If the dead could speak, deceased comedian Paddy Bitama would, presumably, be the loudest. Today marks four days since the date (January 13) he was supposed to be lowered into his grave. But that has not happened yet because of the controversy about who his father is. There are two parties in the brawl; one led by Peter Njegula, the alleged dad who is said to have appeared upon Bitama’s death. The other is headed by Richard Tamale, who claims to be the heir to the man in whose home Bitama grew up, the late Sam Tamale. It is said the dispute shall be resolved by a DNA test whose results are expected on Friday. Abdulaziizi Tumusiime talked to both parties.
Peter Njegula - I am determined to bury my son
Nejugla is 57 years old and an employee at City View High School in Kyebando. In 1979, Njegula visited a friend whom he worked with at a garage in Makerere. At the friend’s home he met a beautiful young lady, Florence Nalubega (Bitama’s late mother) who impressed him. As the days went by, he became friends with Nalubega. The relationship later blossomed into love.
“We had been together for some months when a friend told me that the lady I was dating was someone’s wife. I absolutely had no idea about this. In our culture it is an abomination to date a married lady. So I vowed to break the news of the end of our relationship, the next time I saw her. I told her my mind and at the end of my talk she informed me that she was pregnant. I was in shock. I denied being responsible. She walked away. It was the last time I saw her in a long time,” the father of seven narrates.
In 1994, Njegula operated a shop along Namirembe Road, in Kampala. That year, he was approached by a woman who looked familiar. They exchanged pleasantries. He learned that it was Nalubega. She inquired whether he had completely disowned his son. She informed Njegula that his son wanted to see him. The latter consented and Bitama was brought to Njegula the next day.
Moving to another home
He left Nansana (where his mum stayed) and started leaving with Njegula in Kyebando . Bitama was enrolled at Bat Valley Primary School where he studied up to primary seven. “In his primary seven vacation, he told me that he wanted to study his secondary level while staying with his mother in Nansana. I replied that I would not pay his school fees if he was not staying in my home. He preferred to leave my house. Nevertheless he would still come around and visit.
“In the late 90s I was informed that he had joined comedy. At the time, Paddy was an adult and I did not want to poke my nose into the decisions that he took in his life unless he sought my advice,” he says.
In 1997, Nalubega died. It is alleged that since then, Bitama inherited the house in Nansana and it is where he has been staying till his death. He continued his periodic visits to Njegula’s home. He would bring his friends along and introduce him as his father. Nicholas Mpeire alias Messe one of the founders of Amarula family, says that around 2007, they were having a chat with Bitama about life after comedy. Suddenly, the late comedian informed him that his father had not died as he had always told them. “So, there was a time we were returning from a show and he took us to some house in Kyebando. We were ushered in by Mr Njegula, who Bitama told us was his real dad,” states Messe.
Helping out Bitama’s children
Njegula says that he has the baptism and immunisation cards of all of Bitama’s four children. When asked him about the claims that he abandoned the comedian when he was sick, he replies that his wife, children and himself, were by Bitama’s side since his admission in Mulago, last week, on Wednesday till the afternoon of Saturday when he passed away. He proves this by sharing with me details of events of Saturday.
“My daughter Fiina Namulindwa was by his bedside. She called and asked us that while bringing breakfast in the morning, we should carry along a food flask. We arrived at the hospital at around 8am. We found the deceased going to shower. Upon his return, he started eating breakfast.
He remarked that the greens were delicious. We had a casual chat. We all thought that he was getting better. I left him in the care of my daughter and his other siblings and went to work. At around midday I received a call informing me that my son had died,” says Njegula.
He adds that after arriving at the hospital, a burial preparation meeting was held that was attended by members of Amarula, Bitama’s siblings from Nansana and Njegula’s children. It was agreed that his body be taken to Nansana. The next day, Sunday, prayers would be held at Pastor Wilson Bugembe’s church, Light The World Ministries. Then there would be public viewing of the body at National Theatre and burial was to take place on Monday in Njegula’s ancestral village in Mitalamaria, Mpigi.
Njegula’s assertions about the burial arrangements were verified by Messe. “That was the programme that we had even given folks at Uganda Funeral Service. But, when we reached Nansana, Bitama’s siblings from the Nansana side of the family, changed their mind. They said that they wanted Bitama buried in Bbira. That is why we had to eventually involve the police to help in resolving the dispute,” Messe remarks.
Attempts to get a comment from Uganda Funeral Service were futile as they said that they could not avail such information about their clients. Njegula says that he is determined to bury his son in his ancestral home.
The Nansana family - Paddy is our ‘blood’
Robert Mugerwa is the late Paddy Bitama’s brother. He belongs to the family in Nansana. He says that their dad Sam Tamale who was a dentist, died in the early 90s. “I am 26 years old but for all those years I have always known Bitama to be my brother and the son of our late dad, Tamale.”
He says that Njegula was lied to by Nalubega (Bitama’s late mum). “After the death of our father, life became hard. We were poor. So, my mum remembered that she had been in a relationship with Njegula. She believed that Bitama looked a lot like Njegula and so she introduced the two to each other, as father and son, but it was a scheme to get money from “that man”. Indeed she succeeded because I understand he paid Bitama’s school fees for some time,” Mugerwa says. I ask him how he was able to know all this information yet he was a sheer six years when the incidents he is talking about occurred. He counters that it is a tale that has been told to the family by elders and his father’s friends.