Sunday, April 22, 2012

Amuka, The Nigerian Girl

The late George Kakoma is perhaps one of the few Ugandan’s whose work will never get slammed. Well at least, I have never heard anybody saying anything bad about the anthem so he must have done a good job.

People have invented things and continue to invent but I am still baffled by a Chinese invention which, continues to baffle me to-date. The chopstick.

Google tells me that chopsticks were invented as early as 1766 BCE but when Chinaman figured he could put two sticks together and scoop up rice with it, did it ever occur to him that if put a couple more sticks together and called it the fork, it would have made life that much easier for him? One thing that Chinaman forgot to tell us is which chopstick is the fork and which is the knife.

A few years ago, I was in South Africa on a DStv sponsored trip to the Big Brother house. The trip to the house was more than a trip to the house because we were also going to spend the night and under Big Brother conditions.

At these events, DStv invite media from participating countries and since Big Brother is big in West Africa, especially Nigeria the biggest media contingent comes from that region.

I was the first to arrive at OR Tambo International Airport in Jo’burg and had a one hour wait for the girl from Nigeria before proceeding on to the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sandton.

When Nigerian Girl emerged from customs under his breath, the driver who was assigned to pick us up said under his breath: “Oh no, not her again.” Nigerian Girl wore what I presumed to have been a headscarf except, it looked like she had stacked ten plus pineapples on her head. Her outfit while colourful and bright drew attention and when she spoke, it was hard to figure if that was the normal way she spoke or she was in an argument.

Nigerian Girl was in her element. Passengers round her scattered when they saw her approach and Porter was not having a good time as he lugged around her luggage for the four day trip. She had two huge metal trunks, a large suitcase and a handbag – well at least that’s what she claimed it was but to Driver, Porter and I, it was more of a huge rucksack.

At the car as I went for the front seat, she barked out in Pidgin English: "Allo, me Amuka no sit in back seat! Me Amuka sit in the front seat even in Abuja.” With her ten pineapples-of-a headscarf, she clambered into the front seat and off we headed to the Holiday Inn.

On previous visits to South Africa I had gotten to know Sandy and she is an amiable and chirpy lass who, is in-charge of public relations at Dstv. She is always at the hotel to meet us and after asking the usual questions about our flights, she hands out the programme for the following day. This time it was a two sheet document and barely had I gotten past the first three lines and there was already a complaint and not from me I might add. The one sided conversation in Pidgin English between Nigerian Girl and Sandy went along these lines.

Nigerian Girl: “Me no be ready at 8:00am now. Me need my sleep!”
Sandy: “But...” (that’s is all she managed before she was cut off).
Nigerian Girl: “We leave at 9:30am now.”
Sandy: (she is speechless)
Nigerian Girl: “Me I go shopping now. Sandy you show me the shops?”

I now understood why Driver said what he had said when we were still at the airport. Leaving Sandy to deal with Nigerian Girl and by now whose pineapples-of-a-headscarf was not looking as good as it ought to be, I hit my room, had a shower and dozed off.

That evening we went to Mandela Square for dinner. Usually DStv take us to some of the finest steak houses and as Kalungi Kabuye will testify, there is not steak house in Kampala that can match the ones they have in Jo’burg. And I was saddened when we passed the steak houses and ended up in a Chinese restaurant. Okay, there was nothing wrong with the Chinese restaurant but I just wanted a steak.

Nigerian Girl had changed her outfit as well as her headgear. She was no longer a headscarf of ten pineapples on her head but twenty watermelons which meant, the seats on either side of her had to be left vacant.

Is there any need to tell you who had issues with the menu? Nigerian Girl. She whined about everything from the service, to what she was going to eat. Then she started bitching about this and that. When she was done with bitching, she threw her toys out of the pram. And when the food was served, all hell broke loose. In her opinion the pork ribs were not pork but from some wild animal. The chicken was not chicken but rat and the prawns were not prawns but fish entrails. She was hard work.

So she settled for noodles and rice and when she saw the chop sticks, she went ballistic and once again in Pidgin English, the conversation she had with our table and which was loud enough to be heard by everybody in the restaurant, the people outside the restaurant and possibly the people back in Abuja went along these lines:

Nigerian Girl: “Me no China person. Me Amuka no eat dog, cat. Me eat proper food, me eat obegusi, ewedu and akara. Amuka wants knives and forks – not chopsticks.”

Everybody in the restaurant, the people outside the restaurant and possibly the people back in Abuja: Silence, sheer silence!

Waiter scurried off to the kitchen, scurried back and laid a knife and fork out on the table and probably scurried to the manager’s office and tendered his resignation then scurried to OR Tambo International Airport and took the first flight back to Beijing!

We had all had enough of Nigerian Girl and it was still only hours into the four day trip. To make things even worse, we were going to be locked up in the Big Brother house with her.

On day two of the trip, we were all in the bus at 8:00am know who. Numerous calls were made from reception to her room and when she eventually sauntered down with edebe (metal tin) of bananas for a headscarf she had the audacity to go off and have some breakfast as well!

When we eventually got to the Big Brother house and the doors were slammed and locked, the movie Nightmare on Elm Street suddenly became a movie that you could show to a group of five-year old kids. We were going to be in our own real life version of Nightmare with Nigerian Girl – Season One. And it was going to have a R18 rating and in the top left corner of the screen would be the words VSNL (violence, sex, nudity, strong language).

We had no kind words for Nigerian Girl when we left the house the following day. I still have no kind words for her and if I won a holiday to Hawaii and found she was going to be there, I would be much better off spending the weekend hurling insults at Al Queadea and Al Shabab Mogadishu.

The last I saw of Nigerian Girl was her walking through the concourse at OR Tambo International Airport and people parting to give her way much like waters of The Red Sea parted when Jesus walked across. I am not sure what was more intimidating – her voice that everybody in the airport, the people outside the airport and possibly the people back in Abuja could hear or her headscarf that this time made her look like she was carrying sugar cane.

And by the way Nigerian Girl, just in case you are reading this on by blog, at the time, I didn’t have the guts to tell you but let me tell it to you straight. Obegusi, ewedu and akara sound like diseases that would be on a United Nations World Health Organisation list.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Fat, The Obese

“I don’t know.” It is next to impossible to get Ugandan to say those words. It was a simple trip from Kisimenti to T1 Club. Special Hire Taxi Driver was asked not once but thrice, if he knew where T1 Club in Industrial Area was and he answered in the affirmative.

So into the cab I hopped and no sooner had we turned into Acaccia Avenue, it was all too obvious that Special Hire Taxi Driver did not know where he was going. He kept on trying to talk to me so I feigned an incoming call on my cell phone and totally blanked him.

At the Nakumatt round-about he pulled over and tried to interrupt my ‘call’ but I didn’t give him the daylight or should I say night-time since it was dark? The conversation that followed went along these lines.

Special Hire Taxi Driver: “Boss where did you say you were going?”
TB: “T1 Club”
Special Hire Taxi Driver: “Where do you say it was again?”

I ignored him so he took a gamble and kerbed-crawled his cab down to Shell Jinja Road whilst giving me glancing looks in the rear view mirror in the hope that I would bail him out. I didn’t and I didn’t help him either when the cab spluttered to a halt four cars before the traffic lights. It had run out of fuel. Making matters worse, he had the audacity to ask for half the fare so he could go get some fuel. Is the any need to guess what I told him? I think not.

I am not into healthy eating. I like my meat, my fat, more red meat and more fat. And I like it deep fried too. I am not fat so I see no need of going to the gym like fat, overweight and obese do and who have only themselves to blame for being gluttons when they were kids. Just because they put a bowl full of fried chicken or whatever it was in front of them, it didn’t mean finish everything! Rather, it meant, eat just enough to quench your hunger.

I have a number of Fat and Obese Friends who spend up to 40k plus a week for the privilege of going to a hotel, stripping down and wrapping the lower half of their fat and obese bodies into a blue hospital type bed sheet and then locking themselves in a small room full of steam for a good hour or so.

Then they realize that it was not such a good idea being all locked up in a small room with more steam in it than a pressure cooker has, so they take themselves outside and wander about while slapping their fat and obese bellies that are full to the brim with toxins and cholesterol while they think: “If I don’t cut my weight down to TB’s size, I will be in a coffin within months.”

If anybody wants to go and see fat and obese people wallowing around, looking like sumo wrestlers and are on the brink of going to sleep forever in a coffin, go to the club near the quarry in Muyenga.

Like I said, whilst I am not into healthy eating, I do keep fit. Last year I did four marathons – London, Boston, New York and Berlin. It is no easy feat for a lot of preparation is involved. Come marathon day, I always have to be focused, to channel all my thoughts and energies into getting past the finish line. The one marathon I didn’t finish was in Tokyo in 2010. Umeme decided to load shed and off went the DStv.

Many people think that sitting there with a television in front of you, legs resting on the pouch, a beer in one hand, remote control in the other while watching a marathon is something that comes easy. It’s not because there is always that disturbance from the kitchen, that irritating noise of pots and pans banging together as your better half slaves away to make you a meal to cure the hangover.

Like Fat and Obese Friends, there are some people who perhaps don’t know that there is something called Supersport on DStv where you don’t have to break sweat to be in a marathon. Joseph Walusimbi is a friend. When he is not with his hommies at Shell Club, Walusimbi, tortures himself by jogging up the hills of Kololo! And usually when he is doing that self-inflicting pain thing, I am tucking into a metallic plate that is full of deep fried pork, fried cabbage, tomatoes and spices.

And there is Richard Byarugaba too. He has taken the self-inflicting pain thing a step too far. He one Sunday decided to jog all the way from Kampala to Entebbe. OPP and I were supposed to be with him to give him support and NO, we were not going to jog along with him – we were in a car. Anyway, OPP and I made it as far Najja, saw a nice pub and that was it for us. And if I recall, Byarugaba, and not content with the pain from the jog to Entebbe, decided to jog up Mount Elgon! I bet he didn’t find any pork or beer kafunda’s while he was up there.

That said, it is only three months to go to the London summer Olympics. I don’t know if Uganda intends to field a team – I think, I am sure they will do but like most Ugandan teams that have been sent to the Olympics, The Commonwealth Games or the World Championships, I guess there will be more administrators including a minister along with their wives, daughters, first cousins and jajja’s than actual athletes.

But you really have to ask yourselves, is there any point of sending a team to compete in the Olympics? Is it really worth spending money we don’t have on a team that we all know is not going to come back with any bling? Uganda’s contribution to the Olympics is to attend the opening ceremony, take part in the opening heats of whatever sport it is that they are taking part in, then get knocked out. They will then spend the rest of the games visiting friends in East London, shopping for DVD players, cell phones, plasma screens and iPods or trying to figure out a way in which they can vanish into the system.

But like Fat and Obese Friends who really should know by now that they will never lose weight, Walusimbi and Byarugaba who want to jog up Kololo hill and Mount Elgon, there really is nothing tangible that you are doing except, stressing and inflicting undue pain on yourselves.

For example, do you honestly think Ugandan Athlete wants to go though all those heats for some bling? They don’t and that is why they don’t stress themselves. They aspire to get eliminated in the first heat so that they can get on with shopping.

Tomorrow I am going to take myself down to Sports Betting to place a bet for 100k that Uganda wins nothing and in the meantime when the Olympics are on, Walusimbi, Byarugaba please come to my crib when the marathon is on, and I will show you how I do it. Obese and Fat Friends are also invited. I mean, why pay 40k per week to be locked in a ‘pressure cooker’ in a bid to lose weight when I can put you out of your misery by pumping those fat bellies of yours with more fatty and greasy toxins to send you to an early grave?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Could it be a case of mistaken identity or something else? There occasions when we see somebody and assume that we know them. We wave to them or stop and talk to them, then embarrassingly, realize we got the wrong person. But what are we supposed to do? How do we get ourselves out of the quagmire? Most people simply say ‘sorry’ and move on but then again, saying sorry and moving on leaves you open to ridicule. It leaves you open to ridicule because the person whom you mistook for somebody else will tell everybody who was around them at the time you mistook them for somebody else about how you made an ass your yourself.

I have known Richard Byarugaba who heads NSSF for years. I know him inside out – and when I say that, I don’t mean it in the actual sense of the word, but I do know him and we are friends. Some weeks ago, Humphrey Nzeyi – you know, he who is behind Nandos on Kampala Road? Well he opened a new outlet in Kabalagala in the mall just down the road from the American Embassy.

I was invited and of course I did my usual thing. Mingle, quaff some wine and eat some food followed by more mingling a wine re-fill, and more food. Then I saw him – Richard Byarugaba or so I thought. I should have known something was amiss because it was a week day and Richard Byarugaba was not wearing a suit. And my opening line to him – “Hey Richard, we are all watching you and we hope you don’t do anything stupid and end up like Jamwa” - fell on deaf ears. Okay ‘Richard’ gave me a puzzled smile and went for a glass of wine. When I caught up with him again and asked if it was worth the stress moving from the bank to NSSF, ‘Richard’ once again looked puzzled.

I too looked puzzled for the more I looked at him, the more I began to realise that I was not with THE Richard Byarugaba and I could see where he was going next. He was going to tell me that I got the wrong person but I beat him to it. “Imposter!” so I said, but not out loud to him, but under my breath and off I walked. One thing I couldn’t understand is why he didn’t tell me from the onset that he was not Byarugaba? And to Nzeyi and the agency, Firefox that handled the launch, next time could you swing some beers and not just wine for I am not a wine drinker and think that the glasses I had, did have something to with my mistaken identity crisis.

When Joy joined this newspaper, she rose up the ranks to eventually become editor of the women’s section. Joy and as far as I can remember, always came to work on time and in the evenings, her father would be on hand to pick her up. Her dad rides a bike – and when I say rides a bike, I don’t mean those cartoon Bajaj’s or Bullets that Boda Boda Rider rides. His is a big machine, a machine that Arthur Blick would look at and would have him drooling malusu all over himself! It made more noise than a Mig fighter jet and a simple rev on the throttle, it spewed out enough oomph that would probably snap the knickers off any woman walking by.

And one evening I see Joy about to clamber onto what I thought was a boda for her ride home so I made it a point to assure the rider and if I recall, this is what I said.

TB: “I have met your type before. Along the way you start to take advantage of these girls and take them to other places. You don’t know who I am but if she (Joy) does not get home safely, I am going to come looking for you and bite your head off. Do you understand me?”

Boda Rider didn’t respond. Rather, he looked bemused. I on the other hand, had a sense of happiness about myself in that, I had done the right thing – that, I had assured Boda Rider and he had not only trembled but heeded everything I told him.

However, there was an upper-cased BUT to contend with. When Boda Rider started up his bike, it didn’t whimper into life like a Bajaj or a Bullet. It barked and when he rode off with Joy into the early evening dark, it didn’t snail away like a Bajaj or a Bullet but it kicked, it had a rage just like a machine that would have Arthur Blick drooling all over himself.

A concern came all over me. Had I made a mistake? Was it a case of mistaken identity? Surely I could not have been assuring Joy’s dad for he – or even Joy would have said something – not so?

But I had made a mistake for the following day, the s**t did hit the fan! It was not Boda Rider that I had assured but Joy’s dad. Since then, whenever I see Joy’s dad, I stop, come to my senses, turn around and make a run for it. But for what it’s worth, to Joy’s dad, my sincere apologies for that outburst.

I’d never met the OC Traffic at Wandegeya Police Station. In fact, the only reason why I would have previously met him is if I was involved in some form of traffic offence. When I did eventually meet him, it was exactly because of that – a traffic offence.

Police Officers have ranks and wear pips on their shoulders. I figure that the more pips or ‘mayinja’ as they say in Luganda, the higher the rank. After being pushed out of lane at the Wandegeya lights, Policewoman hauled me to Wandegeya Police Station and in an office on the third floor, I was before Policeman with no mayinja’s. I sized him up and reckoned he was somebody I could bully and I did just that.

Other traffic offenders – especially Taxi Driver were amazed by my bravado that one of them sought to tug my shirt sleeve and tell me to cool down. But I was in my element, and I told Policeman that I only deal with real mayinja’s. To that, he didn’t argue but simply got up and left. When he left, I smirked at him – you know, one of those “hmm, yeah go get your boss” smirks.

As I waited for the ‘boss’ a number of policemen and women walked in and out of the office and each asked the same question. “Have you seen Affande?” to which the reply was always: “He was here a few minutes ago but he is coming back.”

If I had put some thought into it, it wouldn’t have taken me long to figure out who Affande was and why Taxi Driver had been tugging at my sleeve.

When the boss came back, he was not just the boss but Affande too and his shoulders were no longer bare but reeking with mayinja’s. Resuming his seat behind a relic of a desk that was seemingly brought into Uganda by John Speke back in 1858, he leant forward and said: “You only deal with mayinja’s? I am the OC Traffic mayinja here!” By now the smirk had gone and short of offering him my female cousins who are still single, I humbled and grovelled for forgiveness.

Affande did eventually forgive me but after he had made me sit in his office for the best part of four hours and on the most solid and uncomfortable wooden chair which again, must have brought into Uganda by Speke in 1858.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Information Super Highway

Many of Museveni’s children don’t remember what the information superhighway was like before he came to power. And when I say Museveni’s children, I don’t just mean his own children – Muhoozi, Natasha, Patience and Diana. The Museveni children I refer to are anybody born after January 1986.

During the Amin era, we used to communicate in the most draconian way. To call abroad, it was not like it is today where you just dial. Then, you had a book a call with the post office.

When it came to entertainment – radio and television, we only had Uganda Television and Radio Uganda. Watching UTV was like being in Russia, China or anywhere in the Eastern Bloc for most of the airtime was flooded with documentaries from those countries. The one programme that was geared to children was Daktari on Saturday’s.

Radio was no better for you could go through all the frequencies and not pick up a single station because we only had Radio Uganda and we had no FM stations either. There were also no radio celebrities like we have Yvonne Koreta or Siima Sabati at X-FM, Alex Ndawula at Capital FM, Crystal Newman at Sanyu FM and RS Elvis at Radio One amongst others. Coming to think of it, there was one radio personality – Ssalongo John and he did not specialize in music or present a breakfast show. Ssalongo John cut a rather morbid niche for himself because he specialized in death! I don’t know who the PD was at Radio Uganda, but Ssalongo was given three slots – early morning, lunchtime and in the evening making death announcements. Can you imagine listening to a two hour death announcements show as you drive to work in today’s Uganda?

Things were tight that you only had two choices. To listen to Ssalongo John or switch him off and on television, to watch some documentary on Chairman Mao’s great march or switch him off too.

Today however, it is a whole new ball game. DStv’s premium bouquet has over 50 channels that there are some I have never watched. Then throw in the terrestrial stations - Bukedde, NTV, WBS and all, that one is spoilt for choice. It also applies to radio. If I don’t like Miriam and John on Radio One, I simply switch to Siima on X-FM or to Fat Boy and Shanice on Sanyu FM. Uganda really has come a long way in terms of radio and television and that journey has not been easy. Here is why.

Do any of you remember Rick Dee and Dave Koz? Both Dee and Koz used to have shows on Capital FM and Sanyu FM. Every week, they would pre-record their shows which were syndicated, and send them down to Uganda amongst other countries.

It was also the time I was getting involved in radio journalism and was hosting Desert Island Discs on Capital FM. But there was something amiss about the reception area at Capital FM especially when Dee was ‘on air’. I just had to ask Receptionist one day what was going on and her answer was not what I expected. It went along the lines of: “They have come to see Dee!”

“They have come to see Dee!?” I that some kind of joke I asked. It was no joke. Many people actually thought that both Dee and Koz would fly out to Uganda for their shows. I still could not believe it, until it happened to me – and no, I did not turn up one afternoon to see Dee or Koz.

Desert Island Discs airs on Sunday between 7:00pm and 8:00pm and I used to record the show either on Thursday or Friday afternoon and during the show, the guest would play six of his or her favourite songs. And because it was a recorded show, I would just ask the guest to pick their songs which were already lined up in the system and they would start to play.

And one Saturday whilst I was in Just Kicking, Young Man comes up to me and the conversation we had went along these lines.

Young Man: “Excuse me Tim, may I greet you?”

TB: “Sure.”

Young Man: “I just want to tell you that I like your radio show. I like your interview style, I really do!”

TB: “Thank you.”

Young Man: “Another reason I like your show is that you have all the music. Whenever you call Alex Ndawula on Dance Force and ask for a song, he does not have it. There are many songs he does not have. But on your show, whenever you ask the guest to pick their songs, you always have them. You even have the most obscure songs.”

Okay, so Young Man did not know that the show is pre-recorded. There were two ways of solving ‘the problem’. I could tell him that the show is pre-recorded and burst the bubble of appreciation that he has for me or I could let him go away thinking that I hosted a live show and that I had more music in my collection than Ndawula had.

Is there any need to guess which option I went for? I should leave it at that, but if Young Man thought I hosted a live show, there is a need to explain things because, there are some people out there who do think that since Sunday Vision comes out once a week, the Sunday Vision desk works only on Saturday and that is it.

Anyway, I let Young Man believe I do a live show and to show his appreciation, he swung me four beers if I recall. I think a law student would say I took beers under false pretence.

If that Saturday in Just Kicking was bad enough, this time it was a Sunday. Come Sunday’s we used to play football in the KCC grounds between the UMA complex and Game in Lugogo. A number of teams took part and it was all about something to do on Sunday.

It was 6:15pm and there was a tap on my shoulder from a rather perturbed Another Young Man. The kaboozi that we had went along these lines.

Another Young Man: “Gwe TB, you should not be drinking that much.”

TB: “Who are you? Are you my mother?” That is what I wanted to tell him but instead said: “I am sorry I did not catch what you said.”

Another Young Man: “I was telling you that you should not be drinking that much because you are due on air in 45 minutes.”

For the life of me I did not click what he was going on about. He too sensed it so he jogged my memory. “Your show, Desert Island Discs” he said as he nudged me. Like Young Man, Another Young Man thought the show was live. “Not to worry, I will make it” so I told him.

But Another Young Man was persistent. He was on my case and when it was evident I was not about to leave for Capital, he offered to drive me there. Okay I had two choices here. The first to burst his bubble and tell him the show is recorded so that I can quaff more beers, or I could satisfy him and accept his offer of a lift. I know you are all thinking I stayed behind to quaff more beer, but I didn’t.

Another Young Man drove me to Capital FM, dropped me off and once I was sure he was out of sight, I simply went round the corner and into Just Kicking to quaff more beer.

As I am running out of space, to everybody who thought that Dee and Koz hosted their shows from Kampala and that you spent all those hours in reception waiting to see them, I have to tell you that they simply sent discs. And to Young Man and Another Young Man, Desert Island Discs was never a live show. It was always recorded and I am really sorry that I took drinks and a lift from you under false pretence but really, both of you were there for the taking. You were just daft and so gullible!

Expelled From School And Sent to Prison

I was fortunate enough, that during my academic career, I was never suspended or expelled from school – not because I was a good boy who to...