Re-Imagining Bobi Wine: Student Electoral Politics as Popular Performance Space
During the 2019 Guild elections in two Ugandan public universities (Makerere and Kyambogo), poetry performances in the form of songs were deployed by some candidates to articulate particular ideological perspectives. This paper examines the poetics and politics of the songs – the aesthetics of the musical performances themselves and their power in mobilising large crowds for the guild vote. I argue that poetry performances in the form of songs do not function merely as election entertainment, but rather that they are central to the contest itself and therefore go a long way to defining its very nature. I also argue that the fact that the 2019 elections at both Makerere and Kyambogo Universities were won by people allied to the People Power movement, whose leader, Hon. Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, provided two songs with which the candidates articulated their message to the electorate, demonstrates the influence of both musicians and popular songs in processes of political mobilisation. Data for this paper was collected using observation, interviews and focus group discussions with selected members of the electorate, and a close reading of the lyrics of the songs. As my analysis reveals, the songs
animated the election campaigns to the extent that their performance not only defined the character of the elections, but also, to some extent, contributed to their final outcome.
Keywords: Popular song and performance, student elections, Bobi Wine, Uganda, Makerere, Kyambogo