Severino Kahinda Otafiire is the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister. The controversial retired Major General does not mince words, and when words alone cannot work, he turns to his gun, at least history shows so. We caught up with Gen Ota to try and see if the maverick minister would explain his latest bytes when he told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee grilling him that “I don’t think I am stupid as I appear. With all due respect, you are insulting my intelligence.” We wanted to know if the New Vision quoted him right and much more.
Frying Pun: Gen Otafiire, thanks for accepting to sit with…
Otafiire: Please, go straight to the point. You can reserve your ‘thanks’ to your toilet paper [bursts out laughing]
Frying Pun: Well, why do you say those things, speaking like that all the time. Don’t your children feel awkward?
Otafiire: My friend, Kahinda Otafiire is a serious man, very serious man. You want to speak with Otafiire, bring up serious issues, not those cheap things. “Thank you,” so what? What is ‘thank you’? Do I look like a diver who just saved a drowning baby to be thanked like that?
Frying Pun: No, you don’t look like a diver, but you look very much like what you said.
Frying Pun: You said “I don’t think I am stupid as I appear.” Isn’t that what you told PAC?
Otafiire: What exactly is your point, young man?
Frying Pun: Don’t you sometimes feel embarrassed by your utterances?
Otafiire: I am a General, not a pauper.
Frying Pun: Not even when you drew your gun on the deceased former wife of your Cabinet colleague at a party?
Otafiire: Why are you taking me there? Listen, Otafiire is a very busy man, you don’t call Otafiire here to talk about things that happened or did not happen in the past. This is 2015, not 1990s. Please, when you find better things to talk about than to insult Otafiire, the son of Ruhinda, then call me again and we shall see how to schedule another…
Frying Pun: Oh, you have a love-hate relationship with Amama Mbabazi. Why is it that almost all the former bush war soldiers do not feel Mbabazi? Do you guys envy him?
Otafiire: Wait, did you actually say envy? What is there to envy in that scheming man?
Frying Pun: A lot, including the fact that he was closer to the President than many of you who fought in the bush with Museveni can ever be. But then you just called him a schemer… with disdain if I read your tone right, eh?
Otafiire: Mbabazi is clever, calculative… an opportunist. But hate? I don’t hate him. Envy? Never. Otafiire does not envy anyone. What do I lack to envy anyone? Mbabazi is now outside and my people in Ruhinda have a saying that you don’t follow a man who has just left the dining table to go wander outside. You continue eating and that is what Otafiire is doing.
Frying Pun: So the NRM is about eating?
Otafiire: Use your brain.
Frying Pun: And Mbabazi did not leave the chicken table to go wander outside, he was pushed out by those young chaps without umbilical cords who are now pretending to be bigger than their own brains.
Otafiire: Whether he was pushed or not is of little import. What matters is that he is outside..
Frying Pun: Outside and peeing inside and that is dangerous. They say it is better to have a man shout from inside than one who pees through your window, no?
Otafiire: We have pee-absorbers [laughs]. In any case, when Mbabazi plays within our rules and works out well, we shall get him back and work with him. Ours is not politics of hatred, envy and such things but about shaping the destiny of this country.
Frying Pun: If you had one chance to advise Museveni and that he must accept your advice, what would you tell him?
Otafiire: I would ask him to look within his heart and tell me if he still feels like driving the yellow bus. If his answer is yes, then I would tell him to continue with the transformation of this country.
Frying Pun: But the country is stagnant. What transformation is there to talk home about apart from the past? The only thing synonymous with the past in our country today is the brutality of the Police. You know that too well. The regime is more repressive than the previous ones.
Otafiire: Let me see… yes, the Police have some stupid human waste in their system for sure. I read of Brig. Kasirye Ggwanga questioning this other guy, Fred Manyanga [Enanga, the Police spokesperson]. I don’t know where these people come from… terrible, terrible officers. I think these guys are not given enough ration so they must be eating all the drugs they seize from drug traffickers. Only this can explain how they behave. However, rest assured that the NRM government will fix them once and for all.
Frying Pun: General, be careful what you say. The other day, these Police captains arrested a four-star General in public like they were picking toothpicks in Owino Market.
Otafiire: I don’t know what is happening to this country; sincerely… how can those low lives even dare lay their hands on a General? True, they are breathing and passing wind down there but that is only because they haven’t yet touched Kahinda Otafiire. A Police captain to touch Otafiire? My friend, that will be the end of him.
Frying Pun: I don’t doubt your words. I know how you nearly wrote off a journalist with your gun in Mbuya after some frisk accident at 3am…
Otafiire: Oh, that Alika… was that the name… Isa something [Isa Aliga], that guy exaggerated things. In any case, a soldier is a soldier at all times. A soldier won’t stand still when some funny lights flash in his face at 3am, no. A real soldier reacts with his gun and that’s what happened. In any case, what was that New Vision journalist doing there at 3am when everyone was trying to push the car and he was there playing with my life?
Frying Pun: What should I tell Mbabazi as coming from his Cabinet colleague of many years?
Otafiire: ‘Former Cabinet colleague’… Tell him that I talked to you [laughs]
The Frying Pun is a parody column