THE TEN THINGS MEN KNOW ABOUT WOMEN

(this is an updated version of a story I first wrote about ten years ago)

It was a grand night we were having at the McGinty’s Irish pub in the Holiday Inn, Sandton City, Johannesburg (don’t go looking for it, it’s not there anymore, sadly). Over the years I had gathered quite a few South African friends, and every time I was in that city of gold we would get together for a drink. Those South African friends also had Ugandan friends so it would usually be quite a gathering.

Sandton city

Holiday Inn, Sandton City

It was one of those nights when Bren, who had spent time in Uganda as part of the ANC contingent, thought it was time for a quiz. Of course we were all for it. The question, as she asked, was ‘what are the ten things men know about women’? Knowing Bren, I knew there was a catch, but we all tried our best and gave different answers, even the women around the table.

When we finally ran out of answers, Bren gave hers: “the answer is… nothing!” uh? “That’s right,” she said, “nothing.” But you asked for ten things… “Yeah, one, nothing, two, nothing, three, nothing. Four nothing. Five, nothing. Six, nothing. Seven, nothing. Eight, nothing. Nine, nothing. Ten, nothing.”

After a few moments stunned silence, when we all looked at Bren with something like shock, we all burst out laughing. It was really funny, and we all patted Bren’s back and told her it was a brilliant quiz.

But at the back of my mind, I knew Bren was trying to say something. The more I thought about it, the more I realised how little we really know about women; especially when they say “nothing”.

There are times when women go very quiet on us. There is no preamble or warning, it just happens. You might have been chatting about something for a while, when all of a sudden it is all quiet on the female front. So you turn around ask her, what is wrong my dear? Her answer?  “Nothing”.

Then there are those times they kind of mumble something, and you don’t quite get what she said, so, of course, you ask: what did you say? “Nothing.”

Or you might find a group of them talking and laughing and obviously enjoying themselves. If you don’t know better, you might get curious, and ask what the joke was. Answer? “Nothing.” But you were laughing at something, what was it? “Nothing”. You were laughing at nothing? “Yeah”, and that will bring even more laughter.

We all have at one time or another found a damsel in distress, so to speak. She obviously looks right at the end of her tether. You are not sure what exactly is she is trying to do, but she looks like she can use some help, so the gallant you steps forward and asks if there is anything you can do to help. Answer? “Nothing.” Really? You are sure you don’t need any help? “Yes”.

She can even be crying, and throwing things around; but when you ask her what is wrong? “Nothing.”

Back to that Irish pub in Johannesburg, where another South African friend, Nopsi, tried to make things clear. She explained that women mean different things when they say ‘nothing’. And it will depend on the time and the place, or the circumstances prevailing. And at times it might not even about you, the man.

She went on that at times the nothing might actually mean everything; at times it might mean something of the things, or even none of those things. It is up to the man to try and figure out which one it is. And whether you do or not shall decide how long you are for this earth.

We all looked at Nopsi with total confusion, and thought of at least Bren made a bit of sense, and was funny.

When the South African women finally left, a Ugandan guy who shall remain nameless said he had an American joke about women. He told us about a man who had done some very good things, and pleased the Lord no end. So God told him to ask for whatever he wanted.

The man told God how he had always wanted to visit Hawaii, but was afraid of flying, so could God build an expressway so he could drive there? God was scandalised at the man’s selfishness, told him so, and asked him to ask for something else.

The man thought, and thought, and finally said, “Ok, I want to understand women.”

There was silence, then God finally answered: “how many lanes do you want on that expressway?”

We laughed very loudly at that, and rejoiced how we had the last word.

I do miss Johannesburg, and my South African friends.

 

I REMAIN, SIR, YOUR MOST HUMBLE AND OBEDIENT SERVANT

Growing up, and learning how to write properly in English, I was always fascinated by the way civil servants, and generally Government officials, used to sign off letters they had written. A typical one was the phrase, ‘I remain, sir, your most humble and obedient servant’.

Those days, government officials were generally seen as very important people, so for them to sign off that way always amused me. What did they really mean? Were they just making fun of the person they were writing to, when at times it was to castigate or complain about something the addressee had done?

For the record, this kind of signing off is referred to as ‘valediction’, and has been in use for hundreds of years. In its earliest form, it was written by officials to their rulers, who most often were kings or chiefs that held more or less absolute power, so one had to be very respectful.

In more modern times, it was mostly used by the British civil service, and that is where the rest of us borrowed it from. The main point here is that the public official was seen as a servant to the public; and was appointed, or elected, to work for that public.

Now, ask yourself, does any public official in Uganda ever sign off that way? Can you imagine the Uganda Communications Commission  Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi, who has been responsible for more public woes than any other single person, ever sign off as ‘your most obedient and humble service’?

When he issues letters warning that TV stations would be gut off, or people’s telephones are going to be turned off, does Mutabazi ever consider that he is actually supposed be our ‘most humble and obedient servant’?

letter_Mutabazi

What about another Executive Director (what is it about Executive Directors?), this time of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), Festus Luboyera, who insists that anybody in Uganda that wants to talk about the weather in public, has to get his permission first; is he a humble servant?

A look at recent communications from the two Executive Directors mentioned above shows that neither of them actually follows the ‘valediction’ practice. Valedictions are usually and normally written as a sign of respect or regard to the person or persons to whom the letter or communications is addressed. Luboyera and Mutabazi do not say farewell, or wish you well; they just append their signature to the letter.

letter_Luboyera

I do not usually communicate with Ugandan public officials, so I don’t know if they follow the Mutabazi and Luboyera rule; or if they still follow the way some teacher of English taught them to write.

Do public servants go through some induction process before they take office, to make them realise that indeed they are serving the public and that is why they are in those positions? Or do they take office assuming that the public is at their mercy, and require the likes of us to give them respect instead?

I mean, what goes through Mutabazi’s mind as he writes a letter that he knows is going to cause all kinds of problems with the public? Most of his missives are actually threats, that something very bad is going to happen to the public unless they do as she says.

I think much of the negative attitude that public officials have in Uganda comes from the mistaken belief that they are doing us a favour by being in those positions. With that kind of attitude, it is easy to not only abuse the offices they occupy, but also the public they are supposed to be serving.

How do we solve this? I think all public officials should go for a re-education course, and the main item on the syllabus should be to teach them that they really should be ‘humble and obedient servants’ to the public.

Maybe if Mutabazi, Luboyera and other public officials had to sign off that way, they would think many times before doing anything that would upset what is actually their master – the public.

I remain, sirs, your most humble and obedient servant.

 

THE UGANDAN MAN THAT OWNS THE WEATHER

Luboyera

Festus Luboyera, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority

No, this is not a fairy tale, and it does not take place in Wonderland. And no, it is not a film, either, although there is film about a man that tried to own the weather. In 1998 Scottish actor Sean Connery starred in the film The Avengers, in which he played a mad scientist hell bent on controlling the weather.

In a case of reality imitating fiction, we have a scientist (could he also be mad?) hell bent on doing what that Connery character tried to do. Lost in the Godfrey Mutabazi’s circus about SIM registration was the news that the Executive Director of the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), Festus Luboyera, had written a letter to several TV stations warning them against broadcasting unauthorised weather forecasts.

In his letter, Luboyera quoted the UNMA Act of 2012 and warned them against, among others, ‘making weather forecasts or observations, or releasing information about the climate in Uganda’, without written permission from the Executive Director.

When I first saw that on social media, I thought it was another case of ‘fake news’; but some people defended Luboyera, and said that those TV stations had been misleading farmers, at times predicting rain which never materialised.

I don’t know about you, but is there anybody that takes official Ugandan weather forecasts seriously? For the longest time, official Uganda weather forecasts run something like, ‘there will be scattered thunderstorms in some parts of the country;, while the rest of the country will be sunny and dry’.

I don’t know what the said TV stations broadcast, but what self-respecting farmer relies on these weather forecasts to plant crops? Most farmers don’t even believe their own rain-makers, so how can they believe some guy on TV?

For the record, what kind of forecast does Luboyera give? An excerpt from the UNMA web site has it that this April ‘there is an increased probability for above normal rainfall for western sector of Uganda, normal rainfall for central, Lake Victoria Basin, south-eastern, and central-northern Uganda, and below normal rainfall for Karamoja region and some parts of Lango and Acholi regions’. Just how different is that from the ‘scattered thunderstorms’ forecasts of old? If you were a farmer, would you plan your crops based on that?

But Luboyera warns that anyone that even speaks about the weather in public in Uganda without his (Luboyera’s) written permission can go to prison for two years.

weather_Kampala

sharing weather info in public can get you 2 years in jail

It is a fact that most smart phones have an app that will give you a forecast of the weather wherever you may be; so it means that before you can share this, say on social media, you have to get Luboyera’s written permission to do so, or you might go to jail.

Charles Dickens, in his classic novel Oliver Twist, wrote that ‘the law is an ass’. What would he say about the people that passed that UNMA law? Or the people that are seriously embarking on enforcing it?

But let us give Mr Luboyera the benefit of doubt, and agree that it is only him, by default, that can talk to the public about the weather. So it follows that he should take full responsibility for any adverse effects that come from unseen weather conditions.

If it rains and floods destroy property, blame Luboyera. Any landslide? Luboyera is liable because he did not warn the people. Did you fall and injure yourself trying to take cover from the rain? Luboyera should pay the medical bills, he should have told you it was going to rain so carry an umbrella. If you have the goose, hey get the gander too.

Insurance companies have incidents they refer to as ‘acts of God’, where you cannot get compensated, for example if heavy rain washed out your function. But now we know, it is an ‘act of Luboyera’, he should have warned you that it is going to rain heavily. Or his agents with written permission to do so should have done so.

In that 1998 film, the mad scientist fails to sell the weather to world leaders, and is eventually killed by a storm. The film also bombed at the box office, made less than it cost to make, and is maybe a lesson that those that dare own the weather are fated to fail.

 

SO ITS LENT, BIG DEAL!

ash wednesday

(this article first ran in the New Vision March 17th, 2017)

Growing up in a very Christian family, and attending schools founded by Christians, I nevertheless did not know much about the period known as Lent till I was much older. I knew the basics of it, of course; and the origins, and how it was supposed to represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness while resisting all kinds of temptations from the devil.

At school our teachers and chaplains would emphasize how we should take Jesus as our example, and use the period of Lent to think about all the temptations we would face in our lives. Afterwards we would all go for lunch or supper, or for sports, because the scripture lessons would always be either at the end of the day, or just before lunch.

Lent was also important because it was the period before Easter; and in school that would be a big deal because, apart from Founders Day, that was the time we would get served very good food at school. That was it then, that was Lent.

Even after I left school, the people I used to hang out with did not take it that seriously. To us it was only those very boring, staunch Catholics that made a fuss of it. In fact I got to know about Ash Wednesday much later in life.

These days, and it was a kind of shock to me, Lent is not just very a big deal, but big business too; or to some maybe the lack of it. And it is no longer only that dyed-in-the-wool Roman Catholic guy that observe Lent, but a lot of other people, too.

What happens is that somebody will vow to give up something they enjoy doing, mostly food or drink, for the 40-day duration. So you will find many people giving up the drinking of alcohol. I have a friend who would give up the drinking of beer, but would then put away dozens of bottles of wine.

Others would give up things like smoking, the eating of pork or meat, and even sex (apparently mostly women, don’t ask me why). Lent affects business in that owners of pubs and restaurants will see a decrease in patronage as people carry out their fasts; and coming off a very slow period of January and February, when many people are broke because of Christmas and then school fees – pub owners just hate Lent.

But some Christians object to the whole Lent business, and claim its origins is in pagan festivals which the early Christians took over. They also insist that fasting and self-denial cannot be a source of purity; and that it is not even found in the Bible, but was a ritual created by the Catholic Church about 400 years after the death of Jesus.

They point to the putting of ash on people’s foreheads to mark Ash Wednesday as little better than the Pharisees, who Jesus gave as example of how not to follow the Lord. And they also question the fasting and self-denial for only 40 days, after which it is time to play catch up and binge on all the stuff you denied yourself.

And then I found out that Pentecostals, to which many young people belong, also do not do Lent. They claim that they fast any time and throughout the year, not just before Easter.

Now, I have no problem with Lent, or with people denying themselves what they like most. I don’t own or run a pub or a restaurant; and if people want to deny themselves all kinds of good things, they can go right ahead. And it might instil some little discipline in our people, God knows this country can use some of that.

So I will just sit quietly and watch as the period unfolds, and wait till the 40 or so days are over, when those people that were fasting start complaining about the mother of all hangovers.

JAMES BOND AND MY LOVE FOR CINEMA

live-and-let-die

For these past two weeks, it has been something of a fest of James Bond films on DStv. Over the period of 10 days, each and every single of the 24 films of the English super spy were shown in high definition. There were also special documentaries on what makes Bond unique, and of course, the ‘Bond girls’.

What was curious is that it took most TV viewers by surprise, there was no big campaign to alert Ugandans about what was coming, and by the time the adverts ran half the films had already been shown. But social media soon caught up, and huge debates arose about which of the six actors were the best to portray Bond, and which of the films were the favourites.

James Bond will always have a special place in my film archives because the first ever film I watched in a cinema was On her Majesty’s Secret Service, courtesy of my elder sister. She did not remember that when I reminded her about it last week, but that is the beauty of elder sisters, they do things like that without thinking about the lifelong effect it might have on little brothers.

It does not matter that it is not rated very highly among Bond films, or that it was the only one done by the Australian actor George Lazenby. I still remember with a lot of awe the magic of cinema, the big sound and the large screen, and how different it was from the small TV I was used to watching at home.

It also happened that soon after that everything in Uganda broke down, and cinema disappeared, like so many other parts of life that the rest of the world took for granted. It would take almost a whole generation before cinema came back to Kampala, but the magic stayed with me. I still don’t understand how people can religiously watch poor quality pirated films on small TV sets, or more recently on laptop screens.

Home theatre with surround sound and large flat screens has tried to imitate cinema and bring it into our sitting rooms, but real cinema is an experience, an escape from the real world. For about two hours you enter into a different world, so I don’t understand how people would turn to their phones and answer a message in the middle of it all. Or, as a lady explained recently and to my extreme annoyance, to check the time.

Back to James Bond, a fictional character created by the late author Ian Fleming. Bond has been referred to as the most famous spy in film, and the 24 films made so far have grossed more than $7bn at the box office.

The biggest debate is which of the six actors portrayed him best. Sean Connery was the very first one, starting with Dr No in 1962; he acted in six of them ranging up to Diamonds are Forever in 1971. After Lazenby’s solo effort, the role was taken up by Roger Moore, who did seven films, still the most ever. Then came Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and most recently Daniel Craig, who has done four.

My favourite, and I have been on record, is Roger Moore. I think he was the ultimate English gentleman spy: suave, classy, and with unforgettable one-liners. James Bond is supposed to be a bigger than life character, who does impossible things just because he is James Bond.

Some people have never forgiven me for comparing Craig’s Bond to a neighbourhood gardener, and I hated the effort to make the character more ‘realistic’. Hell, film is full of realistic heroes, but only James Bond could be James Bond.

Without the advantage of modern film-making techniques, I doubt if the Craig films would have been very successful. In fact, the truth is, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible films are more James Bond than the ones Craig has done.

Then there are the Bond girls, almost as famous as the actors themselves. No prizes for guessing that Halle Berry (Die Another Day) is my favourite; and her re-enacting of the scene originally done by Ursula Andress in Dr No still causes goose bumps to many.

Halle Berry as Jinx in the film Die Another Day

I recorded all the 24 films, plus the special documentaries. And every time I want an escape from this crazy world (and the circus that our leaders are up to), I will turn to my home theatre, crank up the volume, and go into the impossible world of Bond, James Bond.

OF THE AMINA MOHAMED PAYBACK, AND AN UNPLEASANT UBER RIDE

amina-mohamed

Last week the African Union elected a new Chairperson, to replace the outgoing Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who Ugandans probably know more for being an ex-wife of South African President Zuma, than being Africa’s top diplomat.

Not that many people take the African Union very seriously; but, apparently, the Kenyan candidate, Amina Mohamed, really wanted the post. And when she lost out to Chad’s foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, she took it personal and blamed Kenya’s neighbours for abandoning her. The Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary called for a ‘re-evaluation’ of relations with the neighbours.

Nairobi-based papers and tabloids had it that Ms Mohamed was especially annoyed with Uganda, and wanted something done. While it is doubtful that Kenya would ‘do something’ about a country that imports more of its goods than any other, just because a woman got scorned in a continental vote, some Ugandans and Tanzanians were probably thinking, “it’s payback time.”

There is a lot of trumpeting about East African brotherhood and neighbourliness, but we know that when push gets to shove, the Kenyans and Tanzanians do not have our backs. I have personally experienced this when travelling in Tanzania, for one. I was made to feel more of a foreigner than in most African countries I have been to.

But don’t take my word for it; ask the millions of Ugandans who used to religiously follow the Big Brother Africa reality TV show. Housemates would represent their countries, and voting for the eventual winner was on country basis. The closest a Ugandan has ever got to winning was fourth place, and the main reason none has ever won it was that when it got to the final four or five, our East African neighbours chose to vote for housemates from other countries.

sharon-o

Big Brother Africa 2011 Ugandan housemate Sharon O

It might seem like a trivial matter, but it is a very serious one every time BBA comes around, and stories abound of couples splitting because one’s country voted badly.

So while Ms Mohamed might be hoping that Kenya imposes sanctions on Uganda for not voting for her, lots of Ugandans are probably exchanging high hives and crying: “it’s payback time!”

An unpleasant Uber ride

I must have been one of the first people to use the Uber taxi service in Kampala, and have used them many times since then. Most times you get drivers that are very good, but at times you can see they are gambling, and can’t wait to get safely home, or wherever it is you’re going.

There was one that insisted he knew where I was going better than I did; and a woman driver that would take a left when I said a right, and would ask for clarification if that meant ‘down’ or ‘up’. There are those that would drive ridiculously slowly, or deliberately and annoyingly drive into a traffic jam, because they would charge you more that way.

uber

But generally it has been a pleasant experience, till two weeks ago when it got crazy two days in a row. One driver almost caused an accident when he tried to knock a boda boda which was apparently transporting a thief that had just snatched a phone from a car ahead of us. But in the process he almost crashed onto an ambulance, and we almost ended up in a ditch. “I hate thieves”, was his explanation, with a straight face.

The next day I requested another Uber taxi, and tried to direct the driver to where I was, because at times the GPS is not spot on. The guy complained that I was misdirecting him, and that I should stop wasting his time.

But he did show up, I got in and then he refused to press the ‘start trip’ button. He said he would take me free of charge, since anyway Uber had decreased the fares, and he would earn almost nothing from the trip. But he did press the ‘start trip’ after a while, while still complaining how it was hard to make any money from Uber. Then he drove like he wanted to be Lewis Hamilton’s partner in F1 this year. Phew!

 

LOUD FUN AT THE COUNTRY MUSIC TRIBUTE NIGHT AT JAZZVILLE

Rockmeilley at the Country Tribute night at Jazz Ville on Saturday night

I had not been to Jazz Ville, Bugolobi in almost a year. So I when learnt there were hosting a country music tribute night, I decided to go there. The publicity flyer had a picture of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, country music royalty, and was dubbed You can’t make old friends, the duo’s latest song.

It was one of those low days, so I felt the melancholic feel of country music was just what I needed. But it was not to be; the band, Freedom Band (“we specialise in playing the good old country music”, said one Daniel, who seemed to be the band leader) played every song in an up-beat style.

There was a pencil thin girl that Daniel kept on saying was Esther from Kenya, and seemed she specialises in sounding like Dolly Parton. Daniel himself did a pretty good imitation of Kenny Rogers, so they did a lot of Parton’s and Rogers’ songs. But it was much too loud, they shouted out most of the lyrics, and that melancholic country feeling was lost.

country_1

There is a sadness about country music that defines its appeal, and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many colours tells of a harsh childhood, but the Freedom Band played it like it was a call for a party. The Gambler, Coward of the Country, Here you come again, and a host of others are all sad songs about sad people leading sad lives. But the band played everything at a fast, loud beat; however the capacity crowd seemed to love it that way, and at the end it was about having fun, and that they did.

Chris Ireland, who owns and runs Jazz Ville, was one of the people that popularised karaoke in Kampala, and it is not a night at Jazz Ville without karaoke. A few brave people went on stage and tried their hand at singing with the band, and it was not a bad effort. Two white guys in the audience brought their guitar and joined the fun, as did singer Rockmeilly.

country_3

Talking about Jazz Ville, it was good to see that Ugandans go out for dinner, all the tables were reserved, and people had their food before the band started at around 9 o’clock. There seemed to about a million waiters and waitresses moving at top speeds in between the tables, and it was fun watching them at times bump into each other.

But when it came time to pay the bill, none of them were available. After about 30 minutes trying to stop one of them to get me my bill, I got up to leave. Then the manager came running with it, and that was after saying good night to Chris.

Jazz Ville used to have these tribute nights about once every three months, and are a sure bet to get full houses. So it was strange I hadn’t heard about one in a long time. As for the Freedom Band, if it prides itself on playing ‘good old country music’, they better not kill that melancholic feel.

And Daniel looking all happy and strutting around the stage like he had a gallon of Red Bull before the performance doesn’t help.

A Magical Muyenga Sunset

muyenga-quarry

I have been to Muyenga about a million times, if at all. I remember the time we were students at Makerere, and somebody said there was a party at Muyenga, we walked all the way there, a group of us talking and joking all along the way so we did not feel like it was much of a distance. That time we got a lift back on top of a pick-up, and some two guys got into an argument that ended with one trying to push the other off the back of the speeding vehicle.

I remember going to visit our Aunt Mary when we were kids; and one time a friend giving us a lift and asking whether she lived on the tanks side, or the Kisugu side. Before that Muyenga was just one high hill that had water tanks on top of it.

I remember going there endless times in the hot sun when I chose the quarry as the subject of a paper in our economics class. I got to know of the quarry because one of the children used to drink from the same kafunda in Wandegeya at that time.

There were times I used to run martial classes at the Bamboo Sports Club, and would go to Muyenga three times a week. At times I would make the guys (and girls) taking the classes run up and won that hill. But Muyenga never really made an impression on me.

At one time my friend Mary (that’s a story for another day) and I loved going to Hotel Diplomate, and the Shires Hotel, just to look down at the glittering Kampala lights. We also caught several New Year Eve’s fireworks displays from there.

Then my brother bought a piece of land in Muyenga and built a house, and I have been there endless times as a result. Going there, at times I use the lower Bukasa road, then up Kalungi Road (some coincidence, uh?) before turning to the road that leads to his home.

But most times I either use the road via Kibuli, or through Namuwongo, up via the International Hospital, and then on to Muyenga Road. It was just another road to travel, almost all the time.

Then one day, it was late evening, and the sun was setting. All of a sudden, as we passed the International Hotel, where the road started sloping towards Bukasa, I noticed how the sinking sun’s rays hit the now abandoned-looking quarry, and the waters of the lake in the background. We stopped, and I stayed there for about 30 minutes, taking in a quite incredible scene I had probably ignored countless times before.

There was something magical about how the quarry walls turned a rich golden colour, offset by the shimmering dark blue of the lake. The brown tiles of the myriad roof tops mingled with green tree tops to create a painting the romantic painters of 19th century Europe would have been proud of.

Oh, how I wish there were no electric poles and cables that spoilt what would have been a very enchanting canvas. That, and the telecom masts on top of the hill.

Looking at the picture I made that evening (I didn’t have my camera with me, but used my phone. And it goes to prove how the latest smart phones can take some quite amazing pictures), it could have been anywhere in the world, perchance some quaint corner of Europe.

I posted the picture on social media, and dared anybody to guess where it was taken. While many correctly guessed it was Muyenga, there were those who thought it was elsewhere. To some it evoked childhood memories, before the quarry blasted away almost half the hill, and there were very few electric cables.

How many slopes have I taken, or hills climbed, that I ignored while in a hurry to get somewhere? To the folks that live in Muyenga or take that road every day, have they ever noticed the sunset?

Next time I’m taking my camera, and hope that the sun’s rays fall at the right place, and at the right time.

 

LESSONS FROM THE TOP 100 CELEBRITIES LIST, AND SOCIAL MARKETING

The Beat 6&7.indd

Two weeks ago, the New Vision ran the list for Uganda’s Top 100 celebrities for what should be the 10th year in a row, going back to the City Beat Magazine, and now in The Beat Friday pull-out. I have done it for so long and for so many times I was really getting tired of it, and started to wonder if it was all worth it.

But while at it, I would try as far as possible to make it as ‘scientific’ and as real as I could, in a country where Ugandans don’t really care whether something is real or fake; otherwise the whole of downtown would not be selling fake stuff from China, and doing a roaring business.

I would try as much as I could to follow the model used by the Forbes magazine, whose celebrity lists are the most respected worldwide. It was both a measure of money and fame, as showed by the earnings in a year of said celebrities, and how many times their names appeared in the media. It was impossible, of course, to know how much money our local celebrities made, so we based our lists on a measure of how many times our celebs appeared in the media.

But a few years ago, Forbes changed their model, and while earnings and media appearances still were a major factor, they had to factor in the increasing effect of social media (Forbes has since dropped the media appearances factor all together, and now entirely rely on earnings). But they used an incredibly complex formula to do this, so for the last two years I left it to the boffins of our Research Department to figure it out. I would do the media count, and they would plug the numbers in whatever formula they used to come up with the final list.

Beat leads (4-5.indd

But this year, they got all busy and insisted that I should furnish them with the numbers of Facebook likes and Twitter followers for each name on the list. It is a tedious and time-consuming chore, especially given our Internet speeds so I was ticked off a bit about it. But it had to be done. So I did it, and I have to thank the Research folks for opening my eyes to the future.

And the future (it could actually be the present already), is that one’s presence on social media is going to be a lot more important than one’s appearance in the traditional newspaper. Many people still try to scheme and plot to get their names mentioned in newspapers but, as our celebrity list shows, presence on social media is becoming increasingly more relevant.

It is no secret that print media is facing huge challenges in maintaining its presence, with the news increasingly going digital. Now the signs are that the money is following, as the Nation Media was rudely reminded when its largest advertiser, Safaricom, decided they would in the future let digital presence determine where its ad spend went.

Can there be any doubt that sponsorship and endorsement will soon follow, if it hasn’t done so already? In Kampala companies looking to endorse personalities are asking them how many Facebook likes they have, or how many followers on Twitter and Instagram.

Going through the names on my list and checking the respective presence on social media, I realised how some of our celebrities are already in the future, but most are still in the past.  Athletes probably get the most mentions in traditional media, but they are still in the Stone Age as far as social media is concerned.

Some people still think that Facebook is for funny, un-serious people; and funny names and ducks and fishes as profile pictures still abound. But for public personalities looking to increase their marketability, and thus that extra buck in their bank account, it is time to take social media very serious.

So wake up folks, and smell the coffee. Develop your social media presence, it is easy, cheap, and you don’t have to pay journalists transport money anymore to get yourself noticed. If you don’t think it works, check out the new President of the United States, who makes the whole world check twitter every morning to see what he has said. It is a brave new world of 140 characters.

 

IBANDA, AHOY!

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The last week of December, 2016, found members of my family and I going down to Ibanda. My nephew, Allan, was getting married to Eve, a lovely Ankole girl, and so we went for the traditional ceremony, the kuhingira.

I had first been to Ibanda during the late eighties, when we went for the burial of my friend Daudi Mutazindwa’s sisters. I tried going back in the early nineties for the burial of his mum, but I got stuck in Mbarara because the last bus to Ibanda had left. I was forced to spend the night in Mbarara and, because I had to work the next day, a Sunday, travelled back to Kampala in the morning.

I don’t remember much of Ibanda of those days, except the road to Mbarara was being constructed and was largely murram; and I think the Bitatures had the only storeyed building in what looked like a one-street town. I also remember being confused by the large number of people with Kiganda names; apparently it had to do with troubled times in the Buganda of a long time ago, when whole clans were forced into exile because of some tiff with a reigning king. I have since made many more friends from Ibanda, and it no longer seems like it is at the end of the earth (hope nobody shoots me for that).

On my first trip we used the Mbarara road, but I remember somebody pointing out the ‘Kaguta road’ which took one to Ibanda, also then a murram road. It was my luck then, that this time we used that road, which is a right turn just after Lyantonde, which is more or less the border between Buganda and Ankole. It is no longer murram, of course.

Traffic eased off after we made the turning onto Kaguta road, and considering it was the day after Christmas, there were not that many people travelling, anyway. It was interesting, seeing signposts of places I had only heard of or read about in the papers: Rushere came up, and sure enough we had to stop for a herd of cattle slowly taking their time crossing the road.

It was soon followed by the famous Kiruhura, but the most interesting is when we got to Kazo. Now I have to explain that my home village is Kazo, about five kilometres from central Kampala (at least it used to be a village when I was growing up). With the influx of folks from Western Uganda since the eighties, I was soon hearing about another Kazo, and because a long-serving Minister hails from there, it was always in the news. So it was a kind of bucket list thing for me to finally get to see this other Kazo.

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We got to Ibanda after about a six-hour easy drive from Kampala, and we were booked into the NBK Star Hotel. We only had time for a quick change because the folks that would give us a bride were waiting for us. The brightest thing about these traditional ceremonies are the outfits the female folk conjure up, and that is the true African wear, not the so called African print that is actually made in East Asia. And the ladies in our group did not disappoint.

The ceremony itself was also colourful, filled in equal parts with joy and tears; and it even rained, which was said to be sign of good luck. We got the bride (traditionally she is given to the family, not to the groom although he was present), fed like kings, and quite a few bottles of Black Label went down (which led to a slight argument when it was time to leave).

We got back to the aforesaid NBK hotel, and Ibanda showed her true colours, which were not stars. First, the power went off. Okay, this was upcountry so maybe that was the norm. But everybody else in the neighbourhood seemed to have lights; it turned out that the area was newly introduced to pre-paid electricity (commonly known as Yaka), and the manager had not bought enough units before he left. There were only two staff members on duty (young girls and both pregnant) to deal with all the demands and complaints of the people from Kampala and farther afield. It looked like it was going to be a long night.

But a niece saved the day, she bought more units, which cost was offset from her room bill. But it didn’t last long of course, and we woke up to no power, and no water in the upstairs rooms, because the pump was not working. Breakfast was a katogo of matooke and groundnuts, but the coffee soon run out, as did the fruits. So the folks that had ventured to try out the Ibanda night life, and woke up late, had to do without.

I had planned to hook up with my buddies from Ibanda, but all their phones were off. It was the festive season, so I understood. So we left that morning back to Kampala, and hope to explore Ibanda at another time.