Muniini K. Mulera
Mbabazi’s entitlement is the Old Man’s deprivation
Posted Monday, March 18 2013 at 02:00
I am sure the people of northern Uganda, whose money bought Mbabazi’s Mercedes Benz, would be happy to get bicycles to take them to the few health centres with medicines.
The torrential rains that have been pounding Mparo, Kigezi have let up. The dull sky is yielding passage to a gorgeous rainbow and a little warmth to the Old Man who has been trapped in his home for several days. His paraffin gone and his charcoal reduced to a black powder at the bottom of the sisal bag, he has been without heat or light for the last two days.
The swelling has moved up from his feet to claim the legs which now resemble well-tended palm trees. He has been indulging in self-treatment with old tablets he thinks he was given years ago for an illness that he neither remembers nor considers relevant to his current predicament.
“If this medicine worked last time, it should work this time too,” he speaks to his bedroom. He tries without success to suppress thoughts of his wife’s death in that very room. She died of an illness that was as sudden as it was aggressive. It had started with a terrible headache, progressed to weakness of the right side of her body, loss of vision in one eye, inability to speak and loss of control of her bodily functions. Mercifully death had come quickly.
Suddenly he remembers that the pills in his hands are leftovers from his wife’s futile treatment for hypertension. He falls onto his knees and weeps.
He does not hear the knock on his bedroom door, but reacts when the visitor clears his throat. “Eh! Doctor, you are back from Canada already? Perhaps God wants me to live after all.”
The visitor informs him that he plans to take him to Kampala and leave him in the hands of Amama Mbabazi, the Prime Minister of Uganda himself. “He will get you the best medical treatment in this country,” the visitor announces.
“Yes Mbabazi is my son,” the Old Man replies. “His father Bagwowaabo was my very dear friend when he lived in Ibumba,” he explains. “However, I am certain that Mbabazi has no time for the likes of me. So let me die in peace, just like everyone else who does not have personal connections in this government.”
“Mbabazi is a much misunderstood gentleman,” the visitor pleads. “At heart he is a good man, and I know people he has helped when they were in need.”
The Old Man is adamant in his defiance. “Don’t make me say many things,” he pleads with his visitor. “The thing that kills me, my son, is that these people believe they are entitled to luxuries and treat the government like a private company. I hope you have read the transcript of Mbabazi’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.”
“Yes I read that transcript,” the visitor replies. “But are you sure they quoted him accurately? I mean, how does one who is reputed to have been a co-architect of the fundamental change regime say that by accepting a super-luxurious Mercedes Benz S500 he is simply following in the footsteps of prime ministers of Uganda since independence?”
“To say that Mbabazi is copying the greed of prime ministers of buffoon regimes is to stretch credulity, Mzee,” the visitor continues as he hands a newspaper to the Old Man. “Read this and tell me if the son of Bagwowaabo, whom you and I know very well, can say such things.”
The Old Man reads in silence. After a while he lets the paper drop to the floor, his gaze distant, his jaws twitching as he grinds his teeth, his nostrils rising like the ears of an enraged elephant. He picks up the paper and reads a passage from Mbabazi’s submission to the PAC. He drops the paper again, and turns his wrath onto his visitor.
“You see, doctor, people like you hide your heads in the sand. You probably read this paper and miss the key words that tell the whole story of what is wrong with our country.”
“Which words are those, Mzee?” the visitor asks. “The key word is ‘entitled or entitlement’ which Mbabazi used several times in response to questions”, the Old Man replies. “It does not occur to him that his entitlement is our deprivation; his luxurious lifestyle is my wife’s death from an easily preventable and treatable disease.”
“I hear you,” the visitor answers. “But what do you expect a whole prime minister of Uganda to do? Surely you don’t expect him to travel in a Toyota or Hyundai, do you?”
“I don’t know the difference between those cars,” the Old Man responds. “To us here a boda boda is an unaffordable luxury. I am sure the people of northern Uganda, whose money bought Mbabazi’s Mercedes Benz, would be happy to get bicycles to take them to the few health centres with medicines.”
“Mbabazi is not the first to love these luxuries,” the visitor presses his defence. But the Old Man is not budging. “It is a mark of great leadership when a person changes a well-established negative practice,” The Old Man says. “It is a mark of immorality and terrible weakness when a leader perpetuates wrong practices, such as the culture of entitlement that Prime Minister Mbabazi is content to uphold, even when it means the deprivation of basics from tens of millions of fellow citizens.”
Dr Mulera is a Daily Monitor columnist based in Canada.