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Makerere Convocation comes of age

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th December 2009 03:00 AM

BEFORE getting into the meat of the week I must start with a starter in the form of an apology for last week. At the top of the column I had given information which grounded the piece into its time and place.

BEFORE getting into the meat of the week I must start with a starter in the form of an apology for last week. At the top of the column I had given information which grounded the piece into its time and place.

By John Nagenda

BEFORE getting into the meat of the week I must start with a starter in the form of an apology for last week. At the top of the column I had given information which grounded the piece into its time and place. This was nearly half a century ago, when I travelled in the US preparing an article for Life Magazine entitled, “Relationships between Africans and American Negroes”, which is what the latter were then called. (What a long time ago!).

Now I cut the piece, never before published, from 2,000 to 900 words to fit into OMW. Some of the piece appeared in my article, which in the event was published in London by RACE Magazine, rather than Life, which had in fact paid for my travels all over the United States.

The beginning of ’66 was a bad time for Buganda. I got writers’ block, lost my slot at Time, but they paid up. Anyhow, without this information last week, readers might have been somewhat puzzled: for example the FBI agents would hardly behave in the way they did in this new century!

Besides, Nat is long dead, and Aggrey Awori a Uganda Government Minister, via the route of fighting it in very desultory fashion. But as for the sub-editor, who has been excellent up to last week, I am tempted to cut off his arm for the mess. I keep fretting that some of my more alert readers might have gone to their Final Rest during the week, restless that they had missed something crucial in their final read!

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Apology done, we can move into what happened this week at, and to, Makerere University, one’s Alma Mater and that of a great many others. In a word, without exaggeration, Mkapa happened! I am willing to wager the Makerere Convocation will never be the same, but I’ll come to that. Benjamin William Mkapa, immediate former President of the Republic of Tanzania was a mere Freshman from the unheard-of (at least to us, then!) bottom tip of Tanzania next door to Mozambique, when we first met at Makerere in 1957. Both of us, for our tender age, were what I believe the Americans call feisty. Two years later, upon starting on the English Honours degree course, became, almost as a right, sparring partners; these, in the boxing ring can hit each other mercilessly, even when under the same management!

I would say without any hesitation that Ben Mkapa would never hit below the belt, no matter how fierce the argument, and I hope he would say the same for me. He always looked the more youthful of us two (a trick of his facial arrangement) up to today, in spite of his upwardly rising bulk! His stewardship of Tanzania was at the highest level, and will never be forgotten by those of sound mind. In my own perhaps somewhat jaundiced, mind, he occupies a plateau directly beneath his hero and mentor, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere himself. What can be higher praise?

As this column’s readers will remember, their humble columnist was gobsmacked when the first (and so far only) African Leadership Award, (competed for by thosewho had retired voluntarily) chose that great Mozambican leader Chissano, and only him. The prize should have gone to him and Mkapa; if the money was the problem they should have shared it. Anyway my interest in the Award, much as I had sang its praises, waned considerably. Perhaps just as well, since the next time round it failed to be bestowed – a mystery wrapped in an enigma, as Churchill might have observed!

What, though, in the light of the foregoing, an inspired choice by Makerere (from Chancellor Kagonyera - and no doubt ex-Chancellor Nsibambi - to Chairman of Council Rukikaire, to brand new Vice Chancellor Baryamureeba, and all their array of Bright Young People, too numerous to name here) for their choice of Ben Mkapa to lead their drive for the Makerere Convocation rebirth.

Count the thousands upon thousands who have passed through the Alma Mater’s portals, and it is not difficult to imagine what a mighty answer would be forthcoming when sought! An imposing Alumini building is first of the many objects demanded. Failure is out!

Representing, as one tries to do, the Low and the High, and all the various in-between, I pushed out the ear to hear what people said about the Chief Guest at the Dinner to start the Appeal. “So humble,” said some. (Not always: ask lazy reporters.) “How approachable,” said others. “It is impossible to realise he has ruled a nation!” “Have you heard a comparable speech than he gave to open the Convocation?” many exclaimed, including your columnist.

At every turn, wife Anna, who gives little away, smiled enigmatically. Behind every great man, as they say, is a great woman, although Obasanjo of Nigeria queries the positioning of the lady! Ben Mkapa, This is Your Life!

How very lucky we are to see it!

Makerere Convocation comes of age

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