Elton Joseph Mabirizi, possibly the most memorable presidential candidate in the 2016 race, agrees to meet Quick Talk in Kitebi, a Kampala suburb.
Hello…erm…Mr Mabirizi [Quick Talk does not know whether there is a way to address a former presidential candidate.]
Hi Quick Talk. Just call me Mabirizi. I don’t like titles.
Thank you. So, what were you doing in Buvuma islands? [In an earlier phone call Mabirizi had told Quick Talk he was in Buvuma.]
I was giving out bursaries to children, seeing how people are surviving there and also introduce them to our organization and businesses; we want them out of poverty before 2021.
Eh, meaning you are coming back in 2021?
Yeah! When the elections ended, I went to strategize for 2021 and one of the strategies was to go the villages and do some social work. We have a multipurpose skills foundation, where we give variety of skills in tailoring, carpentry, agriculture and computer; we also give capital and machinery.
Good of you; is it part of your campaign strategy?
[Happily:] Yes! Many people did not know that there was a Mabirizi! But I’m coming back! [When he first announced his candidacy, many took him for a joke, right up to election day. Looks like this coming round is hakuna mchezo for him too!]
But people did not take you seriously…
[Sounding furious] Are you speaking for yourself or others? [Quick Talk did not see the anger coming. The guy seemed always unbothered during the campaign.]
Not me, of course; the public.
I haven’t felt people take me as unserious. Only that I started late; so, I did not transverse many parts of the country. I think people enjoyed my strategy of campaigning [Mabirizi memorably used to get to campaign venues using commuter taxis.] I would have beaten Museveni had I started my campaigns earlier.
But also you; taxis? For real?
I was going to Radio Simba, so I used a taxi. People want someone who is extravagant, but me I’m not; there are many Ugandans who are poor so those resources can be redirected. [Hmm, another leader once told Ugandans a similar story about using plastic mugs and keeping things on the cheap when he becomes president! They’ve since learnt to dismiss that ‘resources can be redirected’ talk with the contempt it deserves…]
By the way, what was your family’s reaction to your contesting for president?
My family supported me… although my mum and wife resisted the whole idea a bit.But they later supported me!
My wife had fears I would be tortured the way the opposition politicians are tortured and die in prison. But finally she accepted to support me. By the way, she was on the campaign trail with me!
Eeh, how did we miss her?! Enough of politics, let’s talk about family.
What do you want to know?
What is your wife’s name?
Really! Is that important to you? Anyway, she is called Winnie Mabirizi.
Would you describe yourself as a good husband?
Yes! As a man you have to exercise total love to your family and wife. I balance between work and family. I don’t enter into family time with work, I budget my time.
I have been to different countries and presidents get vacation; so, as a president in the making, I budget my time. I have the right people running my businesses [Mabirizi owns several schools].
So, when did you last take her on vacation?
December 27; we went for a four-day vacation. Don’t ask me where.
Ok. And what music do you enjoy dancing to?
I only dance in church [Mabirizi is also an evangelist; he stresses he is not a pastor, as many say. For the uninitiated, a pastor heads/leads a church congregation, while an evangelist is a preacher of the Word, who is not necessarily a pastor.]
And what kind of daddy is this ‘president in the making’?
I plan for the children; in fact, I personally pick and drop them from school. Not that I don’t have other means, but I do it to bond with them.
[Mabirizi has several schools that have vans but he does not allow his children to use school vans.]
By the way, how many do you have?
Omusajja omuganda tabalirwa nzaalo (Baganda men don’t count their children); they will only be known when I’m dead.
Yiiyiii! For transparency of a ‘president in the making’, your voters will need to know.
[Counting on his fingers as if he is not sure:] I have five children.
You don’t know your children off-head?
I know, but there are instances where you have twins …anyway I’m a Ssalongo.
- Born in July 1975 in Mpigi district, Mabirizi is the second last born in a family of 11.
- He attended Katwe Primary School, St John’s Secondary School, Mityana for O and A-level.
- Mabirizi proceeded to Aldram Institute of Theology and Counseling where he obtained a diploma in counseling.
- He also boasts of having an Advanced Diploma in Electrical Engineering Science from City and Guilds, and another diploma from Bloemfontein in South Africa.