Adriko: His walk in politics, education, and business

Saturday September 27 2014

Dr Adriko has done it all; from teaching to politics and business, he has a rich story to tell. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa

I was born in Vurra, Arua District to a policeman. I went to Mvarra,and Jiako Primary School, before proceeding to Arua Junior Secondary School in 1955. I was the best student in that year(1956)’s Junior Leaving Examination.

My performance earned me a scholarship from the district and the Madhvani Foundation to join Kings College, Budo. Just like at the junior level, I was the best student in the country and this earned me another scholarship to go to Queen Mary College University of London, where I did a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from 1963 to 1966.

After the bachelor’s degree I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the same university under the system called “Fast Track Scheme” which enabled me to do a PhD without having to do a master’s degree.
Upon completion of my studies in 1970, I came back home and founded the Faculty of Technology at Makerere university where I worked until I resigned in 1972 to go into private practice.

Private sector
After a few years at Makerere, I asked myself how to create employment for my siblings. I decided to start a consultancy firm - Adriko and Associates - as a spring board for other ventures which would create employment for my siblings. In 1972, I resigned from Makerere University and started out in the unknown. I hired a room at Bauman House although I just had money for one month. I also rented flat 21A in Bukoto White Flats to live there after I opted to leave a fully furnished house at the university. Because I did not have any money to purchase beddings, I recall the first day in the Bukoto flats I slept on a papyrus mat.

I ventured out with only one asset which was the intellectual property. What one needed was minimal capital to start up a business. My Adriko and Associates consultancy firm dealt in design and evaluation for industrial plants and machinery.
It was after accruing some capital from consulting that I moved into the industrial field. I started the Westnile Distillers in 1978 and other projects later.

Unfortunately as the 1979 war approached Kampala, some of us found ourselves victims because of the places we came from. I was among those who were not into politics but just because I was from Arua, like many others from West Nile, we were targeted for revenge. That’s when I had to abandon all that I had and left the country for Kenya.


In Kenya, I had to start exile life with nothing besides my intellectual property. I started another consultancy firm in association with some Kenyans. This became my source of livelihood for the next 10 years of exile.
With the fall of Milton Obote in 1985, the guerilla war raging and the desire to return home, I found myself sucked into the liberation struggle and that is how I ended up joining politics against my will.

After the fall of the Tito Okello Lutwa regime in January 1986, negotiations for those who were involved in the struggle to come back home started, resulting in my return in 1989. I would soon be appointed to the constitutional commission. It was also in the same year that I joined politics representing Vurra County in the expanded National Resistance Council. Later, I was appointed minister for Industry and Technology.

I served in different ministerial posts rising to a second deputy Prime Minister by the time I resigned from active politics in 1996. The reason I decided to leave elective politics was that after the presidential elections were done, majority of the electorate in my constituency did not vote for Museveni. I had conflict of honour. I decided that if my constituency was not willing to vote for the person I was going to work with, that was not tenable for me to stand. I went back to concentrate on my earlier vocation as an industrialist.
Upon leaving government, I was appointed chairman board of directors Uganda Revenue Authority from 1997 until 2004. Two months after leaving URA, I was appointed the chancellor of Kyambogo University, where I served for two terms. After leaving Kyambogo University, I was again appointed the chancellor Muni University.

Years as a chancellor
Being a chancellor is being omnipresent at the institution. It is more of a role model function. The duties of a chancellor are titular; you award degrees, appoint the vice chancellor and the deputy vice chancellor. You appoint the chairman of the staff tribunal who should be a High Court judge, and chair the convocation.

When I joined Kyambogo University as chancellor in 2004, there were 3,000 students but by the time I left, the numbers had jumped to 20,000 students. In all these years, I officiated at eight graduations. On each of those occasions, I made public my views on the issues and challenges that faced the university. All my presentations on the eight ceremonies are kept at the university library. I would give the visitor - in this case President Museveni - a quarterly report.

However, I think the biggest challenge in the corporate world was human capital and when they are worsened by the weakness in the law, then it complicates the already challenging situation. There was a disconnect with the human resource management. The law gave the office of the vice chancellor accounting responsibility which is entrusted with the university secretary.

The other problem was the way the university was set up, it was a merger of the three institutions; the Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo, the Institute of Special Needs Education, and the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo. There were perceptions of hierarchy which created problems. But the biggest problem was insubordination.

The industrialist
Westnile Distillery was established in 1972 but like most industries, everything was looted during the 1979 liberation war.
However, when I returned we started rebuilding from scratch. In 1991, we started production with the launch of the red label brands of Adrikos 7Hills Vodka and Adrikos White Rhino Gin. Later in 1998, Trade and Tourism minister Mondo Kagonyera officially opened the factory in Arua.
Unfortunately, in 2005 there was arson and the whole factory was burnt down. New machinery had to be imported from Germany, and we even relocated the factory from Arua to Kosovo, a Kampala suburb, opening it in 2007 with a new brand name Adrikos Hunters Gin.

A year later, we purchased another production line from Germany to re-introduce our historical brands like 7Hills Vodka, White Ram gin, and Ram Raggi. In 2011, a new distilling plant was established to widen the scope of products.
Currently, we are one of the three distilling plants in Uganda as the different types of gins we produce are processed right from molasses as the raw material to the finished product of a gin. Many plants refer to themselves as distilleries when in actual sense they are just blending and packing their products. In Kosovo, there are three industries within the same premises, Sunshine producing mineral water, Westnile Distillery distilling different gins and rum and the industrial glucose plant. Currently, we are the only one in Uganda with the capacity to produce industrial glucose.

Though I remain the Executive Chairman, I handed the running of the plant to my children and now I provide oversight and technical support.