By Deo Tumusiime
They shared almost everything in common until May 2013 when Sir Alex Chapman Ferguson finally threw in the towel as Manchester United Manager, gaping away from Uganda’s President Museveni with whom they rose to the helm in 1986, albeit in varying capacities and environments.
For about a decade, there had been speculation over when Ferguson would cede leadership of one of the world’s most successful clubs just as is the case with President Museveni; and when the former chose to make the announcement, it caught everyone by surprise.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the discussion up to this level, Manchester United is among the best Football teams in England and the world; and Uganda is a country in East Africa, renowned for its richness in natural Flora and Fauna and its hospitable population among other qualities.
The two entities share commonality in the fact that prior to 1986, they were both in turmoil with United performing so poorly and Uganda engaged in political upheavals that led to the death of hundreds.
In search for a savior, Manchester United appointed little known Alex Ferguson as their manager then from Aberdeen and he was later to rise through the ranks, winning the famous Treble of trophies in the 1999 season, a feat that got him knighted by the Queen to become a Sir.
On the other hand still in 1986, Uganda welcomed little known Yoweri Museveni formerly a bush fighter as their President. Both leaders are the longest serving ever in their respective institutions and have registered a myriad of achievements.
Ferguson won a record 37 major trophies in his reign and Museveni has defied all odds to maintain relative peace and stability in a country that was so torn apart by yester regimes.
Well, for all and sundry, it may appear implausible to perfectly compare the game of Football and a government.
However, it is very difficult to simply dust away the dummy similarity between Sir Alex Chapman Ferguson and President Yoweri Museveni, if anything for the length of time the two leaders have been in power.
However, now that Ferguson has left the scene, his departure could possibly give us a glimpse into what Uganda might be, in the event that President Museveni also chooses to step down.
Ferguson had become such a rocky personality that none of the current managers anywhere in the world could perfectly be pointed at for his successor.
This is not quite different from Uganda’s situation considering that shrewd personalities like Museveni are not quite easy to come by.
And when he decided to end his career, Ferguson either knowingly or unknowingly decided to identify his successor in former Everton Football Club manager David Moyes. I have heard some circles suggesting that President Museveni also ought to do likewise. Moyes joined Manchester United with the nick name of “The chosen one”.
Only time would later tell if this was the right approach or not, and as things stand, Uganda might want to watch the events at Manchester United with keen interest.
Since David Moyes took over at Manchester United, the best position the team has registered is 7th on the League table; Man United’s home ground Old Trafford formerly a fortress for winning trophies, has been gripped with agony as fans have watched loss after loss; and for the first time in ages, I have watched Manchester United fans walk out on their team-this was absolutely unheard of during Ferguson’s time.
Of course Ferguson too had some dry spells where the team lost crucial matches, but he had inculcated a belief among the players and fans, that game was still on until the referee blew the final whistle.
On innumerable occasions, United redeemed points in the dying minutes and every manager regretted his team being pitted against Manchester United.
With the same playing squad left behind by Ferguson, David Moyes has failed thus far to fit in his predecessor’s shoes with the latest bizarre exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Swansea, worst performances in the League and the loss to Sunderland in the Carling cup compounding the agony that has become more of a norm than an exception.
There’s suspicion from some corners that despite all his achievements, Ferguson’s was a one-man show and that he did not provide the institution with firm ground to thrive without him.
I have heard some people say the same about President Museveni; and going by the current turmoil at Manchester United, the future might be oblique for Uganda should Museveni leave office like now.
Thankfully Mr. Museveni is still on the scene and he could use every opportunity to clean up the government institutions in preparation for his exit, but one wonders how much could be done in two or so years to correct inadequacies of 27 or so years.
We can only hope and pray that there’s no science beyond the fortunes of Ferguson and Museveni, and that politics is empirically worlds apart from Football-only this hope could absolve Uganda from a replica of what we are seeing at Manchester United.
Straightaway, I must discourage President Museveni from appointing his successor at short notice because going by events at Manchester United; that will not work.
What might make more sense is to groom a like-minded personality over a period of time that could already start appealing to the masses through practical maneuvers so that by election time, the country has a glimpse of its future leader.
Otherwise, it’s very risky expecting voters, majority of whom, are illiterate to have the wisdom to elect a befitting replacement to President Museveni by merely listening to him or her for the three months’ campaign period or some admiring his or her face on the ballot paper on election day.
It’s probable that Manchester United could have been better off appointing Ferguson’s deputy at the club as his successor than hiring a completely new face whose DNA might well be incompatible with not only with the players but the fans and the club’s gods of fortune.
I am not quite certain that President Museveni’s deputy in the prevailing circumstances would necessarily do the magic, but maybe the iron ladies that have served under his shadow in the likes of former Vice President Dr. Speciosa Wandira and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga could be the difference that Uganda desires in the post-Museveni era.
Whatever the case, Uganda must start now to envision a future beyond President Museveni’s regime to avoid the shocking surprises akin to what’s prevailing at Manchester United.
The writer is an International Communications Consultant