The Good Legislator Myth: Why Robert Kyagulanyi Will Actually Meet A Different Reality From His Idealistic View

Kyagulanyi
Bobi and wife Barbie Kyagulanyi waiting in the Psrlisment’s VIP room before the swearing in

Yesterday [July 11, 2017] newly elected Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine was inaugurated following a hotly contested by-election in Kyadondo East last month.

Now, with everything granted him as a full legislator, he remains to redeem himself by either walking the walk or like many of his predecessors, evade his responsibility to solely focus on his future electability by conveniently talking the walk instead. This is what I mean;            

Kyagulanyi ran a demagogic campaign – and it worked for him. The thing is he resuscitated people’s hope that had hitherto been buried with Dr. Besigye’s chronic failure to seize power from those he describes as incompetent.

Now Kyagulanyi came and placed himself as a conduit, so-to-speak – and he has happily made the most of this populism. He got elected. Now the ball is in his court.

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His feet must now come to the ground – because, despite the sloganeering and glitz that runs in political campaigns, those young girls and lads that gave him votes against all odds are real people with real problems – they cannot be taken for a ride – someone must fix their problems.

I don’t know how Kyagulanyi will achieve this but he must. At this point he cannot be a failure whatsoever. Besigye has been enough for that – Kyagulanyi’s own election against FDC’s Kantinti justifies that claim well enough.

When there was not much else to lean on, the drowning citizens of Kyadondo clutched on Bobi Wine – and he cannot be a straw – for his people’s sake and himself.

That said, we know that in Parliament; people make laws, do oversight and lobby [for their constituencies]. So, basically the job is to talk and talk – incidentally it’s not what the people of Kyadondo lacked. They want health, they want education. They want jobs; straight down they want public goods and services.

The uniqueness of Kyagulanyi’s populist mandate is that they [voters] need something working in their communities and that should be because of him – his wits, his discretion, his lobbying, his compromise – not his opposition.

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Now this is a paradox – for him especially. To get the public goods is to be pragmatic. But to be pragmatic is to be a political liability – because that means liaising with the ruling party when almost two-thirds of his voters were of the political Opposition. So what does Kyagulanyi do?

For the sake of his own people he is expected to raise his head high out of the crowd. He knows the weight on his shoulders and as such he will love the press cameras a lot – even if just to sound relevant.

I envisage a man finding himself having to be less pragmatic than expedient – to maintain his political base. And he will call his positions either moral or constitutional.

So between voters’ perception of him and a deal for them, perception becomes the opportunity cost. Right there, it will dawn on him that it is easier said than done. To choose to compromise with the ruling NRM in pursuit of public goods for his people, he will risk being misunderstood by the radicals that voted him into office. In other words he is a hostage of political reality.

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It is simply what happens when you [Uganda] import other people’s political system and try to fit it in like a glove. Clearly the winner is only the one who learns to juggle both extreme ends – such as [according to DP President Nobert Mao] the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago – sacrificing reason – stage-managing your own struggle against the regime – deluding the voters – all for personal sustenance.

In as much as the electorate is ignorant of many [democracy] things, it is what we have. They are fully franchised and you don’t want to risk “angering” them; they run the politicians’ agenda and as it is now, they are a big chunk of jobless and disgruntled youth. It is these that voted for Kyagulanyi. The day you discover their many aspirations are pipe dreams, it is only logical to plant a scapegoat to shift the reprimand from yourself to someone else.

So for Robert Kyagulanyi to choose to play to the gallery will be a safer bet because it can guarantee re-election. It steps on NRM toes, widens the gap of collaborative politics but it keeps his political base, even gives him mileage.

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The dilemma with this is that the problems of the constituency will remain. And that’s the story of why being an effective Opposition legislator in Uganda has always been a myth.

What Kyagulanyi’s predecessors have done is begin to posture and pull wool over their voters eyes; perhaps even reach in own pocket to pool resources to dig a borehole or two, procure a couple of coffee seedlings… talk… offer a few scholarships… talk some more… attend a burial… rant insults to the executive… and you should be on your way to Parliament for the second term.

I am not a hater but I predict this is what Kyagulanyi’s time in office will be like.

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