Thomas Tayebwa, the deputy speaker of parliament, has undergone quite the transformation via his Twitter page since his gilded ascension to the throne of deputy speaker. Holding hands with his nicely suited boss, the perfect picture of a well-oiled dream team, the rising inflation has nothing on Tayebwa.
His Twitter page is a perfect country with its choreographed photos and words of Zen reflecting a rather humble Tayebwa. That’s the problem. Nothing is perfect. Not here. Our leaders might feel exasperated, even miffed, that like the world of the dead, we, citizens just keep asking for more and more and more of them.
Why do we keep asking more of our perfectly-contoured leaders? Because we want what they have. By voting for them, we send them to go foras, plead our cause. Again, what do we really want from our leaders besides picture perfect posts? We want and demand empathy.
On May 26, Tayebwa tweeted: “I have encouraged all nurses especially midwives to continue to provide all the necessary professional care and services to ensure safe delivery for our mothers.” In the accompanying picture, Tayebwa, surrounded by people looking at him do the backbreaking work of planting the obligatory tree to commission the construction of a maternity ward in Mitooma district, is every bit the man of the hour.
On that very day, as Tayebwa planted that tree, encouraging nurses and midwives to do their best, nationwide, nurses and midwives went on strike, demanding an increase in their salaries, an increase government agreed to in 2018. Right on cue, government responded with threats. Premier Robinah Nabbanja, who lately has taken to wielding her power, threatened, “This time round while using the powers vested in me by the president, those who will demonstrate are doing it at their own risk because there are many people who are volunteering and one may go to demonstrate and on coming back find that the job is taken. Stop putting government on pressure.”
These are the same workers whom government, a few months ago, could not stop praising for their frontline efforts against Covid-19. With Covid-19 on the decline, it is back to factory settings: threats and condescending promises.
Again, what do we want from our leaders away from picture perfect social media posts and self-importance? We desire for our leaders to flail their chests over the sky-high inflation sucking the little post-Covid money we have out of our hands. We beseech our leaders to identify with us as we walk to work. This time, Kizza Besigye has not even shouted at us to walk, the high fuel prices are doing the yelling.
Why should we beg- ‘tusaba gavumenti etuyambe’ as if we are aliens in this land? We are not asking for handouts or brown envelopes; you have impoverished us enough already. Take cuts – cut back on your posh convoys, fat allowances, and plump entourages. Show up for Team Ugandans.
Yet you are defiantly tone-deaf, asking Ugandans to tighten their belts while your embellished belts comfortably support your well-nourished potbellies. The experience of the Uganda martyrs seen through the lens of statecraft shows us a state will do whatever it deems necessary to survive. Thus, you deceive yourselves (for we are not deceived) that there is nothing you can do.
In a heartbeat, you bypass several institutions/laws; sign away our coffee to a foreign investor in a shady deal that has even colonizers in awe. You grandstand about the effect of the Ukraine-Russia war on global prices, consoling us that we are not alone. Strangely, you say nothing about neighbouring governments, which are shaming you by actually doing something for their struggling citizens.
Again, hear me well, we are not asking you to start posting pictures of yourselves doling out food to the hungry natives. You have denigrated us enough by replacing the word, citizen, with ‘bazzukulu.’
Former New Vision top honcho Robert Kabushenga has morphed into a voice calling out impunity. In viral videos, Kabushenga berates government officials for being insensitive to the plight of broke Ugandans. Many are cynical about the comparative quality of Kabushenga’s own brokenness but his message is valid – “we are broke” and “we are on our own.”
As I penned this rant, Ugandan MPs trended; our hardworking MPs with the speaker as their guardian angel pleading their cause, have allegedly resolved to add more fat to their obese salaries. While the rest of us lesser mortals, useful idiots and immunized quislings, are tightening our belts, even forcing holes into the now fatigued belts, our MPs need more money for bigger, fatter belts because you citizens are always asking them for money.
The poem, ‘Building the Nation’ by acclaimed Ugandan poet, Christopher H. Muwanga Barlow, should be cited at the start of every parliamentary session. We are all building the nation; we all have ulcers, some from eating too many sumptuous meals, the rest, from belching on empty stomachs.
Meanwhile, ba dia, Besigye the besieged, just got released. It is our turn to Besigye for him, others – and ourselves.
The writer is a tayaad muzzukulu.