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Monday, December 7, 2009

‘I can’t stand being second best’

Deox Tibeingana of Tibengaina & Co. Advocates was the best performing East African in last year’s televised Apprentice Africa business show. He told Dennis D. Muhumuza about the measure of a man

How are you doing a year after the apprentice show?
Most of my colleagues took up offers in Nigeria from the sponsors of the show, but I came back home to continue running my law firm and we have registered a very big success in terms of revenues. Obviously, I owe all the success to the show because I was a nobody, but appearing on the show changed my opportunities big time.

There’s a general notion that lawyers are crooks. Are you a crook?
I’m not a conventional lawyer who follows procedures to the letter. Clients are only interested in results and I always get things done in a streetwise manner as long as I don’t go outside the law. So I’m not a crook but a streetwise lawyer.

What’s your greatest achievement?
Kampala is a very small town; most big clients have traditional names like the Katende, Ssempebwas, Kampala Associates Advocates etc working for them. So, getting big clients as well is not something that a young lawyer like me would have dreamt of, but I have the belief and I’m also a deliverer, so that has been my biggest advantage.

In your opinion, what is the measure of a man?
It is being able to live a good life; afford everyday needs so that your family can eat well, dress nicely, have a good education, and your wife can go to a salon without having to worry about where money is going to come from. That, and having a heart for the less advantaged.

Do you think it’s hard for a rich man to enter heaven as the Bible says?
I think it’s the other way around; it’s easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than a poor one because money makes things move. You can meet St Peter at the gate and slip him something and enter, ha ha!

What part would you play in the film of your life?
I would play the role of a man of all seasons because my life has been one rollercoaster ride. I’ve come from very far and read hard; I have hustled without giving up to attain a good life and influence other lives.

What do you deplore about your country?
We are a classic case of copycats. If you start a bar and people see people flocking to it, your neighbour will turn his house into a bar and at the end of the day, the whole street will be filled with bars.

What past decision(s) do you sometimes wish you had a chance to change?
Very many, but one that stands out is when I was in the US. I was a young, stubborn man with a six-pack and I got a modelling contract with a top agency in which I was supposed to earn about $700,000 a year; but I walked away and came back home.

I didn’t have my law papers in order and somehow I had broken into that industry by chance. I was afraid of getting all that money and squandering it and ending up nowhere. So I came home to finish my studies. Sometimes I look back and think that if I had taken the offer, maybe I would be a billionaire by now.

What is your most expensive and most treasured possession?
My house in Mbuya is my most expensive possession, but I treasure most my boys (Lincoln, seven, and Andre, three) and my clients. I’ve to make sure my clients are happy because if you don’t have them you don’t have anything.

What do you owe your parents?
Taking me to school is the most important thing my parents ever gave me and I know it was a big sacrifice; I could see how they struggled and persevered. I owe them whatever I am today.

What is your greatest fear?
Being poor. Man, it scares me like hell. Some of my Nigerian friends taught me that having savings on your account doesn’t count for much because you can get a big problem and empty your account. But one thing you can always do is invest in something so that even if you become lame or blind, it can always bring you some money. My second greatest fear is death.

Finally, what motto do you live by?
My Apprentice Africa CEO (Biodun Shobanjo) always said, it’s not enough

--Sunday Monitor, August 2, 2009