For me, one of the most interesting parts of the Holy Bible with regard to the study of human nature is at the time of the arrest of Jesus Christ, just before he was summarily tried and executed.
When Judas Iscariot the traitor directed the soldiers and some officials from the Chief Priest and Pharisees to where Jesus was so as to arrest Him, “…then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (The servant’s name was Malchus.) (John 18:10). But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:51.)
Later when it became apparent the Christ, who was out of hearing range, headed for crucifixion, the same Simon Peter was to deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed!
To that we return later. A week ago, Pastor Joseph Kabuleta was arrested by police for ‘annoying’ President Yoweri Museveni when he called him a liar, gambler and a thief in his Facebook posts. The police then allegedly stripped Kabuleta to his underpants, doused him with water and kept him in the cold of a dark night as a precursor to cajoling him into apologising and promising not to do it again.
A few days later, the online publication, Soft Power News, reported that Museveni castigated the police for enforcing a ‘colonial law’ and added that he does not mind being annoyed. He then blamed the police for focusing on small issues!
Imagine how Commissioner of Police Fred Enanga felt after he had elected, like Simon Peter, to cut out Kabuleta’s tongue on behalf of someone who was not offended! This habit of being annoyed on behalf of Museveni is not new and will not die out soon despite the President’s disinterest in the habit (at least on paper.)
Interestingly, Museveni is almost unmatched when it comes to defending himself either verbally or in writing. On any day, he will tackle his opponent and put him away with facts, figures and for good measure, selected invectives that become an ineffaceable part of Ugandan speak and lore. Remember the leopard and its nether side?
People fall over each other to defend the President because of the way Museveni has personalised power over the years and the changes that have come with the times.
Because Museveni has the final say on almost everything big and small, it pays to be as close to him as possible in order to catch his attention and may be a morsel will fall one’s way.
Now as the years go by, it is impossible for him to pay special attention to everyone who claims to love and support him unless one does something very spectacular. The armies of those who are willing to do this work have been growing over time because of the dynamics of eras. The field of managing the image for the President and NRM, in the media and the management of its public relations is a good example.
In 1986 when he came to power, Museveni needed people to show him to the world as a person who was not just another African warlord, but an intellectual who was forced into becoming a gunman to save a desperate people. So in came many who speak Shakespearean English and could interface with the global media and the sceptical elite, to sale their man. The William Pikes of the New Vision did a good job here and their mode was the written word in the broadsheets and newspapers.
When Museveni arrived on the international stage and Uganda embarked on competitive politics, he now needed to relate to the man on the streets and in the nooks and slums.
In came the Tamale Mirundis and all manner of men who could hold their own in shouting matches, using colourful language and makeshift English if need be, to counter the restless city dwellers and the idle youth in the provinces. Their rendezvous was the confluences between the mobile phone, radio and at times television.
When the age of the internet exploded, it was time to move into the realm of the computer and social media. That is when ambitious young energetic men and women who can stay up late giving updates like Don Wanyama came in to interface with a youthful population as they maintain Museveni’s presence mainly on Facebook and Twitter as is with the times. Mark you Museveni has confessed that he is not computer savy. So these young netizens are very handy.
In effect, Museveni has become like the polygamous man. The more wives and children he gets, the less each, especially the older ones, get his attention and resources. So it becomes a game of survival for the fittest; be creative for the sake of visibility. You look for every opportunity and if there is none, make the opportunity.
This is how people manufacture the ‘President’s enemies’ and then keep themselves busy and relevant getting annoyed and fighting them on his behalf.
The hope here is that the President will notice them and remember them one fine day. But you are sure Museveni knows that more realistic feedback is from the angry people. He also knows that his power is not effectively hurt by people venting their anger even if they irritate him. It is only when they get overboard that they will be put back in line. They are better staying there than emulating him and taking up arms like he did almost four decades ago.
So the Kabuletas and Enangas are going to be with us for a very long time to come and Museveni will be here to help them live in equilibrium.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues