Up until July 17, Olivia Katusiime and Emmanuel Tugume were any regular couple. They pretty much still are, except for the fact that it has been 10 days since Emmanuel’s decision to propose in the hearttoheart magazine plunged Olivia and himself into the Kampala spotlight.
While Emmanuel had expected some fuss, he admits that he doesn’t understand why what he did has raised as much ado as it has.
HOW THEY MET
The ardent Christians met at a Fellowship Emmanuel had started hosting in the neighbourhood three years ago.
The idea was to meet and share in the Word of God, get to know people and learn how to approach life’s challenges with a different type of support system, he says.
At the time they were both caught up in their own whirlwind lives, dating different people. In fact, Olivia says she barely noticed him but for his role in the fellowship.
For Tugume, it was during the course of the last two years, having failed at the preceding relationship that he entered what he refers to as a “searching mode”, casting his proverbial fishing net as wide as he could.
As it turned out, he needed not to have cast out too wide, because Katusiime, who had just the traits he was looking for in his future mate, including the primary; she was God fearing, was right under his nose.
“It took her much longer to notice I was into her of course but I had my time and I am glad I waited because as it turns out, what I felt was not one sided. So here we are, six months later.”
How he coined the proposal
“I sort of felt like she had challenged me to do something out of the ordinary. She did not say it. I just felt it. So I sat home and thought real hard until I remembered the Heart to Heart section of the newspaper. Initially, I’d just wanted to post the poem but I was advised to give a little background which I did. I’ll admit, it was no easy feat deciding on what to do. It is hectic but how often do you get to propose? I had to go all out, and I would do it again.
The couple’s reactions
I was shocked! We were on our way to a funeral, and Emma was driving when my friend Cathy called from Kampala to say I needed to get myself a copy of the Daily Monitor. After explaining that I was on my way to a funeral, she referred her condolences and chided me on why I hadn’t told her that I have an Emmanuel who loves me very much. She also went ahead to read me the story and the poem, very beautifully, I might add. Cathy then requested to speak to Emmanuel and “thank him on behalf of my people.”
“When “Oh my God” started flying around the inside of the car, I began to understand that maybe she was receiving the news after all”, says Tugume, adding that he thought the funeral they were going to would spoil the mood but by then it had been too late to re-call anything.
“She looked jittery and excited but scared too. The phone calls didn’t stop there, they kept coming in all day so I let her soak it in until we had time for ourselves later in the evening.”
From the rumor mill, there are quite a few young men in Uganda, who’d like to clobber Emmanuel Tugume, for outshining their future proposals and exciting the women. One Cokedaemon posted beneath the article, “Is this gu guy serious?” while MMA posted, “This guy is making our men look bad.”
Emmanuel’s defence is that raising the bar or outshining his fellow men was far from what he set out to do. “I wanted to do something memorable for her, I couldn’t do something basic; she’d never have liked that despite what everyone says.”
Tugume has been dubbed everything from a flamboyant ninny to the ideal modern day romantic. Some of Olivia’s friends in fact, took it upon themselves to send him some scathing messages along the lines of, “…how could you do that to her? You clearly don’t know her well enough.”
“I got tempted to get mad”, Emmanuel says but adds nonchalantly, “The important thing is that Olivia, despite her prior inhibitions, found the gesture heartwarming…romantic even. I am happy.”
“It’s slowly sinking in. It has been scary and exciting at the same time but I do wish it would all end…the spotlight I mean. My boss actually asked if I was okay…like most people, she knows I am a very private person. I do know that Emmanuel loves me though, and sometimes love makes people do things you’d never expect them to do. You have to play along. I am trying to enjoy as much as I can,” says Olivia.
Unlike Emmanuel, Olivia is no social media buff. So much so, that her minimal existence on the interwebs caused the likes of James Onen aka “Fat Boy” of Sanyu FM to publicly doubt her existence on his Breakfast Show. She had decided to keep quiet about the whole affair until she was pushed by her friends to respond in some public way. So she’s gone ahead and posted, “I said yes” on Facebook.
On whether he knew if she’d say yes, Olivia says: “You can never really know. I know we are on the same page as far as the relationship and our future is concerned but in all honesty, like those planes that keep crashing, you can never be 100 per cent certain about anything. Let’s just say I went out on a limb and it didn’t give way.”
On if she takes him for a romantic, Olivia says “Very much so. You can tell when someone loves you,” she smiles in a manner that makes me feel like an intruder, “Emma loves me, he brings out the best in me. For example, it’s only after him that I started travelling back home to the west more often. I used not to enjoy the journey.” Both Emmanuel and Olivia studied in western Uganda during their formative years.
Emmanuel attended Mbarara High School while she went to Kigezi High, both joining tertiary institutions in Kampala. Emmanuel attended Makerere University Business School and is now an Economist with the Ministry of Finance while Olivia attended Makerere University for Mass Communication. She is currently a Customer Service agent at one of Uganda’s banks.
Of the same cultural background, keeping with tradition has not been difficult. Emmanuel had sent his elder cousin to engage in a discourse about her hand. Olivia’s upcoming wedding will be the second in her family of five, as will Emmanuel’s. I ask if her in-laws in some way scare her but she’s quick to differ. “His mother and sister are beautiful on the inside and out”, she says, “She (Emmanuel’s mother), is always giving me helpful advice.