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Sunday,September 27,2020 11:03 AM

Museveni's boda boda pilot

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th January 2001 03:00 AM

Sam Kabuga, 18, a boda boda motorcyclist from Nateete, does not usually give out free rides. His job is a demanding and competitive one. He barely makes enough money both for the owner of the bike, and for himself.

Sam Kabuga, 18, a boda boda motorcyclist from Nateete, does not usually give out free rides. His job is a demanding and competitive one. He barely makes enough money both for the owner of the bike, and for himself.

By Kalungi Kabuye Sam Kabuga, 18, a boda boda motorcyclist from Nateete, does not usually give out free rides. His job is a demanding and competitive one. He barely makes enough money both for the owner of the bike, and for himself. A free ride sounds like a crazy idea to him. Yet the free ride he gave the President of Uganda on nomination day might make the difference in life that he has been dreaming of. "I could not believe it, and in fact I still cannot believe it that I gave President Museveni a ride on my piki-piki," he told The New Vision. "I think I am still in some kind of shock, but I believe this is a sign that my life will change for the better." It did continue the next morning, when the newspapers came out with his picture on the front page. Speaking in Luganda, Kabuga said his neighbours thought he was joking when he told them about giving the president a ride. But when they saw the picture they celebrated with him. The offices of the National Motorcycles and Bicycles Association (NAMBA), received hundreds of calls from other boda boda riders, demanding to know whether Kabuga was really one of them or just another security operative from State House. When they were told indeed he was, they promised to celebrate with one of their numbers. "Basically what Museveni has done is to bring honour to our profession," Joseph Kabuye, Chairman of NAMBA, who accompanied Kabuga to the interview, said. "He was late, he was in a hurry, and his car could not help him. He did what most Ugandans do in such a situation - he took a boda boda. We are proud that one of our members, Kabuga, was the one whose motorcycle he used." Kabuga was an unlikely candidate for such accolade. One of 75 children born to the late Charles Lutaya of Kinaawa, along Old Masaka Road, Kabuga has had very few breaks from life. He was only a young child in P.2 at Bandwe Primary School when his father died. His mother had already died so he existed at the mercy of his numerous older brothers and sisters. But often there was not enough money to go around, and Kabuga had to stay out school for several years. Eventually, he joined Lwadda Primary School where he studied up to P.6, before money ran out. His older siblings had got families of their own, and their resources were strained. From his late father's estate, Kabuga got a bicycle, which he used to go to school. When the fees finally ran out for good in 1996, he decided to use the bicycle to make money. So he became a boda boda rider. "It was hard work, but at least I was making my own money," he said. After three years riding a bicycle around Nateete, he found somebody who had a motorcycle and was looking for a rider for it. So Kabuga joined the motorcycle fraternity. But it is still hard work. A day's efforts might fetch an average of sh14,000, of which the owner will take sh8,000, leaving him with only sh4,000. With this he has to pay the Kampala City Council (KCC) a daily of sh500. At the end of the day, he takes home sh3,500, with which he will feed himself, pay rent, and try to put some away for a rainy day! That was his life until Tuesday, when fate put him in the right place at the right time. That morning he was one of about 100 boda boda riders from Nateete, who joined with more than 1,500 riders from Kampala to go and escort Yoweri Museveni on his nomination day. He parked with the others just outside the gate on Wampeewo Avenue. About 10 minutes before Museveni was due to arrive he was asked, together with two other boda boda riders, one from Bwaise and the other from Kalitunsi, by the security personnel to go inside Kololo Airstrip. "I did not know why they asked us inside and was puzzled," Kabuga recalls. "But then they told me I was going to carry the President. I thought it was some kind of a joke but before I could figure it out the President had arrived and sat on my bike, He said, let us go, I am late." Kabuga first drove slowly because of his very important passenger, but then Museveni told him to go faster. He drove about 500m, when Museveni jumped off and went to the pavilion. So Kabuga parked his Yamaha YD 125 (UBC 374P) and watched the proceedings from a distance. After it was all over, Museveni got into his car and was driven away. So the day ended. But not for Kabuga. He believes that his life has just started, and that it is going to be different. "Of course I did not charge the President any money, and I would not have, but I know my life is about to change," he said. "This is my chance." Already business has gone up, people want to sit on the bike that Museveni sat on. But that is still not enough. What Kabuga would like to do is raise enough money to buy himself a bike, which costs about sh2m. With his income, he does not hope to do that in 20 years. But already his fellow riders might be planning to help. Word has it they might get together and pool money for a bike for Kabuga, a kind of soft loan. But that is in the future. Right now Kabuga is riding his time in the limelight, and enjoying every minute of it. But he insists that no more free rides, he has given the last one in his life. Ends.

Museveni's boda boda pilot

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