UNMASKING M7 DIFFICULT R/SHIP WITH ARTISTES AND WHY SEVO ISN’T BOTHERED
By Mulengera Reporters
Mulengera News has become privy to some of the reasons why big-name musicians have lately been turning their back on President Museveni and his NRM party. Truth is for some of them it’s genuine disappointment because they had outrageously high expectations that haven’t been adequately met. Some are still interested in working with Museveni (and handsomely earn performing at his future campaign rallies because no other political grouping can match his pay cheque) but are seemingly endorsing Bobi Wine anticipating that will frighten and blackmail State House into calling and buying them back. This blackmail is what is often referred to as “okumusika aerial.” That’s criticizing Museveni not because you hate him parse but just to catch his attention and he pays you off into silence.
Reliable information Mulengera News has gathered from State House inner circles is that the big man has taken a firm decision to ignore such blackmailers. “Having been around long enough, Mzee now knows how to handle blackmailers. He won’t be pleading with anyone to come back. He recently told us he is too busy to waste time chasing after such guys. He has 45m Ugandans to serve and doesn’t see reason chasing after a few musicians now in People Power. His plan is to thoroughly defeat them with their Bobi Wine,” a State House source says of big-names like Eddie Kenzo, Jose Chameleon, Pallaso, Geoffrey Lutaaya and a few others that have lately been embracing opposition.
Museveni’s plan B going into 2021 political season is to still use musicians operating under “a coalition of the willing” that is currently being coordinated by Bebe Cool (aka Moses Ssali) and Salvador Idringi. The coalition, whose members are currently being vetted, will comprise of new and well-established big-name musicians who are willing to be contracted to perform at all Museveni’s rallies during the three months campaign period. They shouldn’t be money-minded and should value establishing long term relationships similar to what exists between Bebe and the H.E. That doesn’t mean they are working for free. No. They will each be permitted to perform at the President’s rallies and be paid per performance as agreed.
This clarification is important because in the past some artistes humiliatingly stormed State House trying to blackmail the big man (because he is nanyini sente) to pay them some additional lumpsum over and above what they earned from his campaign team per performance. That is why now as part of the vetting, members enrolling into the coalition of the willing are being asked to accept that they won’t be entitled to anything more than their remuneration per performance though at his own volition, the H.E. can decide to offer some kasimo/token after bouncing back as President.
The coalition of the willing resulted from a proposal Bebe Cool and Salvador (who PP initially counted to be theirs after featuring in Kyarenga) tabled to the H.E and he instantly bought into it. State House sources say it will comprise of musicians, comedians, the DJs and bouncers used to providing security at music concerts. “In one of his strategy discussions with Bebe, Mzee insisted on inclusiveness meaning everybody in the industry should benefit cashing in on the windfall coming with the three months campaigning period. That’s why he has agreed with Bebe and Salvador to have a comprehensive list comprising of musicians, comedians, DJs, bouncers and other service providers for the entertainment industry,” says the source.
Bebe Cool has advised, and Museveni has accepted, that (to ensure inclusiveness) the list should have big names from Kampala but also those in the local towns upcountry so that the day the big man campaigns in those towns, they too take priority in entertaining his crowd and cash in too. The list has to therefore be vetted by security agencies, certified and agreed upon between the President and his industry coordinators Bebe, Salvador and to an extent big girl Catherine Kusasira.
As opposed to chasing after them, as if he is panicking, Museveni has agreed with Bebe that the door remains open in case the likes of Eddie Kenzo, Jose Chameleon, Pallaso and others (now flocking with opposition) wish to rejoin and become part of “the coalition of the willing.” Museveni has reportedly said: “I will continue giving them a contempt card [ignoring them] and none of my people should waste time pleading with them to come back to us. But if they reflect and any of them wants to rejoin the winning NRM camp, they are free to do so anytime.”
This defecting back to the NRM big man is expected to become inevitable in the coming months because no other political grouping can pay what musicians earn performing at Museveni’s rallies. Even in terms of social capital, one’s network of potential business relationships widens more when flocking with Sevo than with opposition who many business leaders fear associating with openly. But why then have the big-name musicians (previously part of the Tubonga Nawe squad) been very remorseful? That’s the big question we want to answer for the rest of this article.
It has to do with the guerilla nature of Museveni’s way of doing things. Like Tamale Mirundi (his press secretary for 14 years) keeps saying, Museveni isn’t very formal in the way he does his things. Yes, it’s a weakness but its something those opting to closely working for him should accept from the very onset to avoid being disappointed. First of all, he is overstretched having to contend with things pertaining to 45m Ugandans. That means meeting him often isn’t going to be easy yet some of the things he promises require following up. That following up can only effectively be done if one is assured of constant audience. Yet Museveni is also a man who knows how to deceptively create confidence in those that offer to serve him loyally. And that is where many musicians (being guys that aren’t very sophisticated just like the public they sing for), got disappointed with him. On meeting him, they got over excited and anticipated instant change in their financial lives. That is why they even overlooked contents of the performance agreements and contracts they signed with his lawyer Kiwanuka Kiryowa hoping they will be entitled to much more than is stipulated in the contracts. When that didn’t happen, many became disappointed.
And that is where (all his fallibilities notwithstanding), Bebe Cool makes the difference and turns out wiser. He went into working with Museveni well knowing there can be much more dividend beyond just getting the money. He rightly realizes that a personal relationship with Fountain of Honor is something he can leverage on to boost his business prospects with loaded corporate organizations that should ordinarily be comfortable transacting or dealing with someone so closely connected to the H.E. and can have name recognition before him.
Leveraging on that, Bebe Cool has branded himself as a Museveni right hand man; one that won’t struggle much to get audience. That is something any shrewd business leader would like to ride on to reach out to State House and get some favorable treatment in return. That is the reason Bebe Cool won’t easily get disappointed even if his initial financial expectations aren’t immediately met. He will remain cheerful towards Museveni and everything he stands for whether he gets paid/meets him or not. Simply put; Mr. Cool knows how else to benefit from the relationship beyond just the H.E. directing Gen Nalweyiso, Comptroller Nakyobe or PPS Molly Kamukama to give him say Shs10m to go through the weekend.
GANGING UP ON BEBE
In fact, that’s how Mr. Cool began being misunderstood by the rest of the colleagues he mobilized into 2016’s Tubonga Nawe project. From the very inception it was Museveni’s lawyer Kiwanuka Kiryowa who reached out and conceived the idea of using musicians to enchant crowds at candidate Museveni’s rallies. The two agreed its something the H.E. would like but they had to start on their own to eventually be able to illustratively show him how it works.
They put the original cash for the Tubonga Nawe project; KK putting Shs100m and Bebe getting a Shs50m loan to kickstart the project. Big-names were approached basically Jose Chameleon and Bobi Wine. Third to be approached was renowned crooner Juliana Kanyomozi. Mr. Wine reacted very contemptuously and made prohibitively very high demands prompting KK and Mr. Cool to conclude he was too complex to be stampeded into the project. They left him.
Next to be approached was Chameleon and later Juliana. Being their colleague, Mr. Cool would speak to them and update KK later in the evening. Juliana, who eventually participated in the Tubonga Nawe recording, accepted to perform at all Museveni rallies spanning three months but she later became cold on realizing she wouldn’t be paid upfront. “I now understand why Bobi Wine was clever declining these things from the very beginning,” she said in one of the meetings protesting to KK the Museveni campaign’s failure to make advance payment. That’s how she remained indecisive on earning Shs4m per rally though this wouldn’t be promptly paid. Truth is there was no money readily available for the musicians. With the Shs150m Mr. Cool and KK had put in place, it was agreed they begin the performances at the Museveni rallies for the first month.
With Juliana being indecisive and Bobi Wine maintaining a no, Mr. Cool had to struggle to ensure his effort to pull big-name artistes at Museveni’s rallies doesn’t end in utter failure. Wooing Chameleon now became a do or die kind of thing. Renowned for never being very consistent, Chameleon kept signing up and pulling out until KK told him he had to make up his mind. Time was running out. He was offered Shs4m at every rally he attended with the President performing four songs. It was at some point adjusted and the calculation was that if he performed as often as required, his bill against the Museveni campaign would stand at Shs1.8bn at the end of the three months period. In the end, he bagged only Shs400m having skipped many rallies. Why? Each time payment delayed or he suspected he may never be paid (in case arrears over accumulated), Chameleon would protest by staying away.
During initial negotiations, Chameleon (who later on influenced Weasel and Radio into the deal) hesitated arguing singing for Museveni would alienate him from his crowd of music fans. That Ugandans would resent him resulting into concert-organizers like Abbitex blacklisting and not hiring him yet that is the major source of income for most musicians. “Look here my brother. Your [Seguku] house is on the verge of being confiscated by money lenders. Here is an opportunity for you to make some money so that our children don’t become homeless the day you are evicted. You can earn this money and salvage your house,” Mr. Cool urged Chameleon in one of the preliminary meetings with KK. The prospect of overcoming money lenders softened a hitherto reluctant Chameleon to sign up to the deal.
The Museveni campaign handlers’ failure to make regular payments at some pointed caused disgruntlement and some musicians protested by staying away from the rallies. “Time came and it had to be faith for one to continue singing at the President’s rallies. Money wasn’t being paid and yet securing audience with Mzee too was being constrained,” recalls a member of the President’s entourage. “Some of those musicians would that month even struggle to fuel their cars and getting a decent place to sleep after the rally in those upcountry towns.” It was then that many quit leaving only Mr. Cool, DJ Micheal, Phina Mugerwa and Catherine Kusasira to sing for the big man. Apart from Mr. Cool, the trio wasn’t that very big in the signing industry. Curiously desperate, Kusasira went as far as telling some Museveni handlers “me I don’t mind singing for free because this crowd is good to market my music.”
Kusasira’s offer prompted Phina Mugerwa to proclaim the same as they sat in the VIP tent waiting for their turn to be called onto the stage. DJ Micheal, who had started grumbling accusing Mr. Cool of leading him into a bad deal, also had a rethink and said I’m staying.
JANET WEIGHS IN
As the four musicians reflected on their difficulties at one of the rallies, First Lady Janet Museveni somehow eavesdropped on their conversation and told the President about it. “I know they are taking all the risks to be in this for the love of the Movement but how are they surviving meeting all these costs because I’m finding them at every rally?” she wondered to the President. As he was leaving after the day’s final rally, a concerned Museveni signaled Mr. Cool to come near him and inquired about the authenticity of what Janet had told him.
A much-relieved Mr. Cool told him it was a while since they last got advanced any payment. “Is that why I’m not seeing Chameleon, Goodlife and those other children of mine anymore?” Museveni asked and Mr. Cool answered in the affirmative. Quick arrangements were made and all musicians with pending bills were called and got paid.
They resumed performing but grumblingly. In fact, some grew extreme pride and arrogance thinking it’s their staying away that blackmailed Museveni to intervene and get them paid. “It was an opportunity for the H.E. to know who was genuinely for him and who in it just for the money. And that is how Kusasira and Bebe Cool scored becoming his greatest darlings of all musicians,” says a source. “Some exposed themselves as mere fortune-hunters as they were recorded saying I can only come to perform at these Museveni rallies if I don’t have concerts elsewhere for instant payment.” Indeed, the Museveni rallies now became secondary for some of these musicians who resorted to performing elsewhere only singing for Museveni on days they are totally idle. Museveni got the message and gradually began writing off some of them. This impression was to later affect his subsequent dealings with some of these so-called celebrities.
After the campaign, Mr. Cool insisted that much as they were paid for the campaign performances, Museveni should accept to meet the singers as a group and officially thank them. “Mzee its true they were paid as per the contract but they can get some Entandiikwa of sorts to get them started into diversity of businesses.” Museveni reluctantly agreed to meet them and Mr. Cool led over 50 musicians into that meeting during which Museveni lectured them on life survival skills. He also listened to their problems, a session during which late Mowzey Radio inadvertently spoilt it all for everybody when he told the H.E. how he was a very poor guy.
Saying he was a pauper, Radio said “Sir I’m looking at you to bail me out because as you see me here I have only Shs500 in my entire life.” As others hecklingly protested, Radio said “let me tell you Mr. President we are all in the same boat except that my colleagues just want to pretend.” Mr. Cool vehemently protested this conduct by Radio and shut him up. Privately, Mr. Cool’s unstated concern was that Mzee rates musicians very highly and showing him how poverty-stricken they are would only erode the high esteem in which he held them and this would prompt him to begin giving them handouts of mere transport refund like he does to his regular NRM guys.
Radio didn’t take this State House rebuke by Mr. Cool lightly and revenged months later. In that same meeting, Chameleon who also resented Mr. Cool’s approach of concealing their poverty from the H.E. went native when he demanded that the President directs his PPS Molly Kamukama to every term release $40,000 as tuition fees for each of his children in the best international schools in Kampala. Realizing musicians were utopian and not as sophisticated as he thought, Museveni got to the microphone urging Chameleon to withdraw his request.
He also referred to those who came with lists of international schools into which they wanted him to sponsor their kids. “My children let me tell you something as an old man. Those young children don’t deserve studying abroad because these are formative stages before the clock 18. We must keep them here and shield them against learning those bad behaviors of Europeans [e.g. drug addiction, homosexuality etc].” Museveni offered to sponsor their children under the State House scholarship scheme but strictly in good Ugandan public schools like Budo, Nabisunsa, Ntare, Namagunga etc.
Specifically responding to Chameleon’s request for $40,000 per term for each of his children, Museveni said: “My children lets be realistic. Yes, I’m the President of Uganda but where do I get all that money? Remember we have 45m Ugandans to look after. They need hospitals, good schools and roads etc. Let’s be realistic in our expectations from the President.” Chameleon reluctantly left the floor but insisted he can find cheaper international schools which don’t have to cost $40,000. Museveni said: “I’m willing to help on that Mr. Mayanja but it will have to be any of the good public schools where we sponsor other students under State House scholarship but not those celebrity international schools of yours.” He even asked Chameleon to advise him on which account State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe was to get such free money to just dole out to musicians without landing into problems with Parliament.
At the end of the meeting, Museveni said: “I really don’t have that much money you seem to be expecting from me but my son Bebe Cool suggested I get you some Ntandikwa which is okay. Let’s go and prepare business proposals which we can discuss at our next meeting.” As they left, Mr. Cool underlined the importance of understanding how Museveni’s money-giving antics had always been exaggerated. He advised the group to be more realistic and avoid quoting too much money in their proposals. Chameleon, supported by Goodlife, rebuked him urging him to shut up. They said those things of maintaining decency before the man for whom they had risked so much wouldn’t work. “It’s going to condemn us to extreme poverty for the next five years since no promoter is going to be hiring us fearing to turn away crowds at their concerts,” they chorused urging Mr. Cool to let them be. He was accused of holding himself out as the leader of the Tubonga Nawe Squad yet nobody ever elected him so.
The trio insisted that Museveni must be considerate of the damage their participation in Tubonga Nawe had caused to their reputation and respective brands. The trio argued they had become less popular with their genuine music fans because of that participation and this is something for which Museveni must indemnify them. Mr. Cool responded that any insistence that Museveni must atone reputational damage each musician claimed to have suffered was actually an insult that would only alienate State House from them. He cautioned that uttering such a thing to Museveni would make the old man feel insulted because it tantamount to saying he has become so unpopular to the extent musicians’ careers must die simply because they sang at his rallies.
TACKLING PPS MOLLY
As they waited for the next meeting, which they expected Museveni would call urgently (but he didn’t), some musicians tried reaching out on their own while claiming Mr. Cool was only interested in preventing them from having regular audience with the H.E. Many tried camping at the State House gate only to be told there is always a protocol list disclosing people the PPS has cleared to meet the President for that day. Some tried camping in Entebbe hoping they can flag down the President as his convoy snakes out which didn’t yield. Some tried reaching out to PPS Molly Kamukama who became so irritated and one day asked them “you might be very important yes but he is a president for 45m Ugandans and not only you.” She urged musicians to be respectful of the high office and learn to patient. This prompted some of them to begin saying “that woman is sabotaging our relationship with the President.” Subsequently, she rang of them furiously saying “I’m doing my job please respect my office the way I respect yours.” Chameleon was among those who misunderstood everything and went around bad mouthing the PPS and the rest of the President’s staff calling them sabotuers.
RADIO THUMPS BEBE
Months later, Museveni (through KK) granted another meeting to look through the business proposals. Days prior, Mr. Cool looked into some proposals and advised people to revise downwards which caused him to be misunderstood for an envious person. State House sources say some demanded as much as Shs5bn and many between Shs800m-Shs1bn. Mr. Cool’s was merely Shs150m. As they sat in the waiting room, the musicians became rowdy and heated arguments ensued.
Those urging low-cost proposals were led by Mr. Cool and those for extravagant ones were patronized by Chameleon and the Good Life duo. In the ensuing melee, Radio pulled closer and beat up Mr. Cool using empty mineral water bottles as Chameleon cheered. Saying fighting in State House waiting lounge would spoil his reputation before the President, Mr. Cool stormed out. Seeing he was absent yet he was his chief strategist for all these meetings, Museveni at the start of the meeting insisted Mr. Cool joins in first before they begin.
The discussions began going through each proposal began. An alarmed Museveni, on seeing Shs5bn, hit the roof. “Where can you get all this money from Banange? Don’t forget Uganda has 45m people,” Museveni said causing some to protest he was favoring Mr. Cool’s views yet they never agreed on him being their leader. At the end of the day, Museveni decreed that on average each proposal should reflect Shs25m saying that is what he can afford. You should have been there to see the gloom on people’s faces. Some started shedding tears hoping that would move Museveni. He maintained “your government has little money with many things to do.”
Many began regretting getting involved in Tubonga Nawe in the first place and some of State House handlers whispered to them “Mzee’s things are for conviction and volunteers as he never gives out huge monies as some of you keep thinking.” Some demanded one to one meetings but Museveni (who had already seen some of them freeze and failing to express themselves before him) said that would be waste of time. He implied he had given musicians too much time and now was time to serve the other Ugandans.
But before the meeting ended, an angry Chameleon rose on his feet and directed his anger at PPS Molly Kamukama who was in attendance. He accused her of being aloof and never in a hurry to take his phone calls when he calls to inquire about the President’s earlier promises to him including paying $40,000 for his children in international schools. Museveni was initially calm but later on showed irritation wondering why the singer from Kawempe was taking so long to understand basic things. He asked him where he expects the PPS to get such money.
The meanness with which Museveni spoke in that meeting caused many musicians to become emotionally very broken and develop lukewarm attitude towards him. Many walked away saying “how can I risk my career and work with the President and remain poor?” Some complained about not being able to access him regularly and demanded his direct hotline. The man from Rwakitura maintained it wasn’t necessary. “How have you managed to get me on the few occasions we have met including for today’s meeting? Let’s maintained the same approach because the President of Uganda is a very busy person,” Museveni said seeing off the distraught musicians.
As they left, one big-name female musician cried out: “Wowe! Where I’m I going to eat? The music concerts promoters can’t hire me anymore saying I’m unpopular because of Tubonga Nawe and even the President I risked for hasn’t given me the money I expected to atone my damages?” Indeed, that female musician has several times been issuing public apologies to the public regretting participating in Tubonga Nawe. Museveni was told the female musician has been apologizing because that is the condition some key anti-establishment promoters gave for her to be hired to sing at their concerns which currently remains her only source of income. Gentlemen and ladies these are some of the reasons why some of the musicians are up in arms against Sevo-and don’t be surprised when some of them make a U-turn and once again rejoin Museveni under Mr. Cool’s “coalition of the willing.” (For comments, call or text us on 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).