People & Power
Byandala: Minister in eye of the storm
Posted Sunday, August 31 2014 at 01:00
Back in the day and now. The minister for Works and Transport is a man with a busy career; from KCC to Parliament and to Cabinet
Was he angry? Would he say the same things in another newspaper interview? What was running through his mind as he dropped names of fellow ministers in a multimillion dollar scam whose heat had surged? And to make the magnitude of allegations he threw here and there?
Abraham Byandala, if the past few weeks and the baggage of media fodder they have come with are anything to go by, is certainly a man with an action packed life albeit tucked in the confines of a low profile. Beyond the Mukono-Katosi road saga and subsequent outbursts, Mr Byandala is an engineer cum politician whose script of life reads like a fairy tale.
The 64-year-old mean looking, bespectacled minister, with medium body build and height, is not the type to give away so much of his personal life for instance.
Life at KCC
When contacted for a comment and reflections of his time at Kampala City Council (KCC) where the Makerere University trained civil engineer was chief city engineer for more than 20 years, Mr John Ssebana Kizito, who served as mayor for 10 years, said: “That man is in trouble now, I wouldn’t want to comment about him,” he said, adding when pressed on, “I didn’t know him personally even when he was my city engineer”.
Of his performance as engineer, Mr Ssebana said: “Whatever you see in form of roads was supervised by him. I think he tried his best because he had a lot of challenges in his area.”
Former KCC spokesman Herbert Ssemakula painted an image of a man whose life rotated around the technical maps and master plans that loosely dangled on his office walls. Committed to his job and quiet.
“He is a very humble and principled man. I heard no complaints from his department, it was quiet. I think he also delivered given that KCC was constrained financially,” he said. What the two men share in common is the shock wave that blew off those who knew him when Byandala took to electoral politics.
“I had never known him as a politician but you know people change,” Mr Ssebana said. But back to his performance as city engineer, from where he literally cut his career teeth, once asked by K-fm Saturday show, Hard Talk host Chris Obore to account for his years at KCC, the dark skinned politician stammered, taking time to recollect what difference he made in Kampala. He was to later point out a road in town.
In fact, Sunday Monitor’s columnist Bernard Tabaire wrote in his column recently, “……….which Abraham Byandala was once upon a time KCC(A) chief engineer who happily presided over the rapid expansion of potholes and gullies in the city.”
President Museveni in his characteristic humour joked as Mr Byandala swore in as minister for Works and Transport in 2011, “The Monitor wrote that from Nasasira to Byandala means more potholes. So Byandala has to work harder.” The President that day actually cracked a joke as minister after minister swore in at State House Entebbe but his choice of this particular joke as Byandala swore in almost gave credence (inadvertently so), to skeptics who wrote off the elderly politician from the outset. The jury is still out on whether he actually took his boss’ advice or not.
Be that as it may, former Kampala Town Clerk Gordon Mwesigye described his former colleague’s performance as “average.” Asked to expound on this average performance, he told this reporter, “You understand English and you know what average means.”
Mr Mwesigye added reluctantly: “I had no problems with him. We did intersections at Clock Tower, Wandegeya, Kitgum House and fixed roads at Industrial Area that had died. Studies were also done on the transport master plan and all that was under the engineering department.”
Byandala headed this department for a considerably long time. To believe or not that his performance was largely hampered by the inadequate funding from government to KCC is a matter of personal choice and debate.
The only logical point of convergence can only be the plain assertion that Mr Byandala’s performance to say the least was neither here nor there. It was average to borrow Mr Mwesigye’s moderate tongue.
Off to politics
After more than two decades at KCC, Byandala in an evolution of self put his feet to electoral politics. In 2006, he trounced Mr James Kinobe (now ambassador) right from the NRM party primaries, protecting his electoral throne again in 2011 against current Luweero Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya.
Voters from Luweero this writer spoke to attribute Mr Byandala’s election victories to the god-fathering of Hajj Abdul Naduli, the indomitable NRM elder in Luweero, whose vast experience in the area’s political terrain and weight behind the engineer scored goals.
As a backbencher, Byandala took no time to shoot his star to the August house’s limelight, especially when he chaired the committee on Physical Infrastructure.