Paul Owor, 29, is new on the political scene and social media but has quickly become renowned for his unique fashion sense, flashy antics and vying for the Busiro South MP seat currently held by Peter Ssematimba. Quick Talk met him at Bukoto Heights, an upmarket apartment complex in the suburbs.
The meeting was scheduled for 8am, but Owor was nowhere to be seen… “I’m in another meeting but please wait for me,” he said.
After almost an hour, he arrived, followed by an entourage of hangers-on.
How do you describe Paul?
[With a wide smile] I am a young man with big dreams.
You’ve made a lot of buzz over the last few months, especially on social media [he has given followers cash, even a car…]
I think I’m real, I am me, I’m free. I’m supportive and enjoy seeing other people win. I’m a father, brother, ‘besto’ and more of a leader than a boss.
What’s your flamboyant style about? [He looks elegant in a slim-fit Hugo Boss suit]
I’m actually not flamboyant; I just represent who I am. I think people call me that because I speak straightforward. I will not say I am broke when I have Shs 2m in my pocket. We all have different personalities. I’m not a tycoon, but I share the little I have.
But you’re giving away cash on a daily basis… You even bought someone a Toyota Sienta… That does not sound like ‘the little I have’?
I do a lot of things. I have a couple of companies including a travel company, a construction company, a transportation company with about 15 trucks. My company is called Shinria Transporters. I’m very low-key and people know just a small piece of me.
How did you achieve all that at 29?
I started work when I was about 21 years old in 2011; that’s when I started my first company; so, it has been a hustle since. I also run broke, but we always get back up because I have many options and I don’t fear risks.
Are you married?
I’m married with two children, Heaven and Treasure, and I’ve been married for over three years.
What drives you, Paul?
I am me; that’s what I can say. My focus is on supporting people. The only thing that attracts people to me is that I am supportive. They don’t like me because I’ve made some money or because I look nice, they are close to me because they get favours from me.
You’re eyeing to become MP for Busiro South, why politics?
[He raises eyebrows to show seriousness] I actually hate politics; but if you want to change something, you have to be part of the change. There are many things that are not right with my constituency – that’s where I’ve lived all my life.
Too many things are not right, from the leadership, to the services provided to the people and poverty is at its peak. I’ve been looking at these things for the last 15 years until I decided I had to go out and make the change I want to see.
How do you handle all this at your age?
I think it’s about planning and I’m glad we are causing thunderstorms in Busiro South already. I’ve been preparing for this. The biggest challenge with the youth is that they don’t have the money to engage in politics, and I’ve spent seven years preparing for this.
What next if politics does not work out?
It cannot fail to work out. Even so, I will remain glad because I’ve helped a lot of people. Our only fear is the vote-rigging, but we have a remedy in place for that as well. So, come what may, I’ll win this election.
Tell me more about yourself on a personal level...
I grew up with my auntie. I don’t remember my father because he died when I was about five years old. Unfortunately, my aunt and her husband passed away in 2006. I then started staying with my brother.
I actually call him ‘papa’ because he is the father figure I know. I grew up in Entebbe; when I got to high school, I moved to Kawoto, Kajjansi. From there, we moved to Bwebajja in a village called Kabulwamuliro Sekiwunga. I was raised in a large family of about 12.
What struggles have shaped you?
I believe I’ve seen everything. If you Google my name, one of the stories you’ll find is I fled because of a loan, yet I’ve never borrowed from a bank. [He pauses, shakes his head in disapproval]. I don’t get loans stupidly, I borrow from moneylenders rather than banks because of the tedious procedures and I don’t have time for that. But in all, I’m a product of risks, I’ve taken risks you wouldn’t believe if I told you.
Like which risk?
[He grins while looking at the sky] For instance, in 2014, I got a project contract of about Shs 350m but I had no cash at hand. Because I was young, they did not trust me with the work; so, it was decided I handle part of the project first without a deposit.
I sold all I had; my car and the two plots of land, down to everything in my possession except for the bed and mattress. After selling them off, the owner of the project fell ill and went back to Italy for treatment.
I became so broke to the point of house eviction. At the end of the day, when he got back, I handled the project and even got a bigger job of about Shs 4 billion. There are so many other risks I’ve taken but can’t disclose them because clients won’t trust me.
Will you be able to deliver all that the people ask for?
I’ll give you an example; since after nomination I cannot do anything for the people because that would amount to bribery, that’s why I’m working fast now. But imagine I’m doing these projects with my own money right now, don’t you think I’ll do much more with state resources?
You don’t need to be rich to give back; you just need a good heart. Plus, I have supportive friends who chip in with donations. Like the Malawi and Zambia presidents are my friends. I have some MP friends in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda; like Hon Winnie Kiiza and Muhammad Nsereko, among others.
Generally, how do you go about your life?
I have two homes, one in Bwebajja and another in Kiwatule. I have a record label and I am a musician myself. I brought back Allan Toniks, Platinum, Ceaserous, Sheila Skies and I also have a duet out, right now, called Executives. I sing mostly for fun. I don’t put a fence around myself and that makes it easy to approach me and this won’t change even in parliament.