Some years are full of pleasant things, of joyful memories and happy events, and they leave one hanging on to each of the last days, the way one hangs onto the coat tails of a loved one.
Others we can’t wait to see the end of. I am sure 2017 will lay claim to some bright moments here and there (and indeed must be, to some, one of the best years ever), but the last quarter showed many of us a dark side to the country and our politics that will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for many years to come.
The sight of fistfights in Parliament wasn’t entirely surprising or unexpected. This, after all, has become the destination of all sorts of misfits and undesirables who today rub shoulders and soil the reputations of good men and women.
However, the picture of a legislature under siege from external pressure and internal greed, and the ensuing legislative stampede in which constitutionalism and due process were thrown to the wind in the pure, naked, pursuit of power and personal profit will live with us for a long time.
Yet it is not 2017 that your column returns, prematurely from the comforts of hiatus, to mourn; rather it is the passing of those dearly departed. It has become a bit of a cliché to speak of untimely deaths. The passing of even those who have spent months in terminal decline is often announced as untimely, even when it brought relief to the departed. Such was the manner of the passing of Susan Linee, whose death, as painful as it was a few months ago, brought welcome relief from pain.
But how are we to describe the passing of Robert Wabbi, a friend to many, last week? There are many who were much closer to Bobby, as every one called him, and who knew him much better than your columnist. His family comes to mind immediately, as do those who worked with him or went to school with him.
But Bobby, diminutive in years past, put on the pounds in later years and cut a larger-than-life figure in every sense of the word.
Our paths first crossed, I believe at Just Kicking sports bar almost 20 years ago where we would meet to cry into our beers and over our beloved teams, and continued to crisscross over the years.
Every one who met Bobby has an anecdote or two to share about his love for the good life – and boy, did he eat life with a big spoon!
But it wasn’t in a manner of showing off his considerable means. Those of us who knew him back in the day – when we lived in one-room shacks, when landlords dissed us, when Christmas missed us – could see then the kind and generous soul he was, long before he sipped champagne when he was thirsty.
But Bobby wasn’t just about the good life. To his friends and family, he was driven and optimistic, doing 18-hour days and egging every one on.
There was no insurmountable obstacle, no impossibilities if one was willing to try a little bit harder and be a little bit more imaginative. In a world where people find problems for every solution, there was no problem to which Bobby did not try to find a solution.
The moral of Bobby’s life is, to misquote Biggie again, that you know very well who you are; don’t let them hold you down. Reach for the stars.
Bobby was only 44 when he was taken ill last Friday. He had been making calls all morning and, typically, making a thousand plans all at once. There was no hint of stress, or of the blood vessel in the brain that would soon burst and trigger a series of events that would kill him in less than two hours. He left a lot undone, but not for the lack of trying.
Today we shall lay Bobby’s body to rest in Kiboga, next to his parents but his is a life to be celebrated, not mourned. If there is an after-life Bobby will be the short stocky guy at the bar with a big smile, high-fiving people around him with one hand, the other holding a champagne flute, asking what the day’s celebration is about. Keep one on ice for us, mate, and keep smiling; what a race you ran!
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s
freedom fighter. [email protected]