By implication, Museveni was the only contender strong enough to bear the enormous burden of governing Uganda
Greek Titan. All these years later, it looks like the President has stumbled several times, often dropping the grinding-stone, sometimes on very rocky paths.
First, the problem. What kind of chief executive can make Uganda leap and properly belong to the 21st century?
Some years back, when Mr Museveni was seeking another of those presidential terms serious people no longer count, one of his fans presented him with a traditional grinding-stone; literally, a heavy appropriately shaped piece of rock, olubengo.
The event attracted various interpretations, some of them based in dark superstition. But the President took the gift in good humour, encouraging the interpretation that he was a tough guy in the league of Atlas, the legendary Greek Titan. By implication, Museveni was the only contender strong enough to bear the enormous burden of governing Uganda.
All these years later, it looks like the President has stumbled several times, often dropping the grinding-stone, sometimes on very rocky paths. And the stone has been breaking into small pebbles that he collects and puts in an old jute sack. As determined never-give-up titans do, he carries this sack wherever he goes; and not on his head anymore, but over his shoulder and back.
By and by, he adds a variety of odd things to his burden; colourful bottles, tin plates, scrapped radio parts, old plastic mugs.
Worn through daily use, the sack is now riddled with holes. As he plods along, some of the items fall through the holes.
When he bends to retrieve one of his pebbles that is rolling down the pavement, an empty can pops out through another hole near the mouth of the sack, and he hastily shuffles back to collect that too.
Sometimes such is the apparent mischief of his hoard, making him dash back and forth, left and right, that he loses his temper and literally slaps the sack, as if a smack of pain would make it behave more cooperatively. But it is his palm that aches instead.
To ordinary spectators, the gentleman with the sack exhausts himself for nothing, since it contains items that have no value. The solutions for the needs of his people – food, shelter, clothes, and various services – are elsewhere, not in the sack.
Power is a very elusive thing, and it seems that the more you think of holding it through images of brute muscular prowess, the more likely that it will ultimately leave you stranded, never satisfied; even a slave.
The Greeks understood that Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders as a punishment for rebelling against Zeus. So, for all his strength, the Greeks walked freely under the sky because Atlas was condemned.
Then again, power never quite even respects money.
For many years now, President Museveni has tried to imitate the village tycoon, with miserable results.
The village tycoon buys food and beer at funerals and gossip fraternities; he gives iron-sheets for the unfinished church; occasionally, he even pays school-fees for an orphan. But the village remains jigger-infested and backward.
President Museveni has thrown money at everything under the sun. Poverty; women; boda boda operators; unfinished churches; roads; stubborn MPs. Poorly planned and barely monitored, most of the money gets stolen or spent on the wrong priorities. And the sack remains on his back, distracting him and sapping his energy.
But there is something he has not tried. In four words: Being a modern president. The conviction that he must find competent honest people, the art of selecting them, and the belief that he must let them do the work that has to be done; these things are not in his constitution.