Dear Prof Nsibambi, all freebies come with a loss of some dignity

Shhh, please, tread very carefully, especially you the Daily Monitor fellows the distinguished former Prime Minister, Honourable Professor Apolo Robin Nsibambi, is disgusted. The sky is roaring and could fall upon us!

Disgusted? What happened? Who could have made the air around the professor’s nose smell so bad?
Newspaper reporters. You know how the old dude guards his image. Even his legendary time-keeping is a quirk in that mould. Since you are so punctual, you must be efficient. That kind of bird-brain logic.

So, these Monitor people catch Nsibambi before Parliament’s Committee of Public Service and Local Government perhaps not sweating, but not in absolute comfort. (See Saturday Monitor, August 16).

Another case of theft?
Not really. Nsibambi was not a crook of the type that has shaped President Museveni’s government. He evaded (or was not admitted into) the inner circle of the den. The problem is just a car.
Ah, cars again!

On retirement, Premier Nsibambi was supposed to get a chauffeur-driven vehicle, among other benefits, from the Ministry of Public Service. According to Nsibambi, the Ministry of Public Service “could not” deliver the vehicle. So the ministry “requested” the Office of the Prime Minister to “lend” him a vehicle. The OPM obliged.

Now, the Sunday Monitor (August 17)ommitted the mother of sins. Instead of reporting that the Ministry of Public Service requested, the paper said the retired Prime Minister requested…
You get the distinction. It is not splitting hairs. It is factual precision. And it is so important that Prof Nsibambi felt a need to post an expression of disgust in the Sunday Monitor of August 31, page 15.

He is of course happy to use the vehicle. So he is happy that OPM lent it to him. The way Uganda works, the Ministry of Public Service probably only made the request after Nsibambi suggested the idea. But it is extremely important that he must not appear to have desperately wanted the car.

It must be clearly indicated that someone else (Ministry of Public Service in this case) did the requesting. Otherwise the story “could potentially tarnish (his) good name”.

Now, although accurate reporting is desirable, his protest is evidence that the former Prime Minister’s disgust is wired to a very short fuse. For one thing, borrowing (or even stealing) a car from the wrong government department should only embarrass a Ugandan politician because it is such a small deal.

But now that Prof Nsibambi has a bigger than average supply of disgust, why not direct some of it at the Ministry of Public Service, and generally at the government he served. They are the ones playing with his dignity.

Here is a whole former Prime Minister, for whom a 2010 Parliamentary act lavishes so many retirement goodies, only for the Ministry of Public Service – or Mr Museveni’s government – not to find enough respect to make good promptly!

This obstinacy, or inefficiency, or incompetence, or plain dishonesty plus the horrendous theft of public funds right across the board these evils, which Prof Nsibambi did absolutely nothing to check when he was the Prime Minister, and which are directly responsible for his not getting his retirement vehicle in the prescribed manner don’t these evils disgust the retired premier?

Since he is silent on these, instead of screaming about his good name, he could wait like thousands of other government workers sometimes wait for years before they get their retirement packages. Much less money, no cars, and many of them after doing much more for their country than Prof Nsibambi did as Prime Minister.

In the meantime, he could buy himself a car. After years in high places, and without an electoral constituency to milk him, he should have stacked away millions of shillings and other assets. Buying himself a car for a change would reflect a sleek dignified image.

Freebies – even official freebies when they are larger than fair – tend to come with a price tag. The price is in varying measures of dignity.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator [email protected]

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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