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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

‘Theatre politics’ at Makerere

A candidate contesting for the culture secretary post had to buy a packet of condoms for Gongom, the Lumumba Hall deity, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

The politics at Makerere University never ceases to amuse! A few days after FDC's Gerald Karuhanga was voted the new Guild President, the students were at it again to choose their leaders in halls of residence and student representatives at the university's Guild Council a.k.a parliament.

But the story is about theatrics that make campus politics exhilarating. For instance, during the recent campaigns in the 'Great Patrice Lumumba Empire [hall]', a candidate contesting for the culture secretary post had to buy a packet of condoms for Gongom, the hall deity. Surprisingly, it garnered him massive support.

In the nearby Box [Mary Stuart Hall], Gongom's wife, Gongomes the 'diva', was given a 'birthday present' of a cashmere gomesi and a beautiful handbag bought by Ms Nansamba Daphne Robins, a student who was eyeing the hall's culture secretary chair.

But the frenzy did not stop there. Candidates did anything to appeal to the electorate. Eyeing the Lumumba's top seat of chairmanship was FDC's Atria Angels Bismarck (surprisingly his real name). His radical approach and oratory did it for him - just like his icon Prince Otto von Bismarck, former German aristocrat who earned himself the nickname Iron Chancellor!
During the campaigns, the Bismarck of Ivory Tower vowed to resign if "the 1971 trays used in the mess are not discarded by the end of the semester." His most popular line: "If a potato can be as sweet when it's raw, what happens when it's ripe?"

Then there was Zalson Khor, popularly known as Obote [see picture up]. Indeed the fellow is a spitting image of former President Apollo Milton Obote(RIP), complete with the afro hairstyle. Problem is that this 'Makerere Obote' sounds like someone singing a lullaby. Just listening to him gives you a sleepy feeling; not that he is boring but he speaks so gently, almost like a doctor advising a patient. This Sudanese -born Obote was such a darling among the students who would shoulder him high during the campaigns shouting: Obote, Obote! His catch phrase: "I've been at the forefront of the struggle that has been going on here. No mincing words, I deserve to be the chairman of the great Lumumba Empire."

One cannot leave out Raymond Okello, a cripple who has no wheelchair and has to use both his knees and hands to pull himself along. His disability earned him a lot of sympathy support. "The time is now for Lumumba to have a chairman with disability," was his slogan.

Then there was Lattimore Kermundu Martins whom Boxers loved to call Kenny Lattimore after the American super lyricist. Kermundu is a very smart gentleman; this prompted campusers to conclude that he would do better as an entertainment secretary, yet he wanted the finance post.

How about Nesterous Tumwekwatse? The lad behaved like Jamaican Reggae maestro Bob Nesta Marley - something that inspired 'Lumumbists' to christen him so. Interestingly, the Bachelor of Horticulture student has never been a music fan, preferring soccer. In fact, he chose to capture students' attention by calling himself the '[David] Beckham of ideas!'

The campaign trail also included a 'Robert Mugabe'. Like his counterpart in Zimbabwe, Makerere's Mugabe vowed to become a guerrilla for the betterment of Lumumba Hall sports. In Ankole, Mugabe means King, as in Omugabe wa Ankole or King of Ankole. So, then, Mugabe wanted to be Lumumba's sports king [secretary].

While some candidates spent a fortune designing colourful posters, Mr Abdullah Kisembo chose to stand out from the rest by sketching some comic cartoon of a man with a raised baton chasing a thief. Accompanying the comic strip is a caption: 'Committed to the fight, ready to work with you to curb the evils of our society and promote values.'

I can't forget 'badboy' Olwa Bonny Brown, a favourite among 'Boxers'. They have changed his name to Bobby Brown after the '80s funkstar and Whitney Houston's husband, Bobby Brown. The girls would walk around with big posters that read 'Box loves Bobby Brown'.

These campaigns!

Published in Sunday Monitor, April 23, 2006