Deep in my heart am not settled, I have been imagining myself being asked a question like, is there anyone from your past that lives within you? I think that answer is “yes”. Col Shaban has been my mentor, my friend, my Muko, a loving patriotic soldier, a teacher of teachers, a comrade and a good father to his children.
It is three days now yet it seems like now. We were all there, working furiously, focused on our work at office and the news of his illness came in, everyone felt cold.
The next day as we kept praying for him, all but one that is, he had already left. This was on Monday morning that I woke up to the very sad news of this year.
Deep in my heart am not settled, I have been imagining myself being asked a question like, is there anyone from your past that lives within you? I think that answer is "yes". Col Shaban has been my mentor, my friend, my Muko, a loving patriotic soldier, a teacher of teachers, a comrade and a good father to his children.
He thought of everyone and always had a smile on his face and a lot of history to share about the politics of Africa, the world and Uganda. I was walking the same path just because I always wanted to be like my two bosses Ofwono Opondo and Afande Shaban. Long work hours, reading a lot and doing lots of research until the late hours of the evening before heading back home.
I should say that I was lucky to have two wonderful bosses that knew when I was at my limit. On many occasions Afande always said that he could see it in my eyes when I was too stressed. That's when he would step in and make me busy by telling me to compile some of his work. He was the type that really cared about his employees, and everyone felt his generosity.
In our office room, he used to come, sit down on a chair and then narrated stories to us about the bush war of 11986, he narrated to us how he had a very wonderful team of journalists during his time as the army spokesman especially in the times of fighting ADF and Kony in the Northern region.
Very eloquent and had a lot of passion for this government, in that someday Tasha, a workmate asked him why he was so happy about his job and all he said was that he has come from far with this government and so he has reason to be happy and let the current generation know that they were in trouble but the generation is enjoying the peace and security without any much struggles.
Every time he had to lecture somewhere, he could write up a lecture on papers and I used to type whatever he wrote paper by paper, I used to wonder how smart and intelligent he was because he could write very good researched information in that me who was typing I felt like I was always in class because I could enjoy his opinions and the way he organized his work on paper in pen.
After typing the work, he could come and edit it in my presence just to tell me about the errors I made in typing and figures.
He had already availed me with emails of editors that I would always send his opinions for publications and this made me have a special relationship with these editors in that when I also started writing, my work could easily be published.
I escorted him to Kyankwanzi and many other places on several occasions to lecture and I was always his number one fan during the lectures because he could narrate many stories and cite many examples as he taught about patriotism and ideology. During the recent NRM primaries, I travelled with Col. Shaban to Jinja and we had several talk shows on the different Medias and I remember one Dr. Mbago driving from far to come at Smart Fm Jinja just to say hullo to Afande who he said was a very good teacher to him in Kyankwanzi.
I have a lot of memories about Afande Bantariza, my Muko, I just don't know how to deal with the memories but on Sunday before he met his death, he went to his whatsapp status and wrote in capital letters and I for one I know that once he writes in capital letters, he was always putting up an emphasis, he wrote at 6:58pm after he had regained some life: "THERE IS POWER IN THE BLOOD OF JESUS. AM FOR JESUS NOW". Immediately after putting up this message, the situation changed again and in the morning it was some other disturbing news.
Every time I had to attend a talk show on radio or Television, if Mr Ofwono Opondo wasn't around to guide me, I could easily run to Col Shaban or even call him for an explanation and guidance on how to handle different questions and indeed I have never failed to prove myself right on any talk show, you left well trained and will never disappoint.
I have known the sorrow of people passing away, but this was not something I was prepared for. My heart seemed to explode that day. Everyone in the office reacted differently.
Shock, yelling, quiet tears, noisy tears, phones ringing off the hook, fingers dialing phone numbers as fast as we could to calm the rumors.
It was chaos, and yet everything seemed to move in slow motion.When I was at office just after his death, I slowly unlocked his door and just sat there. As I write this now, even as the time has gone by, I can see all of it again. All the emails I have been receiving from him, all the work I have been typing for him and more of the work I had typed for use in a near future.
The historical books and some literature about government on his desk. His presence has always been there.As his burial happens this Thursday, let it be a celebration of all the good work that he has done for our dear country Uganda, the National Army (UPDF) and the National Resistance Movement government that he has served with all his heart and soul. Uganda Media Centre will always miss you Afande, you left us with your wisdom and we shall use it as you always told us.
Michael Woira works with Uganda Media Centre