When We Ride

Potholes used to feature a lot in newspaper columns. Even by those written by my favourite columnist and Ian Clarke.

The two of them would often, when their hacks were raised, thrust their fists quivering into the air. And harrumph loudly. And belch plumes of fire into the sky. While doing all this, they would simultaneously type spirited and beautiful tirades about the state of Ugandan roads all over my newspaper.

I couldn’t relate. Potholes, schmotholes. As a member of the public transit class, such a set and confirmed and prolific taxi rider that I even had a favourite seat, I had no idea potholes were anything but picturesque deviations to the general grey of the road.

Taxi drivers are, as we all know, forged in the fires of hell. They are not humans created by God. The other guy made taxi drivers.

The dark one who created them also endowed them with certain powers, including the ability to float over, snake round, or teleport through potholes. I could sit in the back left seat with my wap-enabled mobile phone and facebook at my cool friends and the other friends, too, as the taxi vroomed and rattled along, never knowing what this whole pothole hullabaloo was about.

Then I, myself, me who you see me here, me, I got a car. Her name is Fiona, The Silver Queen of Kyali, and my love for her is real.

Now, when I drive her, I drive her in Kampala and, consequently, on Kampala’s roads, which Doctor Ian Clarke and Angie Kintu had kept warning me about when I was all being stubborn, all acting like I already know everything I need to know about life. He who knows not and knows not he knows not. Those things.

I would say, “Banange. There greater potholes on the road to development than potholes,” and think I was being clever.

But then you get a car you like and try to move down a Uganda road with it and you will see things other ways.

These roads are ridiculous. First of all, they are narrow as sewing thread. And there are two long streams of cars trying to use this road that is as narrow as sewing thread and these cars are moving in opposite directions.
Some of these cars are ridden by Ugandans with whatever kind of major malfunction it is that makes a person buy a gigantic four-wheel-drive vehicle and then try to squeeze it through a road little more than half a foot wide.

That same road is being shared by pedestrians because roads in Uganda don’t like to have pavements. Most of them just assume footwalkers can go (do rude things unto) themselves. Where a pavement somehow manages to occur even against the odds set up by our cherished traditions, it’s soon filled with hawkers and traders and merchants selling underwear, hats, shoes, roasted maize, old magazines, jeans, transistor radios which make every song they broadcast sound like it’s being performed by cockroaches tapdancing on the corpses of other cockroaches and, soon, copies of my upcoming novelette, The Adventures Of Chandler And Fraisier (Yeah. I’ve started advertising. Haven’t even finished the book itself).

The pedestrians cannot walk there. They have to walk on the road. Well, they are either walking, or they are leaping out of the way of bodabodas, which are piloted by the effluvium that was left over after the dark one created his taxi drivers.

I shall also mention that there are fools who PARK their cars on the sides of these roads.

How can this possibly be made worse?

By potholes. Potholes just roll up one night and sit in the middle of this and every other road in the city.

I presume the potholes in Nairobi and Dar and Arusha and Kuala Lumpur and Little Rock and, well, other parts of the world, just show up and be. Our potholes don’t be. They do. They perpetrate actions. These things are alive.

They exhibit what my biology teacher Mrs Nakayima (Shout out!) taught me were the signs of a living thing. They eat and they grow. They feed on shock absorbers and then put on weight. They not only expand in breadth; some of them buck the trend and decide that growing wide is for losers. For them they are going to grow deep. When your wheels plunge into them you hear echoes.

Kampala potholes are dangerous and merciless and vicious. They should be deployed for national defense.

In other, unrelated news, I hate Abba so much I wish they were food products so I could shit it out of my ass. I may have to edit that sentence out of the post a bit later.

Secret Origins: Muganzi The Magnificent

Muganzi Vincent B. Food Tech (Mature Entry) delivers his speech at the opening of campaigns for Makerere University Guild Presidency. He is expected to expound on his slogan “A Candidate With a Difference”.

Cough. Hem. Mic check, mic check. Hem. Good afternoon fellow students.

You have gathered here to hear the assembled candidates give their speeches asking you to support their bids for guild president. They are going to offer promises and slogans and smoke and shadows.

That’s them.

I’m not them.

I am a candidate with a difference. I am not interested in becoming your guild president. I stand before you today to announce my candidature for the post of Makerere University Guild Tyrant.

I do not seek to be elected representative of the people’s power. I seek to be supreme overlord of all you pawns.

The cape and British accent should have been your first hint.

There are various reasons why, instead of voting for these charlatans around me, you should instead surrender to me and call me your lord and master.

The first is that, well, you are Makerere university students. Time has shown over and over again that MUK students’ body simply does not have the intellectual discipline or the moral wherewithal to manage your own political affairs in a smooth and sane fashion. You are always rioting and cheating in your exams and getting unplanned pregnancies. You create nothing but reckless mayhem. That is why you need me. If you turn to page 12 of your brochures, where it gives a list of my aliases, you will see that I am Muganzi The Magnificent, Master Of Mayhem.

Serve me, Makerere, let me be your evil overlord and I shall lead you from reckless mayhem to proper, professionally-managed, efficient mayhem.

Cos that’s my thing.

That is not, however, the only reason I call upon you to cower at my feet in submission. There is another reason which shall be demonstrated by my assistant Igor.

Igor? Igor? Igor was supposed to be here standing next to this large object currently covered under a tarpaulin. Well, I can unveil it myself.

Behold: The DOOMSDAY DESTRUCTO-RAY MACHINE! Surrender or be turned to dust!

(Postscript. You won’t believe how old this post is.)

I Have A Theory

Mrs Ruth Kavuma Nvumetta is a Ugandan member of parliament. She represents the islands of Kalangala.
She was recently seen participating in the continent-wide reality TV show Big Brother Africa, prompting much distress. Big Brother Africa is known as a place for pointless social misfits to compete, if you can call it that, in idleness. They sit around in what is called the Big Brother House just scratching in their pants and rearranging their bits and hoping that, from this, they will gain some celebrity. The whole business is embarrassing and silly, because this isn’t dumbed down television: dumbed down TV needs to bend over and extend a telescope to see Big Brother.

This is no place for an honourable elected member of the third arm of government. How did she end up in there?

I have a theory.

I imagine her aide was rustling through her mail one day in her island MP office and came upon one letter. “They want you to visit the house next week, Hon.”

“We’re not that close, Aide.”

“No, when I say ‘Hon’ I mean short for Honourable. Not short for Honey.”

“They mailed me to invite me back to the house of parliament in Kampala?”

“No, this one is in South Africa.”

Oh, okay. So let’s fly to Johannesburg to visit the SA parliament.

Shwweeeee (That’s the sound of plane-flight)

And she found out too late.

Africa calling

Abid dropped science with his status message recently. His FB update told us that there wre more mobile phones than toilets in sub-Saharan Africa, according to statistics he had just encountered.

I’m sure his mind was blown, as was yours just now.

But you do get over the initial shock and horror that come from realising the implications of this information. OMG. How uneven development has been in Africa —the rich get all the mobile phones they need, but the poor can’t even get a toilet!

Soon you remember that this is facebook which, contrary to Timothy Kalyegira’s expectations, is a playground and not a forum for intellectual discussions of pertinent social issues.

And statistics are great playthings. Pliable and squishy and bendy and twisty; you can shape them into anything. It wasn’t long before Abid’s commenters were talking about the advantage of having more phones than toilets. One of them being that there is less chance of dropping your cell in the loo.

I am a member of the narrow-minded, conceited self-centered, privileged ivory-tower economy-elite minority class and have forgotten entirely what my poop looks like because I haven’t been to anything that couldn’t flush it out of sight and smell seconds after it was ejected in a decade.

But I believe there could be one thing I share in common with all users of mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa. All several million of us… well, half the several million of us. We get tired when the other half complains that we didn’t take their calls.

You guys, they are mobile phones. That means we can’t pick them up every single time they ring. They are mobile, which means they move into places where one cannot take calls. Places like in transit while driving, in church, in office meetings, in bedrooms at night while their owners are asleep etc.

But I can no longer say I could not take a call because I was in the loo.

That’s statistically unlikely.

I’m Afraid We’re Gonna Have To Ask You To Leave, Sir…

No more facebook for Pastor Martin Sempa, or as I like to call him, The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment.

Why I call him that? Well, he is not exactly who he says he is, and if I call him that, then he is not exactly who I say he is either. I rely on trivial little toys like this to amuse myself.

It was the ultimate defriend-ment. It’s bad enough when one put-upon ex-buddy locks you out of their account after what you said about their date’s hairstyle in that tagged picture, but for Pastor Doctor Sempa, it was the entire social networking website that has chucked him. We logged on to read the startling news last week that the doctor’s account had been snuffed out. He would no longer be permitted to poke, like, post, comment or lol at anything.

This news it turns out may not have been be entirely accurate. I just did a search and Martin Sempa’s FB is still very much in situ, albeit with only one friend. Yes, only one. The wonders of mathematics. I am dicing and fencing with the idea of sending a friend request right now. I want to know what is going on, but not badly enough to be dude’s friend…

If he was or if he ever is kicked off FB it would probably be something to do with violating the company’s terms of service. When one joins, one is asked to abide by certain rules, including those that demand one refrain from hate speech and incitement.

Pastor Mar’n is best known as a moral crusader. Wait. That’s like saying that an earthquake is best known for ruining Ludo games by making the dice move by themselves. Pastor Martin is a vigorous and driven and very focused opponent of whatever he claims homosexuality is—he is so focused that the bio part, where Zukerburg invites users to “tell us a little about yourself”, he says, “Hates The Homos!”

I am not going to discuss whether being gay is right or wrong. We are all entitled to a fit or two of righteous indignation when we encounter those whose sins are different from ours. My interest in Pastor Sempa comes from the fact that when you autotune his voice and loop it over a techno beat the result is funky fresh.

But if he is entertaining at first, he quickly gets old, and becomes pathetic and then disturbing and then you feel violated from just having heard him. Pinky and The Brain is much better — It’s also evil and cartoonish, but it’s much more palatable.

When Busingye told us about the alleged banishment of the shepherd he didn’t particularly think he would miss the old man, but he was wondering what this meant for free speech in general. Busingye is that kind of man. He worries about what things mean for free speech. In general.

Hate speech is not permitted on facebook, naturally. As a privately-owned party it can decide what it will permit and deny, and you can’t bring your human rights wololo to a private party, but given the size of this thing…

Facebook is huuuuge. And it’s all over the internet. Every website you visit — the news, youtube, prawns (you know I can’t write that word in full for fear of attracting sprawms) blogs – they always have the little ‘F’ logo floating around somewhere. Even my yahoo mail is linked to FB, and though my gmail and twitter are not, I already have apps that force them to coexist with it in one consolidated stream.

I fear that in the end it’s going to look like this wild experiment in information anarchy that we call the internet has finally met its nemesis. Because FB is so pervasive, is so all over the net, it could virtually BE the net. And if there is a guy who controls FB, then that guy will essentially control the net too.

It’s scary. I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have Rantin Martin than that.