Who was Speaker Oulanyah away from work?

Oulanyah participates in a traditional dance during a party at the Mayor’s Gardens in Kampala in 2002. PHOTO / FILE

What you need to know:

  • Oulanyah, who had worn a pair of blue jeans, boots and a jacket, parked his motorcycle before heading to the sidelines to chat with the excited journalists. 

On May 8, 2020,  Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah surprised legislators and staff members at Parliament when he confidently rode his enormous motorcycle into the institution’s south wing parking lot while his security detail trailed him. 

Oulanyah, who had worn a pair of blue jeans, boots and a jacket, parked his motorcycle before heading to the sidelines to chat with the excited journalists. 

“I am just living my life. I am a biker. I love bikes,” he said.

This rare sight of Oulanyah, who was then serving as Deputy Speaker, cast a softer side of the legislator away from work.

Some individuals even began making references to him as a man with swagger (swag), a slang reference to being cool, stylish, and confident.

How bikers remember him

Ms Angela Ssemukutu, the president of Uganda Bikers Association, a group, where Oulanyah was a member for four years (until his death), told Daily Monitor yesterday that although the deceased rode a big bike, he was a down-to-earth person.

“He simply enjoyed riding his bike and from his age, one could tell that speed was not his thing,” Mr Ssemukutu said, adding: “His speed was of an enjoyable rider.”

Uganda Bikers Association comprises members who mostly ride for fun and charity-themed causes.

“He was an active member during his tenure as Deputy Speaker but after becoming Speaker, it became difficult for him because he is number three in the country and protocol prohibited him from riding anyhow around town. Besides, he was also busy and then, became sick,” Ms Ssemukutu added.

His “swag” extended to his personal fashion style and he often sported trendy bowties, which became his signature trademark.

Some sections of male staff, legislators and members of the public are said to have started incorporating bowties into their personal wardrobes after getting inspired by Oulanyah.

Some MPs and friends also said the legislator loved to loosen up on the dance floor.

The Speaker (left) at the launch of the Opposition Legislative Agenda at Parliament on  August 27 last year. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

“Jacob would dance himself away. He was not the kind of man who shied away from dancing during public functions,” a legislator and close friend of the deceased said on condition of anonymity.

“He could pull a dance stroke and you wonder if he was your leader in the House. I will miss the energy he brought to the dance floor,” the lawmaker added.

Oulanyah had served for a decade as Deputy Speaker and was elected Speaker last May after a tight campaign.

Breaking the news

On Sunday, President Museveni announced the legislator’s passing on Twitter without stating when the cause of death.

Oulanyah, who also represented Omoro County, was a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party chaired by the President.

Ms Betty Aol Ocan (Gulu City, FDC), also a former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), said when it came to work, she admired the deceased because of his great authorative and oratory skills, which he exhibited while chairing sessions, something which earned him great respect among colleagues.

On occasions he was not busy with work, Ms Ocan said Oulanyah would engage with colleagues and other staff members to chat and crack jokes within and outside the House.

His profound Christian faith was also remarkable, other legislators told Daily Monitor.

Oulanyah would not only incorporate Christian-themed messages in his work but also in his daily life.

He occasionally spoke about hope, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

A few weeks after becoming Speaker, Oulanyah pledged that the 11th Parliament would pass laws in accordance with the Bible.

During one of his last appearances at Parliament on December 16, he led staff during a candle-lit Christmas Carol and Holy Communion Service.

He urged legislators to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers just like how the message is reflected in the Bible.

The Speaker (left) at the launch of the Opposition Legislative Agenda at Parliament on  August 27 last year. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

His Christian values were re-echoed by the Deputy Speaker, Ms Anita Among, who told journalists on Sunday that the deceased centered the work of the current breed of legislators on God’s guidance.

Oulanyah would have turned 57 years tomorrow.

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