There are no more Okonkwos in Uganda

What you need to know:

  • These times! Three big events almost passed me. I was almost getting disappointed in myself. Because I have always known myself and my lineage to be strong and resilient. But then the leg twist proved that I had let down a generation. It proved that resilience cannot be built on a diet of gonja crisps and ceres juice. As a matter of fact, I knew that it was just time I went back to the good old days when men drank eshande and ate roasted sweet potatoes for breakfast.

Last weekend, the morning found me in Kikyusa. A friend, you know the great silver fox, tempted me with a rolex. I told him that was not a diet deserving of an upcoming Semaka. I told off Silver Fox. “I will eat nothing less of ekyenkya!” That is how I ended up eating the heaviest meal in the history of Kampala, and it cost 3K. But now let us talk about the three events that almost passed me. 

First was Teachers’ Day. I had planned to use this day to recognise some of my teachers. There is that man who taught me Literature – a one Tom Masaba. He was too cool for life. As an aspiring thought leader (you know the titles people give themselves), that man made an impression on me. It was in the way he conducted himself. I believe a teacher is not just someone who spews information, a teacher also teaches in other subtle ways. 

The great Masaba took me through a journey of Animal Farm and Great Expectations. I thought I would hate that Orwellian book, but not with Masaba. I only dreaded his nest. He had a nest that was a prison of sorts (somehow like Luzira Upper prison) for the students that had other agendas beyond learning. 

If it were not for this Teachers’ Day, I would not be reminded of Okonkwo. That one line, when he returned and found that things had fallen apart and wondered to Obierika: “Maybe I have been away too long,” Okonkwo said, almost to himself. “But I cannot understand these things you tell me. What is it that has happened to our people? Why have they lost the power to fight?”

Indeed, I asked myself, what happened to me, to us, to everyone? How could a simple leg twist keep me grounded? At least I should have listed all my teachers, all the men and women who had tried to impart something in my head. In primary school, I should have remembered the three; a one Nalwanga, another Sabano Sarah and the mightiest Kigozi. And because of Kigozi, I was also reminded that my mother, Priscilla Zawedde commonly known as Azawi, was making history and we were blind to it. 

That brings me to the second event. I will talk about my other teacher, Anthony Bbuka another day (lest he calls me ungrateful). The second event that almost passed me was the Sankofa album. Again, thanks to the leg twist. First, that song says some truths, the small and big truths, it drops them in this style. It is after some moment of enlightenment that you realise what Azawi has done. You know the Married Man song? It hit home. Because in Kampala today, it is like every man is married. 

Then there was Eggali. That song, I have not found a perfect description for a love that is too deep to explain. And if you have experienced eggali at a Kampala concert, then you get the idea of this love. But as I have often warned, Kampala is a city for commerce not for love. Never enter that city with expectations beyond the commercial. Everything in the city is transactional, no money, no kombya. Okay Azawi also preached about this in the album. 

The third event was our Independence Day. That day found me somewhere celebrating two birthdays. There is one of the great matriarchs, Jaaja Joy and then there was one Kiara. For the first time I was outside. But why is Azawi coming into everything? Anyway, the highlight of the day was this new generation of kids. They know so much. I had deceived them about chocolate, and one looked me in the eyes; ‘Uncle stop lying.’ I could have collapsed. I finally understood the experience of Ugandan politicians when they are accused of theft. In the good old days, this would have earned the ka kid a slap. But here she was spewing kiddish nonsense, such as telling an adult man that he is telling lies. Who has not told lies? 

Speaking of the good old days, those days of Koko Bar, one of the things that made our nights was the nyigos. But times have changed, or let us say we have aged. I have this new theory that age can be measured in terms of nostalgia. The more nostalgia, the more you are inching closer to retirement. So, the nyigos has become extinct. What is left is hoards of young men and women whistling through their teeth, recording snaps and calling it a night! What is left of this Kampala night? We could be in the last days of what was once a great night life! 
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