On my way to Makerere, I envisage meeting a great man, Joseph Godfrey Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere.
It is midmorning when I arrive at the former Buganda Kingdom premier’s residence. We had been on phone negotiating direction, until I reached close by, that he sent one of his daughters to pick me up.
On stepping in his premises, his compound speaks to a stranger that the person living in there is quite someone.
She asks to be excused, so she could go and open the main entrance. A minute later, she offers me a seat. Before long, my host, the former Katikkiro of Buganda, gently walks in. He shakes my hand with a smile and inquires about what gave me headache along the way in tracing his home. I tell him and we right away flip the next page.
Coming off as a humble, composed, but also humorous gentleman, Ssemwogerere narrates to me, his story and how retirement is treating him.
Ssemwogerere hails from the Ssesse Islands in Mawokota, and was born to a divisional accountant and a modest mother. Almost all the schools he attended, have all been turned into universities.
A daring young man he was, having had an escapade at St Mary’s College – Kisubi, only aged 14, and in Senior One, his penpal, almost his agemate from the UK advised him to sit for an overseas Cambridge schools examination certificate, GCE (General Certificate of Education), through an associated examination board.
He travelled from Kisubi at a risk, because neither the school authorities nor his parents had consented.
It was at Kampala Technical Institute, where it was to be offered, and luckily, he got it. He had his university education at Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania with President Museveni.
Ssemwogerere spent much of his work life in the banking sector, both here and abroad. From Africa Development Bank, to Ssembule Bank, then Commercial Bank of Africa.
From the banking sector, Ssemwogerere joined National Housing as as chief executive.
The 75-year-old, has been blessed, having once turned down four major gigs, including being Uganda’s ambassador to the UN and becoming the chief executive of Uganda Commercial Bank, a giant firm at that time. He threw that out the window, settling for Katikkiro.
President Museveni had offered him the ambassadorship.
In 1993, the Kabaka of Buganda appointed Ssemwogerere Katikkiro, amid contention at Mengo. Why? Mulwanyamuli was the first Catholic to hold the position which was unprecedented.
Being the humble man he is, he went out to him asking, that he reverses his decision, but the Kabaka said it was not about religion.
Earlier, when Ssemwogerere had worked for government, as special district administrator (currently known as RDC) in Masaka, the kabaka paid a visit to the area, and probably spotted a capable fellow.
And before long, an envoy headed by Bbaale Mugeera, came to him saying; that he were to assist the Kabaka to prepare a palace for his second visit, which left him perplexed.
He asked, “How?” to which they replied, “are you asking the king how?”, because it is unheard of in Buganda to turn down a job offered by the Kabaka.
They then shortly bade him farewell, with an assignment left behind on his table. He immediately drove to his mother, and narrated the ‘disturbing’ news. He was scared, but that was not about to stop fate. He would be the longest serving Katikkiro of Buganda Kingdom, at least under Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, for 12 years.
Like they say; that even the best dancer leaves the floor, Ssemwogerere asked the Kabaka that he steps down, and this actualised in December 2005. Ssemwogerere expresses his thanks for the love and support, which the people in Buganda, the king, and the media rendered him.
Lately he is often in, and out of town, mostly to check on his farms in the Ssesse Islands, Buddu, and Mawokota. The mentioned farms co-exist with respective country homes.
On a typical day, Ssemwogerere wakes up at 6am with the help of an alarm. He takes a glass of water and goes jogging for 30minutes. He then takes a bath, before eating some fruits. He takes breakfast 45 minutes after the glass of water.
Thereafter, he switches on his electronic devices to listen to world news and reads newspapers, before he takes another bath. He then takes a stroll.
Some days, he will carry out a day’s activities, takes a light lunch, relaxes and continues with other activities such as meetings, writing, and reading. From 7.50pm for 15 minutes, Ssemwogerere does light exercises, before taking dinner.
He reserves 8.30pm for family time, although his wife, at the time of this interview, had checked out abroad for treatment.
He retires to bed at 11pm.
The former Katikkiro spends his free time meeting people, participating in club activities such as Rotary. He also, goes for talks wherever he is invited, or goes to offices for private purposes.
“I portion my month between city activities including meetings and rural activities such as farming,” he says.
Beauty of retirement
In comparison to active employment, Ssemwogerere says the beauty of being retired is that “I don’t have to be strict on those timetables. Living a relaxed life is part of the benefits of retirement.”
He adds that it is very peaceful, and one is able to plan for their life.
“I had prepared myself in all ways, because I knew Buganda Kingdom doesn’t give pension,” he explains.
On life and his two cents
Ssemwogerere says in this phase of life, he has learnt that it is graceful and precious to retire.
He advises those intending to retire to prepare for their family first, and then prepare oneself mentally, emotionally and financially.
He cautions that amassing wealth should not be the meaning of life.
“In my life, it has never been about riches. Otherwise, I would be a very rich man having turned down a UN job, alongside three other important jobs,” he concludes.