FOR 30 years, he was a chaplain at Kingâ€™s College Budo. Now he leaves this world to meet his creator. Labani Bombokka was the symbol of life on Budo hill, helping to shape morals of thousands who went to the school.
Gerald Tenywa attended the celebration of Bomboâ€™s life and now writes about his legacy
A tree is best measured when it is down - and so it is with people,â€ the historian Carl Sandburg wrote of Abraham Lincoln.
â€œReverend Labani Bombo, you were a truly great man. You made Budo your world and helped give the world to many of us,â€ said Paul Bakibinga, an old Budonian.
â€œWe remember you reading from that little green book The Way of Life booklet number 9 and I am sure the Great Examiner whom you served so diligently as you prepared for that final exam will say to you; â€˜Well done good and faithful servant.â€™
In his tribute, Bakibinga added a Bible quote: â€œYou have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, youâ€™ve kept the faith. And in sports parlance Iâ€™m sure no one within the Budo fraternity will question your number â€œbeing retiredâ€ in your honour as being the best of father, husband, teacher, clergy and friend. May you rest in peace.â€
This is just one of the eulogies that poured out of the hearts of the Old Budonians, friends and family that gathered at the Budo chapel, where Bombo touched the hearts of thousands.
It was a funeral service, but everything was so full of light and the air filled with celebration because Bombo triumphantly passed through the trials and tribulations of this world.
Budoâ€™s great and small attended. Some of them were his classmates, former students, or parents of students he had taught, baptised, confirmed or wedded. Others included the clergy and neighbours at his Nsangi residence on Masaka road.
Music icons like Sserukenya Wassanyi played captivating songs that tickled the throats and left many longing for more.
In his tribute, the president of the Old Budonians Club, Edward Sekabanja Kato, described him as a great teacher, a parent and friend. â€œBombo did not remain a teacher or a chaplain. He was a mentor.â€
Born on January 21, 1935 in Butambala, Gomba in Mpigi, Bombo had 12 brothers and sisters. He went to Kagulwe Primary School, Mityana SS and Kingâ€™s College Budo (1953-1958) and Kyambogo Teachersâ€™ College.
He returned in 1974 as a teacher of music and mathematics. He trained as a reverend in the UK and Mukono Theological College. In 1978, he became the school chaplain.
He also had a stint at Nsangi Primary School, Budo Junior and Ndejje Teachersâ€™ College as a tutor, where he met Alice his wife and mother of his four children, Rhoda Namutebi, Yosamu Semugooma, Phillip Miiro and Arthur Katabalwa Mwenkanya.
According to Alice, Bombo had been quietly battling prostate cancer. He did not want to scare his friends and suffered tongue lashing when they let the cat out of the bag.
Bombo mingled the subject matter he had to dispense and humour in equal measure. He made mathematics look so simple. He also had a huge stock of examples that would bail him out whenever he was challenged by bright students. He also learnt from them and this experience made teaching easier and fun for him.
â€œHe is one of those teachers who had passion and made sure that the students understood and that what they had learnt stuck (in their minds),â€ says John Kimbe, an Old Budonian.
Bombo knew how to create the world he wanted. If he wanted to be happy, you would find him humming on the paths between the Budo green areas (quadrangles).
Despite his cleverness, Bombo sometimes fell prey to the foolery of students. At one time, students of Canada House did not have a traditional dance.
One brilliant student who is currently a manager at a prominent institution, volunteered to bail them out. He asked students from northern and north eastern Uganda to give him five words from which he concocted a song.
Within a few days, Canadians put up a stunning act and were the overall winners. This excited Bombo and since it had not been patented by the Canadians, he took it up.
Within a few weeks, Bombo became the owner of the song. He would start his lessons in a manner of dancing like the Canadians on the stage, singing: â€œKachiri kachere, kachiri kalaso.â€
His other side as a teacher
Bombo never touched dirty work and would not mark a page in your book with any cross. He would simply say: â€œBudonians have to be sure. I do not have room for gamblers.â€
He would spontaneously instruct those sitting next to a person who gave a lousy answer: â€œKikube.â€ (Slap him or her very hard). For those who failed to execute the order, he would summon them to the front and lash them.
His influence beyond Budo
Henry Mukasa, a Budonian who attended Budo Junior in the mid-1980s wrote: â€œThe influence Rev. Bombokka had over his wife who was our religious education teacher at Budo Junior School is indelible.
Every assembly and on Sunday, she taught us all the parables and short stories in the Bible, with drama and songs to accompany them which we never forgot.â€
Work as a chaplain
â€œHis voice still reigns in our ears,â€ said one of the Old Budonians. â€œWe still remember his voice singing hymns. He also spoke many proverbs and sayings like: â€œSome people become so heavenly minded and become earthly fools.â€
Bombo loved God, but he was not an earthly fool. He gave a chance for students to lead during chapel services.
He did not have pronounced worldly assets. All his children are Old Budonians, married and gainfully employed.
Mwenkanya now lives in the UK with his sister Namutebi. Miiro works at dfcu bank and Semugooma is a successful businessman in Kampala. Namutebi says the reverend was a good father and loved all his children, and an ardent believer in spare the rod and spoil the rod.
According to Alice, Bombo wanted his children to excel and wrote over 40 letters to a university in the UK asking for sponsorship. He never gave up until Miiro was granted a scholarship for a masterâ€™s degree.
His Mamba clanmates said they nicknamed him Omujjajjaasi (the one who pampers a lot).
Bombo retired in 2000 as chaplain and as a teacher two years later. By the time he died, he was a voluntary pastor at a church near his residence in Nsangi.
After 30 years of faithful service, Budoâ€™s Rev Bombo is no more