Because President Museveni has twice denied himself the deep sigh that a fulfilled ruler would have breathed, he does not understand the meaning of resting from the exercise of power. He does not know the sheer joy of waking up and, at your pace, switching on the hi-fi to hear the voice of Jessye Norman (now RIP) in the morning air, instead of hurriedly fitting yourself in bullet-proof vests and following those wild sirens to destinations where you are feared, worshipped, manipulated, flattered, but not exactly loved.
The other day I heard of a pastor – and I am still not absolutely sure that my ears were honest – who presented the President with a knife! A strange gift in these violent times. Was the ghost of Idi Amin, ‘Kijambiya’, roaming in our midst?
Yearning for an ever more distant satisfaction, President Museveni finds himself dragged into public engagements that cannot be intellectually or emotionally rewarding, their value as vote-catchers notwithstanding.
This burdensome aspect of power periodically condemns Mr Museveni to discussions with Uganda’s rivalling Pentecostal preachers.
On September 23, he met many of them at Lugogo Cricket Grounds, including the flamboyant, the less glamorous, and even the lumpen spiritariat who stride up and down our streets with a Bible, screaming plain nonsense.
In a show of disunity and their typical one-upmanship, each of the four selected leaders had a separate ‘document’ for the President. They appropriately divided the limited allotted time and agreed (as gentlemen) on the order in which they would make shortened presentations of their documents. Fair enough, given their divided status.
In the event, the first man reportedly used up most of the others’ time.
Then it transpired that one of them had ‘volunteered’ not to speak, but cunningly arranged to give his complete document to the President to take away for perusal.
With equal cunning, another spoke, but also almost secretly passed on his full document.
The more cynical, the more arrogant, and the more suspicious did not show up at all.
You have to be daft not to see that any of these men only understands Pentecostal unity if it means his supremacy; power over other Pentecostals. Otherwise each will separately grab what they can grab, whether it is from foreign benefactors, local congregations, or Uganda’s taxpayers.
Now, the rumour that many of our pastors live like film stars has reached their benefactors abroad, and foreign money may not be flowing in as profusely as it did 20 years ago.
Also, the local mass of followers may be still growing, but not as fast as the churches are multiplying, and these churches have to compete for (and share out) this mass.
Moreover, apart from the thoroughly brainwashed, many followers eventually realise that the supposed prosperity miracles are not miracles at all, but mostly hard work. And a 10 per cent tithe on one’s sweat increasingly looks cutthroat in the 21 Century.
Enter President Museveni, who controls the taxpayers’ money and sometimes carries around bags of cash.
The preachers are possessed by the same demons that possess other players in the vampire state. They want more land, bigger mansions and bigger SUVs. They have seen the bags. So they are now masquerading as promoters of entrepreneurship. They are business ‘experts’ with Bibles. Their new game is fishing from Operation Wealth Creation.
With 2021 upon us, half-exhausted, a hostage of sorts, the President may be distracted by the phantom votes in the teeming congregations. So, someone patriotic, or Almighty God, guard the Treasury. The pastors are coming!
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.