By Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere
Have you ever eaten a rolex fried to perfection? Forget those bourgeois concoctions touted in upscale restaurants as a sanitized variant of the street rolex. I’m talking about the real deal rolex — pan-fried on low charcoal heat, flavoured with road-dust and market scents, and toast and turned by an expert chef apprenticed in the singular of making fried eggs so succulent and delicious that one may be forgiven for believing that a hidden guild jealously guards the secrets of rolex frying. Why else would a rolex made in a properly fitted kitchen and fried by an institutionally trained chef taste so drab and counterfeit, yet miraculously transform into a psychedelic delicacy in the hands of a shoddily outfitted and dressed roadside chef?
If you cannot relate, fear not. More than one erudite friend has ably observed that I am by nature of my tastes, a traitor to my class. As an educated man with a stronger command of English than my native Runyoro, I am supposed to be nauseated by the thought of eating a rolex from the streets and hide from sight if I get lunatic enough to venture such experiment. It was okay to do it a decade and more ago, when I still enjoyed the freedom from social scrutiny that comes with being a university student, what reason could I possibly have for indulging low tastes a decade later, when I am supposed to be a sensible member of the educated public?
The truth is that the rolex, second only to pork and goat meat — in their barbecued and deep-fried variants — is my favourite meal. It defies reason that such a simple mix of wheat, chicken protein, tomatoes, powdered chilies, and unwashed cabbages should spur my taste-buds to near addiction, but then I remember that I live in a country where nothing lends itself to reason, and then I am fine.
I mean, if you live in a country where 40 million people can allow one man to misrule their affairs for more than two decades, and be happy to let him carry on till the Christian messiah returns for his human sheep, I am entitled to insist that my rolex is not touched by an institutionally trained Chef sweating in the heat of the upscale restaurant: it would be overpriced, over-hyped, and badly fried, like everything else in this country.
A few months ago, our Rolex Republic dominated the global news network for the first time since Idi Amin made British diplomats carry him on their shoulders as his ancestors had carried their ancestors along the trade caravan that brought their colonizing influences to our grasses. The spark of this sensation was the arrest and torture of a one Bobi Wine in Arua.
Since joining the world of politics with a landslide electoral victory in 2016, the popular musician turned parliamentarian has been the local media’s , and now global media’s, darling — after nearly two decades of producing chart-topping music and stirring controversy as the self-styled Ghetto president, Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine has proven to be the only figure with a personality and presence big enough to rival that of the old man with a hat (he doesn’t wear it much today!), known to the ill-behaved denizens of social media as Bosiko.
I have witnessed more than one ‘intellectual’ who dismissed his entry into parliament suddenly turn groupie and declare this self-styled leader of the Red Brigade, also known as the People Power Movement, Uganda’s new saviour. One cannot tune into a radio and check their social media timeline without finding someone compare Bobi Wine’s rise to political stardom to that of the man who rules the Yellow Brigade and seats on a throne at the apex of military and financial power. For the life of me, I cannot understand why.
The battle, as it is now framed, to borrow boxing metaphor, pits the the fight to determine Uganda’s future between two men. In the red corner you have Bobi Wine, the people’s champion, running his mouth like Mohammed Ali’s going up against Sonny Liston. In the yellow corner, you have the General of Generals, feared and fierce as Liston once was, with all polls judging the fists of people power too small to spur with the might of guns and bribes. The odds are listed, and in the public domain the gamblers place their bets. Heavy weights vie for ring sides while tickets for the stands sell out before the match is even declared. Each side is unmovably convinced that their fighter will win but in the peripheries of the stadium, where reason escapes the noise and clamour of the arena, the silent observers watch with detached calm. The cycle repeats itself.
Because knowledge is a social handicap and ignorance is cool, many of this country’s influential voices and minds have neglected the study of history for fear of falling out of step with the unthinking mass. This is obviously pure deduction from observation, so feel free to dismiss it as delusion. But if the actors who shape the evolution of events in our current affairs did study their history, they might discern in it a pattern that would inspire a different course of action from the popular path. They might find that everything, even that that’s making Bobi Wine a global sensation today has happened before. Many times in fact. But since it is unlikely that they will, as, repeat: knowledge is a social handicap and ignorance is cool, chances are the cycle will recur.
Bobi Wine has become today’s symbol of change. And mark you, change will happen because it is inevitable. Museveni cannot live forever; political establishments have risen and fallen through out history and powerful armies have been crushed by foes that are insignificant in light of their force. It doesn’t matter who makes it to the top on the current wave of change sweeping across this country, Uganda is a badly fried rolex, and until the proponents of change learn the bitter lessons history has to teach the present, the cycle will repeat itself.
Fry again. Sorry, try again.