MANY eloquent and free-flowing eulogies flowed last week from the time Owekitinisa Metusera Amooti Tibigambwa Katuramu passed on till after he was laid to rest.
For a man of his stature and longevity, it was not surprising that everything said was full of praise and acclaim.
Katuramu’s grandchildren read out a poem in memory of the old man, titled ‘Paradoxes of a man of God’ (Philip C. Brewer) that in full described him well, and I especially liked:
“Strong enough to be weak, wise enough to say I don’t know!…, Important enough to be last…, Great enough to be anonymous…, Leading enough to serve.”
The nobility in him stood out because of his humility. His poise, even in his sick bed, made us stand firm whenever we left him with his beloved wife Atwooki fussing dutifully and maintaining the tidiest of homes.
The Hoima LC5 Chairman, George Bagonza Tinkasiimire, delivered a short but pointed speech the crux of which went (in Runyoro): “Akacuba k’abantu mulingo gunno, kabuulirra nkaha?” which, loosely translated, meant: “Where did the mould that was used to make people like this disappear to?”
And he narrated how some years ago this noble old man had shown him his tax certificates going back fifty (50) years. Tinkasiimire marvelled not only at the steadfast nature of this senior citizen, but at how meticulous he had been in keeping a full, clean and clear record as evidence of what we already knew about him.
Later, Katuramu’s daughter, Amooti Deborah, told us how her father took her to task when she co-owned a government vehicle. The man found it hard to believe that his adult daughter, whose salary he estimated he knew, could afford the car. She had to present to him all her documentation before he let her keep it – such was his consistency in integrity.
But during the farewell ceremonies, there were five almost-surreal minutes that disrupted that semblance of tidiness, assaulted my sensibility, and made Tinkasiimire’s question stick out.
About six minutes before Tinkasiimire’s eulogy, Vincent Makumbi Nyanzi, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, had arrived at the funeral ceremony.
Even as his official Mitsubishi Pajero drove up the neat driveway, in Kaitira, Hoima, I hesitated to believe the ministerial flag waving off the vehicle pole on the left hand side was at half mast out of respect for the old man we were bidding farewell.
That respect, I felt, would have been better communicated by an earlier arrival at the ceremony and a much less conspicuous entry; but his driver came right up the house as is the propensity of ‘big’ men’s vehicles, and the thought occurred that if this had been Katuramu, he would never have attracted so much attention.
Even as I was making a mental comparison, the doors were flung open and I was startled to see a yellow jerry-can right there amid passengers in the back seat. Not in the boot, but next to where the Minister of State was seated, right up against his leg.
My breath caught at the back of my throat much as yours has, reading this; I watched the bodyguard step out of the car and took my time studying the jerry-can long enough to arrive at the suspicion that it held either a) honey or, b) locally brewed alcohol, or c) fuel. The people seated around me did the same and started murmuring about the same jerry-can.
It looked like all the other yellow jerry-cans of that nature – grubby, suspect, and being in the back seat area of a Mitsubishi Pajero: very misplaced.
Quite unsettled, I went up to one of the State Minister’s entourage to confirm that the jerry-can didn’t hold Petrol, the worst of the three bad options in mind, and he smilingly responded to allay my fears:
“No, sir. It’s diesel!”
His back was to the ceremony, and his boss walked down the middle as he said this, across the well-manicured lawn in the shadow of a very neatly-planted copse of Pine trees providing a lovely backdrop for the ceremony in front of the home.
I was faced with a mountain of flabbergast.
The fellow lost his smile when I pointed out that he was in charge of the Minister’s well-being and should not have allowed the jerry-can to be in that place, and I cannot confirm that the offending receptacle was later relocated. I also have no idea about the boot of the Pajero – maybe there was a cow back there…or a brood of chickens…a fish pond, perhaps?
Minister Nyanzi, meanwhile, was once Minister of State for Industry and Technology and also Minister of State for Economic Monitoring.
If I continue with this I will lose my mind…
We need help. We need to work out: “Where did the mould that was used to make people like Metusera Katuramu disappear to?”