What you need to know:
- Problem with Ugandans is that we forget too quickly. In July 2014, then Aruu Member of Parliament, the brilliant, cantankerous and highly eccentric Odonga Otto raised a key issue on the floor of Parliament. NSSF had just conducted interviews for MD.
This October will be two years since Dr Peregrine Kibuuka, former Namilyango College headmaster, left this world. So, some of us – his boys – will be gracing his home in Magere, off Gayaza Road, just outside Kampala, to honour his memory on October 22.
But the story today is not about the big, tough, bespectacled chap, usually clad in a Kaunda suit, and who, by a country mile, was ahead of his contemporaries when it came to mastery of the English language. No, no.
The story is that the Namilyango penal code must have been drafted in the Soviet Union or North Korea; it was tight! Fighting, smoking or boozing, for example, were punishable by expulsion without a further thought.
But somehow Kibuuka, for all his toughness, was kind and patient. He was only too aware that “boys will be boys”, so he never expelled anyone anyhow; he’d give you chance to reform. If you fought, he’d send you home and tell the assembly: “we’ve sent him home for two weeks…to cool his temper.”
If you were a repeat offender, and he noticed a pattern that suggested incorrigibility, you were gone. His rule was simple and clear: “if the prefects can’t manage you and the house master can’t manage you, that is it: I have no beds in my office.”
Phonetically, “manage” is pronounced as mah-nay-j. But for all his wonderful, idiomatic English, Kibuuka, a Muganda through and through, pronounced it as “mah-nah-j”, which always sent us roaring with laughter.
So with each expulsion, a rare occurrence, he’d come and, gesticulating in a manner that suggested resoluteness, tell the assembly: “We have asked him to try his talents elsewhere”. His “elsewhere” sounded like “eles-weya”. Kibuuka believed everyone was talented and if you couldn’t fit in Namilyango, there were other opportunities that could suit your talents.
Uganda is abuzz with news that former managing director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Mr Richard Byarugaba, has escalated the fight for his former job – he had already sued for non-reappointment, now he also wants the new MD, Mr Patrick Ayota, thrown out.
Problem with Ugandans is that we forget too quickly. In July 2014, then Aruu Member of Parliament, the brilliant, cantankerous and highly eccentric Odonga Otto raised a key issue on the floor of Parliament. NSSF had just conducted interviews for MD.
Parliament was told that the highest scoring candidate in both interviews (82 percent and 83 percent) was Edgar Agaba, who also happens to be Dr Kibuuka’s boy.
The second (76 percent and 74 percent) was Joseph Kitamirike. The third (76 percent and 68 percent) was Richard Byarugaba.
The man who came third got the job. If Agaba had sued then, just about everyone would have agreed he had good cause.
In Uganda, elections and interviews mean absolutely nothing. A candidate loses elections and gets sworn in as leader; someone comes top in high level interviews conducted by world-renown professionals and he loses the job to someone who came third. Why conduct interviews if you do not intend to respect the outcomes?
The saga at NSSF is a cool commentary on some of Uganda’s core problems. One is that we are not a meritocracy: merit is never an issue in appointments.
The other cancer plaguing this country is a sense of entitlement; a clique of people who feel they have divine right to be in certain positions. And we are doing so badly that nice opportunities are hard to come by.
As a nation we need to be creative; let’s stimulate the economy generally and excite the private sector, so that it generates great opportunities. In that way, you lose a job here, no worries, there’s an equally good one elsewhere.
Mr Byarugaba is a highly competent and experienced professional; there should be, by now, bigger opportunities for him on the world market. No need for burning bridges in a war of attrition over NSSF.
Had Dr Kibuuka been alive today, he would be raising a big hand, wagging a thick forefinger at Mr Byarugaba and telling him: “try your talents elsewhere”.
Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. [email protected]