The Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda is Edward Ssekandi. We are sorry that you must actually be reminded of who the country’s Number Two is, but such is that state of affairs that we can’t help it. When we sought an interview, it did not take long to get an appointment. His aide said it was flexible. “No worries, he is always free and available for interviews,” the aide who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal said.
We meet the VP in a hotel he frequents (we won’t name it because the man literally sleeps there).
“You are the one who I am told needed a few minutes with me?” Ssekandi asks amiably upon our arrival. He explains that he is a very busy man and that he would give, at most, half-an-hour for the interview. “Many people think I just sit around idle and scrubbing my face but that is a lie,” the VP says in self-deprecating deadpan.
“But it’s true, your Excellency. In fact, one needs to hit the Google search engine to know who the vice-president of Uganda is,” the Pun said.
“That is entirely the problem of perception,” Ssekandi said glumly. The Frying Pun waited for him to add but the man’s attention was not on it. He looked up as if expecting another question and it was only then that Frying Pun realised he had said the perception thing with some sort of finality.
The Pun decided to probe further on the issue. You hardly feature anywhere in national issues,” the Pun said. “Compared to your predecessors Samson Kisekka, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Gilbert Bukenya, you need a PR firm to keep you in the news.”
“Do you know the President of Ethiopia? I guess not. How about that of Germany? Italy? India? You don’t. You need Google to find out who the president of Israel is too. Now, all these countries are more developed than Uganda, right? Ask yourself then, what is the relevance on focusing on how much Ssekandi is featuring on the front pages of the newspapers. What Uganda needs is progress, young man,” he said.
“Yes, we need progress. We also need leaders who draw salary from taxpayers to earn it. You are not earning your paycheque like Kisekka, Spe and Bukenya before you,” the Pun said.
“So, should I start embracing skimpily dressed singers to appease the public desires of Ssekandi appearing on the front pages of the other thing in Namamve… what do they call them again…”
“Yes, that one. That newspaper…
“Red Pepper is a tabloid,” we corrected, but the VP ignored the correction and went on. “Do you want me in the shrines just because I should appear in the news? The best performers are the silent ones who do their duties from the shadows.”
“Duties like what? Carrying kaveera to the UK with Team Uganda for Olympic Games? Or posing in sandals for official photos with President Barack Obama?” we rubbed him harder.
A chortle left his throat at this. Then he smiled and said Obama was meeting Ssekandi, not Ssekandi’s suit or shoes. “As far as I know, Fr Lokodo has never complained that I dress indecently. Yet you hear Ugandans go bananas over how Ssekandi appears in public, over what Minister Mateke has chosen to walk out in.”
“You are public figures, Mr VP. You have to dress to public approval. Mark you, the public pays for what you wear, so at least make it good, no?” The Frying Pun probed.
“I am not aware of that. Shall I return the so-called bad clothes I have to the public then?” he asked jokingly.
“Yeah right. Possibly, return even the office because you are clearly drawing salary by idle pretences while doing nothing,” we said.
“You man, you went to school. In that school, you had brilliant students and average ones. There were also the kind you would call daft. Did the best performing students in your class make so much noise?” asked. “Wait, I am still talking… Otafiire used to make a lot of noise, but did it mean he was the best performing minister? As far as I am concerned, there were a lot of wetland encroachments during his tenure and later at local government, there were a lot of market and vendors issues… garbage too. Making noise and performing on the job are two different sciences.”
“So, what exactly do you do in the shadows? Spying?”
“You mean you don’t know the responsibilities of the Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda,” he asked sarcastically.
The Frying Pun is a parody column