Nanju, Museveni and when women fight over a man they once called ‘below standard’

Sunday October 18 2020
By Gawaya Tegulle

I am sure he had a Christian name – never mind I never ever saw him darken the church door – but none of us knew or cared to know it. We simply called him Mr. Nanju the Teacher. He was not rich or anything like that; but he was hardworking. A very good person, with plenty of hair. He was sociable and very good to children in what is now Budaka District. 
And even though we were young, we also knew that Mr Nanju, who dwelt in Kakoli Village, always had an eye for a good dame – he was a ladies man! He was a romantic! I got to know Mr. Nanju in 1980. That is forty years ago. I was just nine and in Primary Four at Victoria Nile School, Jinja. The country was going to general election, which were held on December 10, 1980. There were four parties – Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) with Dr. Apollo Milton Obote was the biggest player, followed by the Democratic Party (DP) led by Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere. Then two smaller players: Conservative Party (CP), led by Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi and (ahem! - just felt like clearing my throat!) a very new one, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), led by the youngest presidential prospect, Yoweri Museveni. Jinja, where I lived, was divided between UPC and DP; like the rest of the country. But when I went home for holidays in Budaka, I soon found out that although CP was unknown, UPM was sounding big. The only problem was that the vocal UPM had just one supporter: Mr. Nanju. But even though he was all alone, he was so vocal, the fame of Mr Museveni spread from village to village in our locale. All that is needed for a party to be popular is just a few good men, who believe in the party and its leadership and who will give their all to spread the message. So while in Budaka, UPC was the big thing, followed by DP, they were being rivalled for noise by Mr Nanju; a lone warrior who believed that Museveni and UPM were the medicine that Uganda needed. 
But it is one thing to woo women easily, quite another to woo voters – as Mr. Nanju quickly found out; for Mr. Nanju, try as he might, couldn’t convince the Bagwere that Mr Museveni was the future of Uganda. They laughed at him and said Museveni and UPM were ‘below standard’!
Because our parents laughed at Mr Nanju, we the children also laughed at him. The amazing thing is that he always laughed back, so we fell in love with him. He was a man who loved people and didn’t see much value in fighting or getting angry. He died many years ago, sadly.
In 2016, when I was running for Parliament in Iki-Iki Constituency, one of my aides whispered to me – as I addressed a rally - that a son of Mr Nanju was around. I paused my speech, to have a chat with him. He told me the family had, since the death of their pater familias, fallen on hard times. I was greatly pained.
When Museveni took power, Bugwere turned from UPC and Obote to the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Museveni. So the same people who used to hobnob with UPC and were laughing derisively at Museveni and UPM, have made big money. Through all this, the family of the lone voice of Museveni, Mr Nanju, the one man who loved Museveni when nobody did, is starving! 
I recently got instructions to handle an election petition coming from Bugwere; two politicians fighting over an NRM ticket. My mind went back to forty years ago, when no one could have possibly foreseen that one day, the Bagwere would be fighting (some have even killed) to get a ticket with Museveni’s name on it, believing that that is the sure way to guarantee an election victory. It’s like watching women fight over a man they, in times past, labelled ‘below standard’.
Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda