Will Makerere’s electric car now be manufactured or die secretly? -Part II

There have been a few times in the past when President Museveni picked specialists in technical fields, people who were not regular politicians and appointed them government ministers.

In theory, I suppose, and perhaps in practice, the idea was that they bring their specialised knowledge and skills to bear directly on the formulation and implementation of government policies in an area the NRM (or rather, the President)onsidered uniquely important.

That was probably the kind of thinking behind the late Kibirige Sebunya’s appointment as a minister of state for Agriculture. He had distinguished himself as a coffee researcher.

The researcher-turned-minister, the scientist-turned-Ugandan politician attended more weddings, funerals and other ceremonies he campaigned for Mr Museveni and drank more beer. But I doubt whether watchers and those in the agriculture sector can say, definitively, that research or investment in coffee or agriculture in general significantly improved because Kibirige had become a minister.

More recently, one Hamu Muliira, an IT specialist, became a government minister for IT. But this technology had its momentum.

Those institutions, government departments and the private sector that needed and could afford the tools and expertise of the computer age may well have accessed them with or without a separate minister trained in the field.

Now, in the popular imagination of our people, there is an electric car in Makerere hands, a “sample” which is just waiting for “capital” before “they” manufacture so many like it that everybody can have one.

And now that the professor who headed the Makerere team that “invented” the car is a minister, and his boss, Mr Museveni, is the lord who controls Uganda’s funds, the car’s scheduled “commercial” production (2018 AD) should be “automatic”.

Well, you can go with that rubbish. And many will go with that rubbish. So poorly internalised is the subject that while profiling the newly appointed minister, an in-house journalist at the government-owned New Vision actually referred to the car as a “prestigious electronic” car, (already?) “manufactured” by Makerere

During the vetting of the new ministers, Parliament had a golden opportunity to ask Prof Tikodri-Togboa on what basis he and his colleagues at Makerere drew the bold production timescale for their machine indeed, whether the professor was convinced that this crude student project had a chance of meeting the performance and safety standards of a road-going car that would make it attract investment funds.

Since in the public perception he had moved to his new position on the strength of the car project, Parliament had an opportunity to demand to know whether, as a minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Tikodri would rise above the “self” thing and focus on more realistic research projects that deserved government funding.

Parliament should have sought answers on the link or conspiracy between Makerere academia, Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), government and a mysterious company reportedly called Kiira Motors Corporation.

Who were the directors of this company? How did they and the government plan to get funding for setting up the proposed car plant?

Apart from his role in Makerere’s Engineering Department, Prof Tikodri was also the deputy Vice Chancellor responsible for finance and administration.
Parliament should have squarely asked whether by joining government, Prof Tikodri believed that Kiira EV as we know it would eventually see production.

Or, by leaving Makerere, had this academic institution been freed from a continuing association with a wildly fanciful enterprise? Did Makerere lose or gain by the departure of one of its senior teaching staff?

In the March reshuffle, it is clear that the President was assembling a team that would dare whatever it took to help him win the 2016 presidential race. Some of Tikodri’s new colleagues were tested masters in the art of shifting public funds.

Given that both the conceptual and workaday worlds of science and technology were only remotely understood by most of our people, would Prof Tikodri work in cahoots with, or did he have a plan by which he would protect the funds flowing through his sphere from the plunderers that ruled in the vampire state?

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.


SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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