By Timothy Bukumunhe
It is all in the nose and for that, I spent the best part of last week in Entebbe — not because I was summoned by State House or I was flying out. I was there because of the launch of a luxury private jet.
When it comes to flying, I do not fly First or Business Class, but Economy or in Uganda speak, Kayola Class. Anybody flying and especially long haul, First or Business Class is the mode of travel. However, there is a ‘but’ as in the cost factor. I do not have the dime for First or Business class, that is why I make do with Kayola Class.
If I had ‘the nose’, I would probably be First Class like Charles Mbire. Mbire has ‘the nose’. So he is a Mukiga, but his nose is not long and pointed. His nose is robust and has the ability to sniff deals just like the noses of Sudhir Ruparelia, Patrick Bitature, Gordon Wava and the other tycoons who run this country.
Mbire sniffed a deal — the luxury private Vista Jet, while the rest of us were getting blazed in a kafunda. When the jet landed in Entebbe, it was a sight to behold.
And while we did not fly out, the one hour I was in the jet, I felt at par with other private jet owners like Donald Trump and Bill Gates. Swirling about in the wide leather seats, complete with a set table and a bottle of chilled champers, the stewardess told me I could fly out and be in Paris for breakfast, London for lunch, catch the Barcelona/Real Madrid match at the Nou Camp in Barcelona and be back in Uganda in time to go clubbing. And being the ‘tycoon’ that I was, I also took myself to the back of the plane and flopped into bed for a power nap, until reality set in when they threw me off the plane.
It did not end there, for I met an Indian, a Canadian Indian — Mohamed Awad. Like Mbire, Awad has a nose that sniffs out deals. Awad, so I found out, was the first person to open up a duty free shop at Entebbe Airport in the turbulent 1980s when President Obote was still ruling.
While we were cowering under our beds as the bullets flew and telling him (Awad) that his airport venture would not work, he and his father were busy at the airport opening shops including Karibuni Lounge, which is a haven for First Class and Business Class flyers.
Awad further stretched his nose to duty free shops in Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam airports that today he owns a regional empire.
What I really liked about the day in Entebbe Airport, apart from enjoying the fine comforts of Karibuni Lounge and the Vista private jet, was watching the noses, the noses that sniff the deals at work like Stanbic Bank’s East Africa Chief Executive, Kitili Mbathi and Tony Gadhoke, the MD of Mukwano, who were briefly there. Even Elvis Sekyanzi sniffed part of the deal because Silk Events was there too.
By the way, on my way home, I passed a truck carrying matooke that had overturned on Salama Road. Perhaps I should have stopped and sniffed to see if there was a deal in the making for it would be a shame to find out that Mbire and Awad had passed the same truck, sniffed the deal, got paid and flew in sheer Vista Jet luxury to London, Dubai and New York.