By Prof. Latigo
I had just sat a jiffy in my sitting room at home in Apokmitimogo A-C village, Apalepe Ward in Amolatar . It was a hectic day for me in Odiak market gathering cabbage leaves and pineapple peelings for feeding my two-dozen pigs in my sty. There was no maize bran in the whole trading centre and Imat Ocere mills for chicken and pigs. Posho for human feed was for the first time costing 4,200 shillings per kilogram.
This year I had not done much farming of maize and rice because of the drought of 2021 which dried 35 acres of my crop at the flowering stage. By January 2022, I decided to request a tractor and matching implements from NAADS Secretariat. My papers were approved at the district alright. NAADS Secretariat receptionist received their copies and gave me the contact of the person to follow up with.
By May 2022, no response was coming from NAADS Secretariat.
I decided to arrange for a meeting with Hon. Adoa (Agriculture State Minister, Fisheries). She scheduled a meeting in a week’s time in Kampala but told me she would let me know the exact date. The next Wednesday she sent me a WhatsApp message at 8 pm, telling me to meet her around Wandegeya at 2:30 pm on Thursday when she will be in the City attending meetings. I had to leave for Kampala immediately. From Apokmitimogo to Amolatar town in a piki in rain. Then from Amolatar to Kampala in a 5:30 am Wasswa driven stenchy and stinking Amoltar- Kampala bound taxi that arrived in the City at 11:00 am. I had to stay in Namayiba bus park up to 1:30 pm on Thursday, then pick a bodaboda taxi to the Public Service offices in Wandegeya. Hunger, no sleep, no shower and now Hon. Adoa’s phone was off! I could not guess the meeting place because there were several Agriculture project offices around Wandegeya. There was NAADS Secretariat on Legacy Towers, Kyadondo Road. There were COFTU and Trypanosomiasis offices on Lumumba Road. All had no office for the minister. When Hon. Adoa came on line, she let me know she was at Trust Towers, a street below Kyadondo Road.
I met her together with ED NAADS, Dr Samuel Mugasi. The meeting hardly took 10 minutes. Dr Mugasi advised me to write to the PS MAAIF directly – requesting for a tractor and matching implements. NAADS no longer had a budget for tractors! Hon. Adoa was surprised when I told her I came from Amolatar the previous night and I was dashing to the taxi park to catch the last ferry back to Amolatar. She had thought I was Kampala-based and it was cheaper for her to come from her MAAIF Entebbe office to meet me in Kampala.
On the lift down from Trust Towers, she had taken my phone number and promised to send me transport fare back to Amolatar, which she did promptly in minutes.
June and July 2022 were busy months. I had travelled to MAAIF Entebbe offices twice – first to drop my tractor request to the PS MAAIF, then to meet the Commissioner Mechanization to follow up on my request. I had learned the PS had shared my request with his ministers and agreed to write to President Museveni to approve their intervention to help large-scale farmers. By 18 July, President Museveni had approved the implementation of the Strategic Plan to support Large Scale farmers in Northern Uganda and elsewhere with agriculture inputs, including tractors.
A friend had just rung me not to rejoice yet that I was getting a tractor and implements. That anything can happen. Money may be released but swallowed before tractors are bought. It happened with Lubowa Hospital. Pinetti also conned the government for more.
My heart sunk. I shared an idea with a Teso WhatsApp group about partnering to import Tuff-built tractors and bidding to supply the government of Uganda. Even that idea suffered and was shot down. Someone told me we could import the tractors and implements alright, but fail the tests and certification from Namalere Mechanical workshop. That anyone can say anything in a report in order to bankrupt us with the tractors.
What should I do in this corrupt Uganda? It’s too much for my big head. I can’t even sleep.
Then I heard them. First, the cars outside my house stopped. My home has no fence – so there’s no gate to knock. Car doors were being banged shut. Then I heard a chopper! It was landing nearby, perhaps at Abarler P.7 school compound.
People rapped on my door, which I open. That they meant well. There was Michael, the GISO of the Muntu sub-county, my brother-in-law’s voice. He had led a team from State House to my home. The President had sent for me urgently.
I wasted no time. I dressed up decently and obeyed Michael. I believed him when he said these figures in the dark meant well. I was safe. I got into one military Benz pick-up truck that whisked me to the chopper that had just landed at the Primary school compound. I scanned the chopper— a Mi-28, commonly referred to as “Havoc”. It’s an attack military helicopter that is for two passengers. It’s very fast, with a range of 1,400 kilometres per hour. It was for me and the pilot only. Look, it was my first time in a chopper and it was frightening. But the young pilot was friendly. He told me we would be at Entebbe Airbase in just an hour.
Things moved so fast that I can’t tell you the details. In no time I was face-to-face with President Museveni, the son of Kaguta himself! Imagine, since I was born in this Apokmitimogo village with no village ahead, I had never met the Ssabalwanyi. Yet we’ve been crisscrossing this little Uganda of ours for now 27 years!
The president was courteous enough and apologized for sending his “boys” to pick me up on short notice. He appreciated my vision and initiative in the mechanization of agriculture by my request to his government to support large-scale Ugandan farmers acquire farm tractors to mass produce food for local consumption and for export. Food in Uganda was now a security issue. Demonstrations and political activism were now pegged on food shortages in the country. “A hungry man is an angry man”, he quoted some saying.
He had seen my tractor request through my district up to his accounting officer in MAAIF. Gen. Kazura is a good cadre, he said. The PS had seen my ideas could be replicated all over Uganda and could save the country from food “kavuyo”. Karamoja famine is already eating up over 150 billion Uganda shillings, just to buy food to be eaten for three months…three months, he emphasized. That money could be invested in the production of more food, not just being used to buy food to be eaten. Look at the inflation – this stupid “kaunga” is now 5,000 shillings per kilogram. Soap is 9,000 shillings, up from 3,000 shillings! This… Ebine, we should fight it together.
The president was angry with his NRM cadres, especially Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health, and Hon. Dr Agness Atim Apea, vice chair for Agric committee the and of course Members of Parliament for Amolatar and Lango in his parliament. You’ve been suppressing progressive minds like Ebine’s, he fumed. Why is Ebine not in NRM all this time? These are the brains I need to work with. He was happy he had recently hooked Hon. Norbert Mao from the Democratic Party to man the Justice docket. Ofwono-Opondo and Fred Enanga were performing very well in government PR.
“Ebine, I had called you to let you know how grateful I am for your initiative. You are getting the tractor and implements you want for helping us to produce more food for people and for livestock”, the President said. He directed the Ministry of Finance to expedite the release of funds to UPDF and Prison Farms. The PS MAAIF has just had a retreat with his staff to map out the modalities of reaching out to Large Scale farmers, especially in Northern Uganda where there’s plenty of land.The president seemed to read my mind. I wasn’t satisfied with just directives to ministries and permanent secretaries. He asked me to speak again.
“Your Excellency”, I began. “The mafioso, Your Excellency!” I told the president there are mafioso in all these ministries. It’s where government money is stolen. Through paper accountability. Through air supply. Through fake product supplies. Through conflict of interest in suppliers and government officials. It’s deep. The PSs and CAOs are some of the richest civil servants in this country, yet they don’t own farms or factories.
I told the president that I am no longer simply asking to be bought a tractor and implements, but a specific tractor called a Tuff-bilt, made in the USA, Nebraska. These tractors just use 2 litres of fuel per hour. They last upto 40 years in service. They virtually need no servicing, apart from oiling and greasing. One person can operate them. Tuff-bilt tractors do three operations at a go – cultivation, harrowing and planting; or weeding, foliar fertilization and spraying disinfectants in one operation.
“Tuff-bilt tractors are not in East and Southern Africa yet. I am requesting you to direct I supply these tractors myself, Your Excellency! If I am to bid to supply the normal way, the mafioso will knock me out under the PPDA requirements.
The mafioso will ensure the pricing, the bid security, the technical tests and certifications are cooked in order to disqualify me. I beg to be protected. Public procurement needs one to bribe the whole chain of people.
Imagine spending USD 65,000 just to import one Tuff-bilt tractor for testing and certification at Namalere Institute, then the engineers state they need several tractors for testing. Your Excellency, the case of the Pioneer Buses rotting away in the Namboole Stadium parking yard…”
The President saw my point. He waved me to sit down. Eh, I had lectured the President of Uganda! He lowered his reading glasses from his face. He asked what else I wanted him to do?
“Your Excellency, just give me the money for buying those tractors and matching implements. I will account for the funds directly under your office. I am a top-notch cadre”, I completed.
President Museveni has this way of rolling his eyes when he feels his aide missed out some data on someone’s profile.
“Yes, Your Excellency. I managed thousands of billions of shillings under NUSAF1, USAID Lead food security project, WFP karamoja project. NUSAF1 was a World Bank and GoU USD100 million project in the Office of the Prime Minister.”
I explained to the president that I am a multi-talented and honest person – an accomplished science teacher, entrepreneur and a lexicographer.
Pardon, a lexi – what?
A LEXICOGRAPHER, Your Excellency! This is a person who compiles dictionary entries. I read you’re one such person, Your Excellency. The Runyankore-Rukiga Dictionary, Your Excellency, is your work!
I saw the shine in the President’s eyes. He looked at Hon. Kasaijja the Finance Minister and directed him to wire USD50 million to my company’s bank account before the close of July 2022. Yes, to Strategic Outcomes Inc – in Equity Bank Uganda Ltd, Church House on Kampala Road.
I was openly delighted by the speed and direction of events that night. The Havoc chopper ride from Apokomitimogo to State House, the Presidential Treatment I received, the business breakthrough, and now the diplomatic clearance to travel to the US immediately to go and negotiate Consignment and Franchise terms with Tuff-bilt tractor owners. I know Rita Dunn. She had already offered to train over 1,200 Ugandan technicians in the repair and assembly of Tuff-bilt tractors in the Nebraska factory. Another 800 youthful farmers are to be trained in Israel under Apuda Strategic Agro-Initiatives (ASAI) as part of Tuff-bilt Tractors (US) Social Responsibility project.
The franchise, known as Strategic Outcomes Inc (U) is located in Soroti City’s Arapai Industrial Park, together with Jenah Herbal of COVIDEX fame, Teso Fruit Factory – makers of TeJus, and Amos Wekesa’s PeLa Commodities Ltd (Grain Cleaning) factory.
I shook hands with President M7 before being ushered into a sleek Anita Among look-alike Mercedes Benz to slide me back to Amolatar. As I stepped into the multi-million dollar Benz, I woke up from the dream. My Chinese phone alarm was screaming like a hungry Karimojong orphan, telling me it was 5:30 in the morning. Shit. BBC News!
I started sweating profusely on realization that I wasn’t in any meeting with President M7. This fat head of mine can sometimes get over-worked.
Note: I received this article on my WhatsApp mobile as a forward. I do not write it. And I don’t know the original author/s. The article will teach you a lesson, and that is why I am sharing it. If you share, add this disclaimer.