By Kalungi Kabuye
A few years ago, a colleague from another country said something that almost brought him to blows with several Ugandans around him. He said that Ugandans will always be backward because that is what we are used to, we like it that way and will resist any attempt to move forward.
That time, I cooled tempers that no actual physical confrontation took place. But tempers were really high, and sadly my friends would not talk to that colleague ever again, even after he had apologised.
Last week, something happened that made me realise he might have had a point, a very valid point at that. We were at a status meeting to review a project we were working on, whose first outing had been a disaster. We agreed it had not worked out, but that was the only thing we agreed pon that afternoon.
Our working brief was that the event should have a ‘Hollywood’ theme, together with all the glitz and glamour it implied. I tried to explain what we should do to achieve that, but to my surprise almost everybody was opposed to my suggestions. ‘It cannot work,’ one said. ‘It is impossible, not in Uganda,” another said. ‘That is too much work for the people involved, they will not manage,” was yet another rejoinder.
For almost an hour, they shot down everything I suggested we do and were at times extremely creative at finding reasons why whatever it was would not work.
At the end of the session I was left shellshocked. I may be unfortunate that I try to give my best in everything I do, but never in my wildest dreams did I think somebody would not only try to avoid doing something properly, but would deliberately oppose any effort to do so.
I asked a Kenyan colleague whether this was a Ugandan thing, or if it happens everywhere. He explained how when he came in the country several months ago, he had all sorts of ideas on how to do things and get them moving. But nobody wanted to listen to him, so now he gives them whatever they want, however mediocre it might be.
A friend on Facebook explained that in the corporate world, it is those who do nothing that survive and risk takers quickly find themselves on the outside looking in. So how does anything ever get done? No answer.
This also takes me back several years ago, when some friends of mine and I formed the Rhino Athletics Club. Our immediate aim was to change the way basketball was being played, to move away from weekend games and into serious structured sports.
That really pissed off some people and our club was banned. To enforce that ban, at one time LDU personnel with guns were used to force us from the Main Grounds at Makerere, where our team was playing.
There have been many complaints about the work ethic of the Ugandan workforce. We have been called lazy, good-for-nothings that would dodge doing any extra work wherever possible; and that our neighbours do as much work as two or three of us put together.
In a way you have to admire the tenacity of people who are determined beyond all means to stay where they are. But in a world where everything is changing at an ever increasing rate, and progress is not an option but a reality — fighting to stay where you are actually means you are going backwards. Seems that colleague of mine from another country actually knew what he was talking about after all.
Eventually our club was unbanned, the whole basketball fraternity embraced what we were doing and the whole country is the better for it.
As for that Hollywood glitz and glamour event, any chance of that? Unlikely, why go to Hollywood when a kafunda will do as well?