Mr President, if you believe in God, whenever you find a moment to talk to Him/Her, thank Him/Her that you found us for subjects.
Which leader, in their obsession with power and control, wouldn’t wish for such a submissive lot!
You slap them on one cheek and, beyond the biblical suggestion of turning the other cheek, they also lay down to be caned. Soon you may belch and we instead present it as evidence of energy.
I watched in amusement as you made some uncharitable and careless statements on Labour day recently. Clearly, if the title ‘Fountain of Honour’ were to be followed for its demands on presidents’ utterances, you would have reserved many of the comments you made – even if you honestly felt so.
For that title, our expectations of whoever occupies that office, both in word and deed, are ‘ideally’ high. But there you were, up in all honours and state security at the podium, saying how you almost went back to the bush because of the medical workers’ strike over poor pay and terrible working conditions; and telling the astounded nation how you were only restrained from doing so!
Oh dear, president of the Republic of Uganda in 2018!
It quickly went through my mind that if the entire nation approached frustrations with government this way, then all bushes would fill. Thank God, we are restrained.
That idle idea aside, what worried me most wasn’t really what the president said. By now, if we are keen students of his speech history, we shouldn’t be shocked by anything.
Do we expect any utterance to beat the omega of citizen disregard: “I am not your servant. I am a freedom fighter. I fight for my beliefs”?
As Tarrus Riley sings, when relationships grow old, they have a tendency to go cold. We should no longer expect to be cajoled and addressed as ‘honey’, like it was in the 1980s.
Isn’t it known that when you see a man open a car for a woman, then either the car is new or the woman is? We are at the stage of insensitive bluntness in our national relationship with the president.
What worried me instead, as I watched the president speak, was that there were still people in the background that found his outrageous statements worth applauding. They clapped, thumped their feet on the ground, and giggled.
Even when he seemed to dishonestly impute, conveniently leaving out all his massive privileges, that he is only sacrificing to work for his kind of salary (Shs 3,600,000), they nodded in approval!
When he said he is bringing Cuban doctors out of anger with the Ugandan ones who are leaving people to die as they strike for better pay and improved conditions of work, they clapped!
Who is actually letting our people die in hospitals? If we may grant that, by putting down their tools, doctors let patients die: for how long was it and for what reason?
Then, by leaving hospitals to rot under poor facilitation as government continues to fund things like removing age limit and patronage networks (and for a long time), isn’t this to let people die?
That in three decades of rule we only have one (old model) radiotherapy machine, which came after the breakdown of a donated one and so much noise; who is letting Ugandans die?
Ultimately, if it must be Cubans (tongue in cheek) to save our health sector, obviously they can only do so by coming in to lead the country.
You who clap at anything, could I hear some applause to that? While you are at it, if you are not facilitated to do so, I think we either underestimate the effect of applause on an actor or we know but wouldn’t care.
One time, a terribly drunk cousin of mine climbed onto the stage as Eagles band was performing. He was wildly cheered as he danced and staggered around the raised platform. Then he made way through his zip and abirigated at the audience!
I think it is the careless applause from sycophants and food-hunters that sometimes sends the president into the excitement of saying what sits at his heart.
Therefore, whereas I would expect him to be the first filter of his public utterances, at the level he has reached, it is now so much about the quality of citizens we are. How is it that it is possible for a leader to speak in such a way and it passes, just like that!
No protest, no public condemnation, no demand for withdrawal of the statements – apart from a handful of people here and there. At most, the response is in social media jokes about Cubans coming.
Maybe, we have hit a deep level of apathy and powerlessness, or it is what psychologists call ‘internalised oppression syndrome’. This is the acceptance and incorporation of an oppressed group of their status which could lead to resignation, fear of violence, and gratefulness for being allowed to survive.
Taking advantage of widespread low citizenship awareness, some people’s thinking has been controlled to think that the president (who symbolises government) is only doing them a favour by extending services to them.
Hence, they will clap euphorically when he ‘gives’ them a road – even if it is just an insignificant fraction of what they are entitled to.
In his small phenomenal book titled Mis- Education of the Negro, Carter Woodson observes that “when you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions.
“You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it”. Yes, the president must thank God that we found ‘our place’ where we sit and take it in all.
The author heads the Centre for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University.