Sunday, March 30, 2014

When The Scandalous Story Breaks

Those who read the British tabloids or watch the TV series, Scandal, will know that Max Clifford and Olivia Pope are spin doctors who mint a lucrative living spinning round the most negative accusations thrown at celebrities or politicians for things like drugs, homosexuality, infidelity, rape, DUI and drunken brawls into positive stories and even making money for said Celebrity by selling their stories to the papers.

In Uganda, scandal in the media was born with Uganda Confidential, a rag publication printed on A4 somewhere in the backstreets of Nkrumah road I so suspect. And those who featured in it were politicians.

Today it is a different story. On the newspaper racks are a number of tabloids packed to the rafters with scandal after scandal about celebrities – be it politicians, athletes, radio presenters, nightclub owners and the rich.

And there is a population who like piranhas, are ready to devour and lap up just about everything that is printed – regardless of whether it’s true or not.

When a scandal breaks, this is how it happens. When the Namanve based tabloid wrote a story about me a few Sunday’s ago – a story with had an element of truth but riddled with a large amount of fantasy and fiction, the calls and txts started early on Sunday morning. Of the 120 txts that I got, all asked if I had seen the papers. 150 plus phone calls again all asked if I had seen the papers. The callers and those sending txts had an agenda - for me to elaborate on the story so that they could pass on what I said to all who cared to listen.

One caller was different. Simon Kaheru, a social analyst - he called to find out if the story was fiction but more importantly, to impart some advice – to get police to clarify how the shooting by Flying Squad went down and issue a statement saying that what Namanve based tabloid had printed was riddled with fiction rather than truth.

And that got me thinking. In the past, whenever we have had cause to celebrate and the papers run a positive story, we never get 234 txt messages of congratulations nor do we get more than 150 phone calls from well wishers. And I suspect that Capital FMs Alex Ndawula, former Mayor Nasser Ssebagala, NTVs Josephine Karungi and Sylvia Owori who have all recently been slaughtered, had their intestines yanked out in the tabloids and left for the vultures to pick over, hardly got any supportive messages or calls.

But whatever the scandal, becoming a hermit won’t work for it only fuels depression. I was out Owori a few weeks ago in Deuces and she looked good. Of course a good number of people gawped at her and pointed fingers but she held firm. We had a number of drinks and parted company. Karungi too, is still on the 9:00pm NTV news bulletin in her usual chirpy self while Ndawula is still rocking the Capital airwaves. Over the past two weeks, I have learned to deal with stares from shoppers wherever it is that I go.

At the end of it all, it all blows over but sadly there will be other ‘fish to fry’, there will be other Celebrity that the frenzied public will want to feast on and there will be other lives to ruin – not because the truth was told, but through fantasy reporting.

Then again, I used to edit Have you Heard, so am I getting my comeuppance? I guess the people I used to write were in glee. Others probably threw a party. And my inner circle? They rallied round me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ambushed By Police Flying Squad

Like most kids, when I was growing up, I had two ‘law enforcement officers’ to make sure I towed the line. Law Enforcement Officers were my parents whom I kept busy as a youngster. As I progressed into my teens, I threw them into a world of turmoil and anguish that I was often ‘severely corrected’ if you get my drift. However, whenever they felt the need to correct me, there was never a moment that they felt the need to kill me.

Over the past 20 years or so, I have had to deal with a different brand Law Enforcement Officer – namely Police, Army and Special Forces Brigade who operate under a different philosophy than that of my parents because killing is a ‘correction’ they would employ if the need arose.

A couple of weeks ago, shortly after 11:00pm and barely yards from the gate to my house, a cream Toyota Corona screeches out of nowhere, blocks the road and out jump three men in jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps and wait for it, wait for it, brandishing AK-47 assault rifles and shooting at us. First instinct my friend who was driving and I had was that thugs are after our ride. So we hit reverse and as the hail of bullets rained on us. Worse, behind us were two more men with pistols who were also shooting at us. With no escape route, we eventually rammed into a tree which, deployed the airbags as the bullets still rained down.

Dazed, we were dragged from the car and out came the screams of: “Identify yourselves!” We did, but the would-be ‘thugs’ who claimed to be Police refused to show identification saying that: “We don’t need to.” It was only when the Police patrol pick-up turned up to cart us to Kabalagala Police station that we ascertained that they were indeed Police.

But how would one know? In their civvies, they don’t have any identification, they don’t let it be known that they are Police, they don’t have to produce any ID and the Corona car they used, bore the following number plates – NGO 89 2RSS. Is it a special Police number plate used for undercover operations?

Eventually we find out that Police had gotten a tip off – not from a reliable source but from a recently released from Luzira thug that, there was supposed to be a robbery in the area and that we happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a detective Omodo from Kisugu Police, who after his investigations ruled that police were not at fault.

Excuse me, Police not at fault? They have to be held accountable. They did not identify themselves as Police. They were on a shoot-to-kill mission, they had no identification and they insist we were thieves in a foiled robbery attempt. The ride is currently languishing at Kabalagala Police where it has been written off.

Further, at Kabalagala Police when we tried to report a crime of: “attempted murder, malicious damage to property and grievous bodily harm”, Detective on duty simply refused.

As it stands, Police who shot at us are part of Flying Squad attached to Kisugu station and that their immediate boss, detective Omodo has exonerated them. While we made statements, that was it. No follow up and no further interviews.

In effect, what Police is boasting about, is this: “If we shoot at you by mistake and almost kill you in the process and write off your car, we are not to blame because we are above the law. Further, we will also make sure you pay for the breakdown services and any medical bills incurred!”


Monday, March 17, 2014

I Too Can Do It

A few weeks ago, I attended a function in Kabalagala that was presided over by the IGP, Kale Kayihura. He was launching the Community Policing Project and the top brass at police headquarters deemed that it should be officiated by the highest ranking policeman in the land. It made sense – I mean the community would have not been too pleased had it been presided over by Affande Omara who is well known for doing away with anybody he sees being a nuisance.

At the function Kayihura got more than he bargained for. Instead of enjoying the event, sitting comfortably in the red velvet cloth lined chair, having a cold Coke under the VIP tent while the sun flogged down on the masses that attended, he had to deal with problems.

It started when a, I Can Barely Walk old woman snailed her skeletal frame across the football field from the kayola stand where she sat to Kayihura’s VIP tent. Kayihura saw her coming and tried to engross himself in paper work and imaginary notes but, I Can Barely Walk old woman stood her ground. Kayihura conceded defeat, put down his imaginary notes and tended to her needs. Patiently he listened to her before referring her to a community liaison policewoman. And that was the beginning of his problems. Suddenly everybody with an issue was running across the field to pour their hearts out to him.

This brings us to President M7. As president and commander-in-chief, he has important work to do like signing bills, the economy to think about and the elections round the corner.

In all this, he also wants to have the monopoly of mundane tasks like opening shopping malls, schools, hospitals, people’s private homes, farms, petrol stations and attending weddings.

And this is where I come in. I have never been asked to be a chief guest at a function or commission a building. Perhaps people do not know where to send the invitations to. Or maybe it has something to do with me being a mere C-list celebrity and because of that I won’t make the front pages of the papers?

Regardless, I don’t think M7 should bother himself with those trivial tasks when I am around and so are a whole host of unknown people that I know like Nodin, Julius, Lukwago and Doc, who I hang out with.

While we are not important people, we are competent enough to stand in for M7.  We know how to accept the bouquet of flowers from Flower Girl in the pretty frock and then pat her on the head as M7 does. We also know how a pair of scissors works and how it’s used to cut through the tape. And though we are not rocket scientists, we also know how to pull that string that opens the small curtain to reveal a plaque. And we would happily accept any gifts that may be given to us.

If Kayihura had humbled himself and asked me to stand in for him at the Kabalagala function, I would have done so and he would not have had to bother himself listening to the mundane problems of, I Can Barely Walk old woman or the mob that besieged him.

For M7, rather than sizzle in Karamoja’s heat and being buzzed by flies while waiting to open up a borehole, he could chill out in the air-con confines of State House well assured that his man – TB is on the ground doing the needful. Finally, seeing that Greenhill School has recently built a pedestrian walkover, there is no need to bother M7 to open it for he has opened so many of them. I am available.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who Got The Swag?

The snivelling pimpled faced boys who study at SMACK, Budo, Namilyango and Mwiri and who have never ‘gotten some’, would like to us think that it is they who invented swag.

They prance around town with their jeans almost round their knees while they show us their tattered and unwashed boxers – if not their butt cracks. And another thing about their swag culture is that they see no need comb their hair.

And for their efforts, I don’t see the ready-to-burst zit faced girls flocking round them. Whenever I see them, they look unsure of themselves. They walk about in packs of four and they hold each other’s hands. Hmm!

On the other hand, take a look at Breakdown Boy. Breakdown boy has swag. There is something about the way he stands on the back of the breakdown truck as a car is being towed. With his stance, the message his body sends out is simple enough to interpret. It says: “Had it not been for me this car would still have been at the accident site.” And with that, he adjusts the toothpick in mouth and pulls down his retro pink sunglasses that he bought from Hawker for sh2,500. If he had a name, it is probably Younger – the preferred name these days for taxi conductors’ boda riders and mechanic assistants.

In a traffic jam as the breakdown truck chugs and spews out a cloud diesel smoke that does no good for the ozone layer, the girls in the white hats and green aprons – Food Messengers as we call them stop serving and collecting plates to look up at them.

They look at Breakdown Boy with real pride. They see the swag in him and when he gets back to base, Food Messenger will have a plate of food with the best cuts of meat waiting for him.

However, Breakdown Boy has competition from Music Advertising Boy and the baleebesi (hangers on) who hang about in the back of a truck laden with huge speakers – the trucks that drive through neighbourhoods advertising music shows. While the chap with the microphone takes centre stage and gets most of the attention, it is Baleebesi that show the swag. Despite the searing afternoon heat, they wear ski hats, thick winter jackets, black sunglasses and high top boots which, gives them the edge over Breakdown Boy.

They show their swag not to Food Messenger who are the preserve of Breakdown Boy but to Waitress and Salon Girl. Waitress will even forget the drinks order as the truck passes. As she looks up at them in admiration, she will have her knees firmly pressed together lest she loses control of her sexual glands, while Salon Girl will abandon her customer’s braids to stand at the entrance to the salon in the hope that she gets noticed and who knows, get herself a free ticket to the show.

The real winners though in this game of swag are the baleebesi who hang out with Bobbi Wine, Bebe Cool, and Butcherman et al.

Their swag is simple enough to understand - booze, ganja, women and sex. As long as they have dreadlocks, can slip the word ‘jah’ into every other sentence and portray an image of having spent the best part of the day at Kabaka’s landing site in Munyonyo drinking a five litre jerry can of Kasese, smoking ganja and fondling the fishmongers wife, they are the rude boys, the bad boys and they have the swag that the snivelling pimpled faced SMACK Boy, Budo Boy, Mwiri Boy, Breakdown Boy and Music advertising Boy can only dream of.    


Sunday, March 2, 2014

If You Crash, Have Some Style

On the calendar this year, the biggest social event has been the Meera Ruparelia wedding in Speke Resort, Munyonyo a few weeks back. The grand finale to the week-long celebrations had a guest list of close to 2,000 people.

It was deemed to be the hottest invite in town and for those who were not invited they had two choices to contend with. The first was to read about it in the papers the following day and the second, to simply crash the party.

The hard core’s crashed because it’s a thing Ugandan’s do when they have not been invited.

I had to turn my phones off for the duration of the wedding week because the calls I was getting went along these lines.

Caller: “Yo TB, what’s up?”

TB: “Bleak.”

Caller: “So what’s the way forward?”

TB: “The way forward for what?”

Caller: “Meera’s wedding, how do I get in?”

TB: “At the entrance, just show your card.”

Caller: “But TB, you know these things. The mullah does not know me. Can’t you get me in?”

And this call is from somebody who only calls me when he wants an invite to party, a boat cruise or the goat races.

Since I started out in the media, I have met my fair share of gate crashers. But there are two who stand out. They both work in the Prime Minister’s Office. When I first got to know them, I thought they were important because every party I went to cover, they were there.

However, as the parties wore on, I realised that something was amiss because they always hung around the bar. If not, near the entrance to the kitchen – because as soon as the platter of fish fingers, meatballs and chicken wings came out, they would be the first to attack Waitresses.

At the Garba Dance, the second of the wedding functions that Meera held, they turned up. As they sat, ate and drank their fill, Security Guard was not having any of it. He deftly approached them, asked for their invites to which he was told Sudhir had invited them.

“That’s no problem” Security Guard retorted, “simply come with me and we ask him.” The game was up and they were ejected.

At the grand wedding, Gate Crashers dressed up. It was difficult to spot them at the entrance but all one had to do was to sit back and wait till Waiter served them drinks or it was time to eat.

Gate Crasher on the table next to me had crashed with his girlfriend and was trying to impress upon her. Oh yes he did by drinking champagne out of a beer glass and using a dessert fork and spoon for his main course. And when he tried to nail the roast potato with his spoon, it jumped off his plate and slithered across the table. In Luganda, he said something along the lines of: “The potato has jumped off my plate. Hmm, it has survived."

And when he came back with dessert, he had heaped it with everything that was on the dessert stand but only managed to eat half an apple before pushing the plate away.

I couldn’t resist. I walked over to him and asked him: “Are you sure you are at the right wedding? I think the one you are supposed to be attending is at Ggaba landing site where they remove the fish entrails?”

Obviously he did click where I was coming from. The last I saw of him, he was blazed with his head on the table, his mouth gaped open and spewing out more than just driblets of excessive champagne and Johnnie Walker.         

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...