Of those reading this, 90% of you have probably never heard of a gentleman (read soldier) named Abdullah Nasur. Lt. Col. Abdullah Nasur, to be precise, was Governor of Central Province in the 1970’s, and in this office he played a leading role in Amin’s “Keep Uganda Clean” initiative, garnering a negative reputation for his strict enforcement of the urban beautification campaign (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdallah_Nasur). Part of that campaign involved the banning of entering Kampala while wearing bathroom slippers. While you could not fault the old geezer for his stance on these slippers, it is alleged that some of his methods (including making the wearers eat the said bathroom slippers) were unsavory to say the least. Afande Nasur also had a keen interest in sports and was closely associated with the banning of Express Football Club who have just won this year’s Uganda premier league. In a sentence, he was a no nonsense fellow.
They say history repeats itself. True as that maybe, not many are agreed on why history actually repeats itself. Some say history repeats itself because (wo)men never learn from their mistakes. Others say it repeats itself because the more things change, the more they remain the same. Fast forward to 2021. Enter Afande Edith Nakalema. Col. Edith Nakalema to be precise, is the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHAC) and has been responsible for investigating and unearthing many hair-raising shenanigans that we Ugandans can get up to. One must admit, that while she is a soldier like Nasur, she would never pass off as an unsavory character. In a sentence, she is an angelic crusader, who tries to stand on the side of the down trodden.
But then again, perhaps this has been part of her problem. Mistaking windmills for enemy towers and castles ala Don Quixote ( I don’t have the space nor time to tell you about Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote and his adventures). So, back to our beloved Afande’s own adventures. In scene one she is seen taking on bus operators. These evil bus operators have just hiked fares to the countryside and are causing such a furore for poor students and other travelers trying to beat the lockdown deadline and get back to their villages. Enter the prancing Afande Nakalema, to sort them out. The cameras show her collecting bus tickets and threatening to arrest the usurious bus operators if they don’t refund the exorbitant fees and carry the students home. She and her handlers soon come up with a solution to commandeer government vehicles to take the stranded and weary travelers home. All is well that ends well perhaps.
In scene two, people struck by Covid-19 are dying left right and centre. The hospitals are full and private clinics are literally taking the patients and their relatives to the cleaners if not the grave! Enter our prancing knight again prancing on a flying broom (horse) named Rocinante. Unlike in the chivalrous tale of Don Quixote, Afande takes no prisoners. Soon she manages to ‘bring order’ to the industry and enforce dialogue. It is apparently (sic) agreed that private hospital operators will ‘review’ their charges to avoid the wrath of the Don Nakalema.
I am just embellishing this but I kid you not. Lt. Col. Nasur is not a figment of my imagination. Nor is Col. Nakalema. However, their quixotic adventures, while sounding noble are at odds with economic reality. Like Lt. Col. Nasur before her, Col. Nakalema (or her bosses) have failed to appreciate that the cause of high charges by private bus operators or private hospitals are the unintended outcome of the dysfunctional public transport and health sector systems. She is in essence fighting the natural forces of demand and supply and mistakes these private bus and hospital operators for enemy castles. As in Cervantes, tale, the moral is that her idealism is insane and will be rendered useless by common reality. Rather that her handlers repaired the public transport and health systems than send her on these chivalrous brainless adventures.
Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Mat Abacus Business School. Twitter