HE GAVE UP ALL HIS WEALTH TO FINANCE ELECTIONS. NOW TRAPPED IN DEBT
He gave up all his wealth to finance elections. Now trapped in debt
Simon Peter Obalin staked over UGX 250 million ($68,000) into the race for Kumi County Member of Parliament but lost not only the race but all his wealth. He is now fending as an Uber taxi driver using someone else’s car.
Prior to entering politics, Obalin (aged 34), owned wholesale shops in Mbale City and Kumi Municipality, a fleet of vehicles among them trucks, SUVs, and commuter taxis. He also owned a mansion in which he was living with his wife and five children.
Today all his wealth is gone and he rues the decision he made to enter politics whose level of commercialization is beyond comprehension. Obalin tells SecretsKnown that having declared his intentions to aspire for the Parliamentary seat (MP) early in 2017, he built churches including Heaven’s Revival and Deliverance Ministries in Nyero Sub-county, donated bicycles and cash including settling medical bills for community members.
On the ground, he felt he was the undisputed next MP, until late 2019 when a certain Okaasi Sidronius Opolot, a senior citizen, entered the race with superior spending power. He nicknamed himself “Action Man”.
The Action Man invested in multiple church projects across the constituency, he opened and graded community roads, bought off Obalin’s campaign agents, as well as donated groceries and cash to the electorate.
By December 2020, Obalin had already sold off all his belongings including his vehicles, the wine store in Mbale City, the building that housed his wholesale store in Kumi Municipality, and his residence to finance the election campaign.
Yet the proceeds were not enough to counteract the spending power of his rival. He resorted to borrowing to fund the final activities including the deployment of polling agents. Nonetheless, Obalin lost the election to spending giant, Okaasi Sidronius Opolot. The election was conducted on January 14, 2021.
Having seen his business empire and wealth dissolve into the sea of commercialized politics, Obalin has stepped forward to sensitize upcoming politicians about the high cost of elections as well as reinforcing ongoing advocacy for campaign finance law.
“We must find a way of regulating the use of money in electoral politics. One should not finance election campaigns using business money. One should never sell own assets to fund politics. It is not worth it. At best politics should be funded using miscellaneous money”, says Obalin.
Today he is trapped in a sea of debt. He is unable to pay the money lenders, and neither can he finance the loans he took from the bank. His children are being kept at a friend’s home and the wife is at large. The story of Obalin is shared by many other losing candidates.
This is why ACFIM has over the past five years been advocating for the enactment of a campaign finance law. When it comes to spending on election campaigns, all candidates get bruised and, in the end, it is democracy that suffers.