By Deo Tumusiime
So the Constitutional Court has ruled that former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki cannot be re-appointed for another term after clocking the mandatory retirement age of 70; but is there any lesson to learn from this scenario? Certainly yes.
For a man that has so diligently served the nation, the ruling in question is just a stub of sorts, especially considering that he failed to come out and openly reject the President’s move to have him re-elected.
It was evident that he wanted it in contravention of the very Constitution he stood for while still at the helm.
Thankfully for Odoki, he did not have to stand in the dock to defend anything, which could just have worsened his embarrassment.
Uganda surely needs a deliberate plan that will encourage her citizens to retire peacefully. As things stand now, and with the exception of a few privileged high profile leaders, the thought of retirement for any Ugandan must be extremely scary.
Pension as it were and little as it is, seems to be only heard of in the civil service, and for the vast majority of those employed in the non-government sector, hitting the retirement age feels like a bullet driving through one’s heart-it must feel like a death sentence.
Yet ideally people ought to be celebrating old age and sitting back to watch over, advise and urge on the younger generation to outdo their best. Alas, even folks that have celebrated their golden jubilee in service just won’t leave, because the situation on the other side is quite scary!
It is common knowledge that as people grow older, their bodies grow weaker and so does their productivity begin to slow down, plus bouts of memory lapse.
However, just as the Baganda say that “Obukadde Magezi” loosely translated to mean that old age is wisdom; this is not in doubt.
Older people are still able to remain relevant to a nation’s superstructure by engaging in lesser demanding activities and should be assigned roles aimed not at further entrenching themselves, but nurturing the younger ones coming after them.
Unfortunately because there’s no plan to harness this knowledge, many end up losing the battle of life too soon and all the knowledge goes six feet down-wasted.
Benjamin Odoki is obviously a moving library when it comes to Uganda’s legal regime. However, I do not think that at 70, being Chief Justice should be his kind of thing; but obviously he could play a role in mentoring younger judges or serve as an advisor to the President on legal and other matters.
We should therefore not be wasting time deliberating on whether his term could be extended for 3 or 4 or 5 more years as if there’re no other capable Ugandans to head the Judiciary. And the ruling against his re-appointment must serve as a precedent across all other sectors so that we have an amicable handover from one regime, one generation to another without tarnishing some people’s hard earned reputations.
I know that many people have been anxious to hear the President’s pronouncement of his own retirement, but as overwhelmingly mooted in Kyankwanzi, if he contests in 2016, he will be way past the 75 years age limit for the Presidency by the time his next term of office takes another turn- and that if his disputed current age is anything to go by.
Should this happen and we have more court contestations, Uganda will have learnt nothing from the recent Odoki judgment- but how unfortunate for a country struggling to evolve on the path to genuine constitutional democracy! Wouldn’t this only serve to re-affirm the old English adage that “Like Father, Like Son”! Only that this time it would take a slight twist to read, “Like Son, Like Father”-with Odoki only but figuratively and negatively so being the son!
Some years ago there was an idea of starting an “Elders Club”, but looks like it failed to take root as many people just don’t want to imagine they are too old, and are happy to dye their hair until they die.
In my view, Uganda needs to make old age so lucrative and to ensure that people say clocking the age 70, are guaranteed the minimum means of survival and status for those that have known nothing else but that in their lifetime. It’s such people (the elderly) that should be picking up medals and holding special status in society. Our elderly should be beaming with smiles-and only then shall they provide that desired inspiration for the young ones to live on.
Kudos to the African Union for establishing the Panel of the Wise, to which, our very own former Vice President Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe was recently appointed, not necessarily being among the oldest but the wisest. Uganda could also have its own version, possibly in various sectors, and I am sure that this would significantly set mother Uganda on a glowing path.
For God and My Country!
The writer is a communications consultant
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