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Monday, August 15, 2011

When one must move on

After over a decade of wooing listeners with her distinctive voice, former Capital FM news anchor Patricia Okoed Bukumunhe is moving on. Dennis D. Muhumuza divulges what made her exceptional.

After 14 years at the helm of news presentation on radio, maybe it was about time Patricia Okoed Bukumunhe left, but one sure thing her ardent fans are going to miss is her distinctive voice. She joined 91.3 Capital FM as a first-year university student (1997), starting off as a weekend anchor/reporter, and because of the zeal and fastidiousness she poured into her job, it didn’t take long for the towering anchorwoman to scale the ranks to news editor and staff presenter.

Patricia Okoed Bukumunhe
More Ugandan broadcast personalities have gained notoriety for “prostituting” from radio/television station to another and back, but Okoed cleaved to Capital FM; covering everything there is; the usually crazy elections, hosting celebrities and handling the daily buzz feeling of not knowing what to expect each day.

The beginning
For someone who joined as a girl, graduated, got married and garnered quite a following, you would think it was a till-death-do-us-part with the station. But in a world where even the seemingly most solid Christian marriage does crumble, it was only a matter of time before her affair with the station got severed. Maybe the word “severed” carries negative connotations, seeing she says, “it was mutually agreed” that she could move on to quench her thirst for “fresher challenges on an International platform” –which she has done by moving to Juba on a new job, still in the broadcast industry, but whose details she would rather not divulge for now.

As it is, this third-born in a family of five did not stumble into radio. It was her childhood dream and vow to work in radio even if it meant doing it outside her beloved motherland. So when private FM stations were legalised in 1996, the then high school student quickly seized the moment to fulfill her dream; her first stint being at the then Radio Sanyu where she co-hosted “Holiday Line” with Hussein Lumumba every holiday, Monday-Friday from 3-4pm.

It was while she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration (SWASA) at Makerere University that Capital FM snapped her up with a better offer. Driven by the life philosophy –“Reach for the stars, nothing is impossible” –the leggy prodigy quickly debunked the notion that excellence on Ugandan radio is exclusive to the club of Namasagali College alumni -the likes of Linda Kibombo, Alex Ndawula, Irene Ochwo and the late “hitman DJ Ronnie” –Ronald Sempangi, by the zing and oomph she put in the news bulletin, making it interesting to listen to. It’s no wonder that her leaving has punched news-lovers, particularly those who were simply disarmed by her voice. Val Oketcho of Sanyu FM mourned on Moses Serugo’s wall that he was “gonna miss that voice,” whereas famed DJ Alex Ndawula insists Patricia’s “command of English and polished delivery of news is second to none in Ugandan media!”

Escaping scandal
In a small city where tabloid scandals on celebrities can hardly escape the eye of a reader, it’s amazing that Patricia escaped unscathed. It says something about her discipline, although some would say it was her reclusive nature that saved her face. Yet being a recluse, she says, is another misconception people have about her.

“I’m a very social person but not just into the conventional Ugandan life of partying and going out,” she says. “I like to travel, spend time with family, listen to good music and watch something nice.”

Her taste for the quintessential is felt in the way she justifies her all-time favourite movie, Waiting to Exhale starring looker and vocal stunner Whitney Houston.

“Besides having a great soundtrack, this movie perfectly exposes the vulnerability, strength and susceptibility of a woman.” she says. “If you have watched the movie yourself you will agree that each character is built on one of these characters which I believe all women have within.”

Married to Timothy Bukumunhe with two daughters, the 34-year-old was born in Mombasa and started school in Kenya before relocating to New York City where her father was posted as a diplomat. The “close-knit family” returned to Uganda in the late 80s. Here she joined Kitante Primary School, Gayaza High School and on Makerere University.

She’s grateful particularly to her parents who brought her up to realise “the importance of hard work, loyalty and family.”

She draws inspiration from “within” but connects her success to “fearing God and praying dedicatedly.”

As Uganda’s broadcast business continues to grow with the proliferation of competing radio and television stations, those considering a career in the industry have to step up their game. To prospective anchors, the secret is in versatility. Advises Patricia: “News reading is not enough to make you employable; you must have other strengths and skills in editing, collecting and production.”