Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gordon Wava - Still Chairman?

While this is not an obituary, it’s hard to believe that Naguru hill perched WBS Television, like Crane Bank, are no longer household names. There is also a good probability that at quiz night in three years’ time, when Quiz Master asks what WBS stood for, nobody would have a clue that Kid would have to make a frantic call to Parent for the answer.

I worked for WBS when it was just starting out - raw, taking baby steps into the unknown and full of a vibrant energy that most UTV staff imports who were stuck in the pre-independence slow lane were unable to handle. While I had no television experience, Elvis Sekyanzi, the then Executive Director, felt I could make a success of Showtime Magazine. Luckily enough for me, I did along with presenter Tilly Muwonge (Below) and cameraman, Chris Eritu.

One thing about most people who worked at WBS, was the relationship they had with its owner – Gordon Wavamunno. I had never met Chairman – as people referred to him, until I got to WBS. I quickly worked it out that in order to understand him, one had to delve deep into his head to click his psyche and see the station and his grand plans for it from his view point. If that was achieved, then you had a good working and indeed social relationship with him.

Those that didn’t, would always rue the day he made his unannounced visits like Librarian. Librarian was shuffling down the corridor when Chairman was walked in.  They were going to pass each other and all that was required of her was: “Good afternoon Chairman” and be on her way. Instead, she panicked and thought of going in the opposite direction except, she bumped into the wall that by the time she harnessed her composure, he was on her feet and it was all too evident that not only was she overwhelmed, she had also never met him. She broke out into a sweat, lost her train of thought and if the 'ordeal' had lasted any longer than it did, there is a good chance she would have peed in her knickers.   

Chairman: “Who are you and in what department do you work?”
Librarian: “They call me oba. I don’t know. I was only just going downstairs to see Elvis.”


With that, trembling Librarian literally scattered herself down the corridor and out of his sight. When I asked her later why she had pulled that stunt she said: “It was Chairman – I mean Mr Wava himself! I’m just a mere librarian.”

We were celebrating I think the 5th anniversary of the station with a bash at Grand Imperial Hotel poolside. Amama Mbabazi – long before he became PM or got his troubles, was the guest of honour. Everything went well until Presenter who was on the Capital FMs breakfast show with Alex Ndawula and Christine Mawadri sauntered in wearing a white suit and so blazed, he could barely stand up. Rather than finding a discreet corner and ‘blacking out’, he made a beeline for the high table where Chairman, Mrs Wava (Below, center) and Mbabazi were sitting.

Before anybody could react, he was on top of them and crashing all over the table that a now and very embarrassed and seething Chairman swung him a ‘dead man walking’ look. The look did connect for Presenter managed to sober up for a few minutes – enough to stagger himself away from Chairman but into Bouncers arms and an ejection into the streets near Bank of Uganda.

One thing about Chairman that I found scary, was his understanding of figures and his ability to remember things - even if they were years old.

In one meeting, when challenged, he said something along the lines of: “Let’s not waste time debating who said what. Bring the minutes.” And when the minutes were dug up and presented, he was on the money – all most word-for-word yet, the incident happened more than two years ago. When it comes to money, oh, trust me, he remembers everything down to the last shilling. There is no fleecing him as Daisy Kayongo – Kook n’ Dine presenter found out many years later when reminded that she did not bring back his change.

While WBS may no longer be part of his empire and a station of the past, what is still certain, is that he is still Chairman Wava. 

Pictures: New Vision, Kampala Sun     



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