The great flick about ignorance is that it occurs without any preceding pain.
One can, therefore, live with it amicably for a long time. In the absence of a sight of a rat, the cat usually purrs resignedly in a nonchalant contentment.
In the animal world, bodies are equipped with vigilant sentries which announce to adjoining body-cells any detected hostile intrusions. This activates inflammation and pain during the self-protection measures in the defense of the body.
The common cold induces mucus and a running nose; malaria fever is denoted by muscle pain and high temperatures; worm infections produce abdominal stress and diarrhea. These call to arms help in the rescue of any of the body’s beleaguered parts.
But there can be no such inhibitions about an existing state of ignorance. Our bodies cannot foretell what is unfamiliar and unknown. Mankind is thus inherently unable to know beforehand what is yet unknowable.
There is, however, acute price for every lack or lapse of knowledge in human society. One who strays into a lion’s den or ambush gets promptly devoured.
By the ensuing awe of this fearful experience, human society stampedes to take note of the nature of the lion and to be wary of its habitat. This impels society as a whole to overcome its original ignorance with increasing level of knowledge.
Human knowledge is an essential ingredient for society. Without constant new insights into things, humans would never have changed their prospects as we have seen throughout history. This is why, right from our very early days of initiation into political life, we became focused on how to eliminate the pervading strangleholds of colonial infractions against our people.
As we joined the agitation about the need for our people to govern themselves, we were soon accosted with stultifying disclaimers. We were rebuked that the ordinary people were too ignorant to wield power of the state. We were drilled that the only answer to overhaul colonial rule was to repose its power in the hands of popularly-elected politicians.
Indeed, 1962 saw a lively pre-independence contest of popularity between the DP and UPC. MPs for KY, representing Buganda and aligned to the UPC, were named by Kabaka’s Lukiiko. The credentials of the Kabaka for popularity in Buganda were declared not to be open for question.
Upon assumption of office by the declared UPC winners of the contest, we soon discerned depressing methods of dealing with affairs. The new officials of independence government set about their work in the same tone as the colonialists. In the final end, Milton Obote, who was the chief architect of the rise of the UPC, became the Achilles’ heel that wrought its downfall.
This clearly showed that popularity contests by themselves did not constitute desirable governance by the people. The structure of politics, which did not install the population in any formulation of direction of affairs, ensured that the people were not privy to resolution of issues.
During the heady days of struggles against Idi Amin and subsequent resistance to Obote’s second misrule, we renewed our hope for the building of fresh political structures. This dream is today far from materializing.
We now crouch under restrictions of eligibility to political offices based on academic transcripts of A-level and above, claiming that this insulates the country from decisions of the ignorant lot. The snobbish masquerade has only perfected careerism, opportunism and selfishness in politics.
A distinguished scholar is duly knowledgeable only in the field of one’s distinction. Omusaawo omutendeke (a trained doctor) astounds in medical skills, but may be ignorant of a village’s path to the spring well.
Each form of knowledge is also ignorance in other respects as much as any ignorance also expresses a modicum of knowledge. In any case, issues of a society as a whole, its well-being and the relation of the different social interests in our country belong to the whole society, outside the framework of the purely technocratic categorization.
For this reason, no “A-level-and-above” holders can be the pinnacle of omnipotence, of all knowing, as to justify the exclusion of our people on account of their presumed ignorance. Even a creeping plant, with no viable stalk by which to stand on its own, learns to scale up a robust tree-trunk and outmatches its height.
Due to the existing sizzled landscape, the various political groups now flounder in complete dehydration. The DP, the touted oldest political party in Uganda, exists precariously on the fringes of a shrunken wetland begging for a drop of water.
The FDC is hinged on Dr Kizza Besigye’s rounds of antics in the country. Being without any palpable political work and organization, the good doctor is only fond of sneaking into the streets of Kampala to rouse a snack of adulation for himself!
The NRM has now also made the center-piece of its politics to be Dr Besigye. This devolves mainly around police actions curtailing him from enjoyment of himself. NRM zealots would be finely elated to hear Dr Besigye banned from the sitting room of his own house.
Few are, therefore, bothered with our old question about drawing the people to political activism. The involvement of the people in the political process builds their experience to social questions. A journey that one undertakes towards one’s immediate horizon opens up a new wider horizon.
This is how history is made.
The author is the publicity secretary of the NRM Historical Leaders’ Forum.