mediocre representation for mediocre societies

OulanyahJacob Oulanyah unleashed a barrage of sensibility this week, on his return from a trip round Germany and France, when he addressed a press conference at which he was reportedly so confused about the time of day that he kept saying ‘Good morning’ in the afternoon.

That is the only thing he was confused about – and as we have recently seen in public, people have made worse mistakes in this town.

Everything else he said was like the German national soccer team using words like a ball. Reading the news reports made me wish I had been there to watch him slam the volleys of points into our national mental goalmouth.

“Uganda’s liberalised sectors are dominated by foreign investors; Ugandans should not be exploited; nationals should be charged lower bank interest rates; 80% of Uganda’s time is spent discussing politics, which is too much; the media should practice responsible journalism; there are too many MPs compared to the size of the country; and most of the MPs that form that large number do not know how to debate, rarely do research, and thus the quality of their output is low.”

Just reading that paragraph there you can imagine how the Parliamentary spokespeople and many MPs felt like a team of Brazilians on a small, overcrowded pitch, considering that Oulanyah is Deputy Speaker of the House.

Getting into the defence against an attack like Oulanyah’s is not easy – but in the spirit of fair play let’s consider this without rejecting his goals, and play all the way to the end:

Our Members of Parliament are representatives of the people. From a strictly grammatical point of view, those 385 or so ladies and gentlemen that the 35million of us have sent to the House are a sample of what we are, in general as a population. If we were a nation of 35 million loquacious but eloquent individuals with an excellent train of thought every time we activated our minds, then our representatives would wax lyrically in the chambers of that House and have the world balancing off everything that dripped off their tongues.

Mathematically, game theorists and statisticians would surely bear testimony to that reality as well; even proponents of the 80/20 principle would have us expect that only 20% of the eminent ladies and gentlemen that the Rt. Hon. Oulanyah declared to be (insert appropriate interpretation of his statement) at holding forth intellectual, high quality debate, should be good at it.

In fact, however, the Rt. Hon. Oulanyah should judge from a lot of the happenings that we see in our every day lives – from the manner in which we navigate through traffic with the impatience of nursery school children suffering pressing bladders; to the way some public officers manage responsibility like conflicted adolescents whose parents leave town after misguidedly entrusting them with shopping money over a long weekend.

The quality of debate in Parliament can only be a reflection of society – the way our representatives are a reflection of ourselves.

In the spirit of a Brazilian after the third goal, I will proceed to argue that our MPs, in general, are doing the best they can in a country where Bad Black and her boyfriends whose wealth and importance cannot be easily explained without lengthy questionable narrative, continue to occupy space on the front page (or any other) of a newspaper.

And on to the other of Oulanyah’s goals, the need for responsible journalism is directly linked to the reason Bad Black and so many other characters of her kind get so much airtime – and again, that is our society.

If on an ordinary day on these streets you can find ten people capable of naming any of the people on the Kiira EV Project (including the Professor who mentored the students) then check the Constituencies of those ten people and name their MPs.

Serious MPs, reason would have it, should have constituents who could pass a test asking them to name any of the children featured in the newspapers as being the best in their national examinations.

The more serious MPs will have constituents who can even identify and even explain the importance of people like Joseph Mubiru, Ignatius Musaazi, Sir Tito Winyi, and others.

In fact, I want to meet people from Oulanyah’s Omoro County because by virtue of the fact that they produced someone so eloquent and focussed from amongst their numbers, it goes to reason that there must be many more such people left behind.

And if anyone can fix the economy in the ways Hon. Oulanyah so passionately outlined on his return from his European epiphany, it should be more people like him.

And perhaps from Omoro, and via a couple of weeks in France and Germany; because obviously none of the formal education that has been going around for these many years has had this great an impact.

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