By Segun Ige
It wouldn’t have been incorrect to say that the January 14 Uganda presidential election is an exemplar of elections in Africa in general. But the election seems to have revealed peculiarly emerging trends in the political processes. It’s actually exhilarating to see Bobi Wine, 38, contesting with Yoweri Museveni, 76. Such “audacity of hope” to challenge 35-years-in-power Museveni makes me understand how the modern “Davids” are willing to face the modern “Goliaths” in the face of frustrating, life-threatening external influence, on one hand, and unworkable internal leadership systems, on the other hand, politically speaking.
I think, well enough, the transformation starts with the leader. I do not mean Museveni is a political misfit (who needs to be in statupupillari to some veteran) and therefore unfit for power – or should be ousted. No. I’m talking about a reorientation or recalibration of the leader’s conventionalised mind, which would reestablish the basics for “faith-based” leadership. Faith-based in that it’s new. Faith-based in that it’s potentially workable if experimented. And faith-based in that holistically accepting it to be the “new normal” would result in a progressive democracy. I believe it’s in testing and trying that we know what works best or not. I do not mean Wine should have baselessly been sworn in to power either. No, democracy is not like that. Democracy is a process. Democracy is a procedure. Democracy is a pattern. To maintain peace, order and stability, the process, the procedure, and the pattern–all of Democracy’s parameters – must be strictly adhered to without any jot or tittle. That’s how to progress. That’s how to advance. And that’s how to restore tranquility and equality at polling booths and beyond.
What I really mean is that Democracy is not meant to be sterile and frigid. It’s meant to be fertile and fecund and flexible so that it could produce fruitful and progressive minds. That’s how to live a sustainable developed democratic lifestyle. Once for all, the hanky-panky and hoity-toity of rabble-rousers in the corridors and courts of power could be maximally unmentioned. I wasn’t, of course, taken aback by the fact that President Yoweri Museveni would be going for his sixth term after allegations of mischievous and Machiavellian acts in the election from pop rapper-turned politician Bobi Wine. Main opposition leader Bobi Wine who claims party’s agents were beaten and chased away from polling booths is clearly saying the election was rigged, robbed, and rough-handled. But more importantly, he’s leaning towards filinga lawsuit against the election. This way, I could not but perceive “Trumpsim,” and its multifarious dimensions, in Uganda’s propaganda and/or Museveni’s modus vivendi.
“Musevenism” resonates with Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko’s political philosophy. 26-year-in-power, President Lukashenko had to denounce and renounce all forms of electoral malpractice in the August 9 2020 Presidential Election. Main opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya did claim “ballot destruction” and “ballots under table scam”of “dead voters” as well. What’s even more interesting was that one musician opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova had to be bundled and driven away by potential masked mean men in Minsk. The attendant brutalities, terrible detentions, and horrible maltreatment of humongous Belarusians portrayed typically the Orwellian leadership syndrome of the Western block. Ageism –the question of youngness and oldness of power mechanism – is not a new political practice in electioneering.
Generally speaking, the youth are deemed puerile and inchoate in politicking. But how about political apparatchiks apparently unable to lead the people? Should stinking hypocrisy and cowardly silence continue to hold sway because the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, and not the leaders of today? You see, that’s gross subversion of the pretext of the phraseology. Even the more recent U.S. Presidential Election is directly or indirectly informing us of how the youth are harum-scarum unhinged from the Oval Office. And in fact, I wasn’t appalled by Museveni’s allegedly fraudulent reelection. Since 1986, Museveni might have proven time-tested leadership traits for the Ugandans to vote for him again and again. The massive jubilation and joie de vivre, which some critics find to be some mind-numbing mediocrity and idiocy, unequivocally unveils the wellness and wholesomeness of his presidency.
Could Museveni’s presidency have been opprobrium-free, superficially? Could he have been a stronghold for Wine’s winning the election? Or could Musevenism have somehow or somewhat muted the people from airing their views, voting their conscience, especially before and during the election? And what’s the cause of Wine’s rebuttal and disapproval of the election results if the Electoral College Commission says Museveni won by 60%?
Strategically, the shutdown of social media networks few days before Election Day wouldn’t have paved way for Bobi Wine’s canvassing, hence his winning ways.“Like my wife’s, my phone has been blocked and I am unable to receive or make regular calls. I know this is to stop me from communicating to our agents and coordinators. I encourage you to be vigilant as I try to devise ways of reaching out to you. #WeAreRemovingADictator,” Wine tweeted on January 14 after the easing of the internet lockdown. Crucially, that meant a lot for him becoming a legendary “pop-president.” “That social media channel [Facebook] you are talking about, if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be used equitably by everybody who wants to use it,” said Museveni, adding: “If you want to take sides against the [ruling party], then that group will not operate in Uganda.”Because Facebook had shut down accounts of Ugandan officials, citing a coordinated attack targeting public debate ahead of the election, Museveni as such spoke action to power.
The Ugandan Communications Commission and internet service providers could have helped matters of payola and pork-barrelling in the course of the election. It could have been done by not fuelling hatred and bigotry. It could have been done by ameliorating the tensions between the social media giant and ruling party. Yes, by intervening pacificatorily. Ideologically, it could be argued that Museveni was bent on siphoning the election, particularly with the abrogation of barring presidential aspirants above age 75.
What seems to be more intriguing, altogether, is the fact that digital electioneering is gaining more space on the socio-cyber space. With the presence and efflorescence of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, among others, Wine, not Museveni, could have potentially won a huge number of Ugandan votes.
Ige writes from Lagos