I scheduled an appointment on a Saturday in 2005, for an interview with Prof. Venansius Bayramureeba. It was to take place in his office at the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology. All I knew was that he completed his doctorate before he turned 30 and at 37, became the youngest Dean at Makerere University in 2005.
I had absolutely no idea what he looked like. And there was no secretary to let me know whether the guy inside the office was indeed the dean.
I knocked on the door and someone called out. I walked in and found a man dressed in brown trousers, a faded purple T-shirt and black sandals. He was carrying a newspaper. I greeted him and told him about my appointment with the dean.
â€œDo you know what he looks like?â€ the man asked rather casually.
â€œNo, I have absolutely no idea,â€ I replied.
â€œPlease take a seat,â€ the man said, before picking out a soda of my choice from a nearby mini fridge and walking out. While sipping the soda, I thought to myself â€˜office assistants do not come friendlier than thisâ€™.
A few seconds later, a second door, which until that moment had gone unnoticed, was flung open. My â€˜friendly office assistantâ€™ walked in with arms stretched out, presenting himself in melodramatic fashion, as the dean. For nearly five minutes, not a word was said as we both burst into laughter.
I later learnt that that was one of the few occasions that â€˜Baryaâ€™, as heâ€™s often referred to, had not worn a suit.
He has a hearty laugh that rips through walls. and his lifestyle is just as loud. For instance, he frequently switches luxury cars, something people have grown accustomed to seeing in musicians, as they try to bolster their image. He drives either a Mercedes GL or another smaller one with five green stars for a number plate.
During the interview, he cheekily commented that the stars stood for one woman for every day of the week, before bursting out into laughter.
Only recently, he e-mailed me some pictures that he said would â€œmesmerise meâ€, pictures the paper could use to accompany articles about him. In these pictures, the professor was clad in a striped suit with a striped shirt and tie. Image, apparently, is everything to him, just as it is to a showbiz personality.
True, Barya may be a tad arrogant. But this supposed arrogance comes as a result, not of driving around in cool cars, but of the intellectual being that he is.
He has crammed so much achievement into his 41 years, so much more than so many people fail to do in a lifetime. If you were to go by his Curriculum Vitae alone, 30 pages is quite a load of information! Thatâ€™s a summary of a text book right there!
Thereâ€™s the cheeky and playful side, the serious side, the commanding side and of course, a few other sides we are not privy to.
He is serious when talking about his work. Barya talks about the projects heâ€™s involved in with such passion and pride.
â€œI work long hours. I can work for a minimum 14 hours a day,â€ he once said, leaving you with no doubt that his passion for work contributed greatly to his success. Heâ€™s got drive in whatever he puts his mind to and sees it through to the end.
But if there are streaks of arrogance in his tone of voice, the bouts of humour and playful tendencies that regularly make up his persona shed off the serious exterior, making him just as naughty as the next comedian.
15 minutes with Professor Baryamureeba