In this new column, we follow the adventure of Nairo who until recently was a teacher making a living out of moonlighting at several primary schools. Nairo’s life turns dramatically when his friend and fellow teacher Ernest Mbago wins the Nabirama constituency MP seat.
Back in our campus days, a friend joked that Ernest Mbago was more eccentric than Xixo, the lead character in the film, The Gods Must Be Crazy. Some jokes hold.
Mbago, who is so smitten with being an MP that he takes offence at being introduced without the ‘honourable’ title, showed up for a date in that green military fatigue NRM cadres wear to their retreat in Kyankwanzi.
We were at Africa Hall in Makerere to ‘bench’ Jane. The plump campuser is one of Mbago’s former students in Busoga. As a teacher, Mbago had frequently engaged in trysts with Jane as part of his ‘salary top-up.’
I had thought that having skipped the rungs of society’s ladder to become an MP, Mbago would behave like one. I was expecting him to stop coming back to such girls and date a higher class of a lass, but this benching made me realise two things: one, that ‘class’ is not something any aide-de-camp can try to define selfishly. Secondly, that my boss was a human form of a village currently living city life.
Mbago had his trousers tucked into the Kyankwazi-issued military boots, the hems of his shirt jerking with every motion like a faulty gear lever.
“How will those girls know that I’m from Kyankwanzi without the military outfit?” He had said this in response to my protests over the choice of outfit.
Grinning ear to ear
Jane was with her friend, Agnes. Two others walked in as soon as we had arrived; grinning ear to ear like they had detected scents of the billions BoU claims to have lost in fraud on our bodies. One introduced herself as Olga. I missed the name of the other but without a pinch of regret for she did not look worth benching even under darkness.
Jane’s high-pitched voice rented the room as she demanded to know if the military fatigue meant Mbago could operate a gun.
“We saw pictures of Museveni posing in target positions, did he hit the bull’s eye or do those SFC boys first shoot the target and then when he misses, they bring the board and show the hole from days past to claim the big man had hit home?” Jane asked. Mbago shifted uncomfortably.
“And what of you, how come you’re not in the uniform?” the girl whose name I did not regret missing, asked. Why was she hitting on me? I ignored her. Jane could not. She trilled like faulty ATM whirring money, saying I call myself a strategist. Jane’s voice, I pity the midwives who will attend to Jane when she goes into labour one day.
“So why do MPs have to wear those army uniforms?” Olga probed. “It’s not funny, I remember this image of a minister looking like she was in a tent because they gave her garment worth of three sumo wrestlers.”
Mbago certainly did not have an answer. I’m not sure any of his fellow NRM legislators; they were all too taken up by the camaraderie of donning the uniforms that one self-obsessed MP even forgot his makeup.
“The uniforms… er… we became cadres serving the ruling government and the big man must want it that way. He likes his own uniform, you know,” Mbago said. “Anyway, does it matter?”
Agnes said she had seen pictures of Rwandan leaders going for retreat but that none of them was made to wear military uniform.
“In Rwanda, they wear their sweatpants and go jogging. The retreat that side is national, not about the ruling party and its military drills,” she said.
“Sir, Museveni is not here so speak up your mind,” added Olga. “Museveni sees everything with the muzzle of his AK47 rifle. By the way, besides flaunting sycophancy, what constructive things take place at the retreat? Surely, proposing extension of presidential term and scrapping of age limit from the Constitution can’t be considered in the people’s interest, eh?” She was brittle like beard stubs.