Friday, January 31, 2014

Daniel Odaka, Brian Lutta, Clay Kharat - Gone But Not Forgotten

Death evokes fear in most of us that sometimes I am okay with it though most times, it freaks me out.

When it comes to my demise, I wonder how I will bow out of the world arena. Would it be a long and strung out affair in hospital? Or will it be fast and unexpected like being hit by a speeding trailer on Jinja Road?

I met Daniel Odaka and Brian Lutta in the 70s. Daniel and I shared a room at school in Kenya for close to six years and we remained close friends later on in England and when we returned home. I also met Brain in Kenya and we were good friends even though he was years younger than me.

In town on a summer vacation, I knew where to find them – at Uganda House. On this vacation, there was no Brian. Brian had passed on - something that utterly devastated me for why Brian? He was young and still living his life.

Why did it have to be him yet there are so many very old people out there who have nothing left to offer to society? Why couldn’t God do away with one of those and leave Brian alone? But I don’t work in heaven so I don’t know the answer.

I have never quite recovered from Brian’s death or Daniel’s a number of years later. Daniel was the brother I never had and we were like cajoled twins in our friendship. When doctors operate to separate cajoled twins, usually one twin survives and the other dies. In this case, it is I who survived and though it has been years since the separation, it is a slog going on with life without Daniel.

I met Samuel Clay Kharat through OPP back in the day when Wagadugu was still being run by Peter Otim. I thought of him as a ‘hippy’ who was trapped in cyberspace and expecting the ‘flower power’ days of the 60s to return because of his long hair, flared jeans and nonchalant outlook on life.

In the course of our friendship, I found out he was an excellent graphics designer whose works adorned most of the billboards in the city. And visiting him at home, I sometimes wondered whether he was a relation to Mahatma Gandhi, because he always sat cross legged though unlike Gandhi who wrapped himself up in bed sheets, Clay wore clothes.   

Our extracurricular activities were legendary – well to ourselves that is. Whenever he drank his Club, I sometimes could never understand why he drank so slowly or why he never emptied the bottle.

One thing about Clay was that he was always in intellectual thought and being innovative. Ideas seemingly sprung to him with little effort - each being better than the last. He was a genius.

I had been calling him for a week to take him out for a beer but his phone was always off then found he was in hospital and in a coma. But how? Surely there must be a mistake.

Then Leo called late in the night and delivered the tragic news. Clay was gone. While it’s been two months since he passed on, I feel bitter, very bitter with the system heaven employs in deciding who should live and who dies. Was it necessary to take Clay, Brian and Daniel away from us yet better deserving candidates like Joseph Kony and Bin Laden’s cronies continue to run amok?

When it comes to death, the people who work in heaven are so messed up and lack compassion that they need to go back to the drawing board and get their house in order.  


Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Who You Know In The System

Jobs are hard to come by these days and in a time of austerity; people are doing anything to hold on to their jobs, like Charlie once told me: “I would rather get paid peanuts than sit at home all broke and depressed.”

However, Young Generation, take things for granted. They have heard of a phrase: “It’s who you know.” Young Generation, don’t want to get jobs on merit because it’s a hard slog. They want the easy route – getting jobs because of “who they know.”

What they don’t understand is that in today’s Uganda, jobs are handed out on merit – you have to apply, sit interviews and so on – unless you have been headhunted, but you will still have to sit some form of interview.

I know Mike. Mike has a daughter studying mass communications at one of the universities and wants her to do her internship at New Vision. But there was a ‘problem’ as Daughter pointed out to him. “You need to know somebody in there.”

And that’s where I came in. I was her somebody in there because I am a columnist with Sunday Vision. When I asked Daughter how she had heard about the internship, she said through the paper. “Oh then it’s easy. Simply do whatever was asked in the advert and send it off to them” I replied.

Her response: “I can’t do that. I need to have somebody in there to push my papers.” Trying to tell her that I am not part of the selection process nor do I know how the system works, fell on deaf ears.” So she went and told Mike.

Mike as expected got back to me pleading that I help Daughter. To placate him, the best I could do, was to give her a mock interview in conditions and an environment similar to that at New Vision.

Four days later when she turned up I was aghast. I know women these days tint their hair, but this was an over kill. She must have spent the previous day with Straka, the outrageous television personality, because her hair looked like a rainbow! Furthermore, she wore a low cut black netted blouse and a red bra which pushed her more than ample bosom up that at any moment, I felt her ‘twins’ might escape from the tight confines of her bra and slap into my face.

I was about to launch into a tirade about interview etiquette, but thought it might be wise to understand, to get into her head and to find out  where Daughter was coming from.     

And there was the one obvious answer. In Hollywood, they say ‘lying on the casting couch’. Was she trying to taunt me? Did she think that by putting her bosom on display, it would distract me (which it did) from asking her tough questions? Or did she think that if ‘she gave me some’ I would go out of my way and pull strings to fast track her internship papers?

And she was good - in fact brilliant.  And when I say she was brilliant, no I didn’t sleep with her and her CV (if it could be called that) was utterly lacking. What she was brilliant at was in exposing her twins even further – nudging and coaxing them to the edge of her bra.

When I met up with Mike and explained why the interview had been a non starter, he gave me a rue look, and we have barely spoken since. And I have not seen Daughter in the New Vision newsroom so I suspect that even if she had applied, Helen Mukiibi who heads the newsroom had turned her down.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finally, The Bakiga Now Know How To Use A Toilet

One definition in the dictionary given to the word - ‘manners’ is: “A behavioural attribute that is distinctive and peculiar to an individual.”

Uganda has a number of prominent Bakiga from Kabale Municipality and more importantly, they have made it in life. They include Amos Nzeyi of Pepsi and Hot Loaf, Charles Mbire, Chairman of MTN, Tumusiime-Mutebile, Governor of Bank of Uganda and Justice George Kanyeihamba. At the other end of the scale, there is Aggrey Kagonyera of MTN and Jack Bageire to name but a few.

So where am I going with the manners intro and all this talk of prominent Bakiga’s? Towards the end of last year, a survey of 63 Municipalities (Sunday Vision, Dec 8th, page 6) found that the residents of Kabale Municipality have the best toilet manners in Uganda. After Kabale, came Hoima (congs Simon Kaheru the social analyst), Pader (a big up OPP) and Kibaale.

Bluntly put, our toilet habits suck because people don’t know how to use a toilet.

Women argue that men have bad toilet habits and I am inclined to side with them. They argue that we don’t flush but, do women always flush?

Putting it with as much tact as possible, when men and women go to the toilets for a pee, there are the ‘excesses’ which require extra measures in order for all to be okay. We men ‘shake off’ our excesses while women ‘blot off’ their excesses with a tad of tissue which, they neglect to flush away. We men don’t like looking into the toilet bowl and seeing the tad of tissue that was used to soak up the excess pee stuck to side of the bowl no more than women like having to wipe down the toilet seat to get rid of our excess pee before they sit down.

And what’s this about women climbing onto a sit down toilet to have a pee? Women, men do not like having to wipe down your Bata slipper footprints that are plastered on the toilet seat. Just in case you don’t get it, it’s a sit down toilet which means you put your butt on it like you put your butt on a chair. Are you with me?!

A few years ago, I wrote an article about toilets and one of my colleagues came up to me and without shame admitted that until he read the article, he had no idea what purpose the toilet brush sitting in the corner of the toilet served.

Getting back to the survey, at the end of the scale, the Ugandans who have the worst toilet habits come from Alebong, Kaabong and Napak.

My town – Iganga ranked 24th best which, implies there is a need for me to improve my habits. And I am doing something about it. A couple of days ago, I was at a function and when Charles Mbire got up to go to the washrooms, I swiftly followed him and watched him closely. Everything he did, I did and trust me, the survey was right. The Bakiga have good toilet manners that I am now the wiser.  

So what do we do about the folk from Alebong, Kaabong and Napak? Do we leave them slithering in their excrement and susu or do we help them? Seeing we have retired justice Kanyeihamba’s supposedly good toilet manners to work with, he ought to head a team that includes Kaheru and Kagonyera to go to those places and assess their needs – whether it’s more buveera that they need for ‘flying toilets’ or is it toilet tissue or that they simply need to be taught how to use a toilet and then report back to Parliament?  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Col. Sanders vs. Chef Ali

Col. Sanders got it all wrong – but more on him later. Chef Ali works for Speke Resort Munyonyo and I have known him for 15 years. In that time, he has struggled to come to terms with understanding the way my palette works. It’s not a difficult palette, a palette that say thrives on souffl├ęs, escargots or mahi-mahi (do the Google-ling yourselves).

Rather, my palette thrives on slabs of meat, the backbone of every African diet and further, I am not fussed whether its pork, beef or lamb. As long as it’s meat, I am good to go. Chef Ali knows this that whenever I am in Munyonyo, he goes out of his way to accommodate my easy-to-accomplish demands.

Last year and over Christmas lunch, Chef Ali didn’t disappoint for he laid on a lunch buffet that had enough meat to bring a smile to my face. Okay yes, there were other non meat dishes, but my focus was on the meats. A guest who I presume was a doctor stopped me as I heaped my plate with carcasses of red meat and the conversation went along these lines.

Doctor: “Young man, you have to watch your red meat intake.”

TB: (Under my breath) “Why don’t you p*ss off and leave me alone?”

Doctor: Perhaps I can give you my card and you call on me in my clinic after Christmas and we talk about your diet.”

TB: (Again under my breath) “Look here old man, if you want to spend your Christmas lunch eating a plate of leaves because you think it gives you a healthy lifestyle, then be my guest. I am going to eat my red meat - you with me!?”

With that, I sat down to my carcasses of meat and two weeks since that lunch, I am as fit as a fiddle and yes, Chef Ali still makes sure I get my fill of meat whenever I am in Munyonyo. So what was the old man fussing on about?

Now back to Col. Sanders who got it wrong and this time we are not talking about Col. Besigye. Towards the end of last year, the aged Col. Sanders from America set up camp in the new mall in Bugolobi – Village Mall that is.

Col. Sanders, is not here to peddle guns, tanks or aircraft to the UPDF but of all things, it’s chicken. And Kampala went wild at the thought of eating his chicken and I too, was one of them.

For those of you who don’t know Col. Sanders, he has a chain of successful chicken eateries dotted all over the world and his KFC brand, is a well recognized brand name.

But the chicken he fries in Uganda is not the same and does not have the same kind of flavour as that in the UK, SA or the States. Anus and I tried it out a few weeks ago and it was lacking. The skin was coarse – almost brittle that it left lacerations on the inside of our mouths and while they got the length and width of the fries right, they were not as crispy as the ones sold abroad.

And that got me thinking. In Uganda today, we have many foreign companies and franchises – banks, telecom companies to restaurants and as soon as they hit town we make noise and embrace them as ‘the best thing to happen to Uganda’ but in reality, we get a raw deal because often, the services they bring to here are substandard. So to hell with the American Col. Sanders for I am going to stick to my home grown Chef Ali at Munyonyo who knows what he is doing.         


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...