a presidential candidate, Bobi thereby exampled the very best of true leadership.
Mr Matogo is the managing editor Fasihi Magazine.