She was widowed when her only child, a son, was 10 years old. Through a combination of hard work and persistence, she paid her son through school until he graduated. Five years after graduating, he told his mother he had found a girl to marry.
Clan elders from both the family of the bride and the groom gave their blessing and the marriage process was set in motion. The groom came from central Uganda while the bride was from the western part of the country. As is the custom in the western region, the girl’s family held a function to formally hand her over to the family of her fiancé. During this function, the family of the bride offered her gifts to take to her new home.
The father of the bride announced in his speech that he had given to the couple 20 exotic cows. Everyone clapped on hearing the news. No one was more excited about the gift than the mother of the groom.
Soon after the bride’s father ended his speech, it was the turn for the groom’s family to speak. The groom’s mother asked to be allowed to personally express her appreciation to her son’s in-laws before the main speaker from her side could continue.
She started her speech by saying, “I would like to thank the family of my daughter in-law for the generosity they have exhibited today.” As she paused for breath, the audience clapped and cheered, giving her encouragement to go on. “I want to specially appreciate the father of the bride for his gift to the couple. In all my life, I never knew I would get to a day when my family would have so much meat that we can never finish eating it.”
As soon as she spoke the last sentence, the audience suddenly became deathly still. You could hear a pin drop in a place that only seconds before was roaring with ululations and clapping.
From the point of view of the groom’s mother, cattle are looked at as a source of beef, nothing more. One could say the groom’s mother possessed the muchomo attitude. The muchomo attitude does not care to invest, its sole interest is to eat and make merry.
The bride’s family, however, had a different view altogether: to them, cows are considered assets that must be taken care of in order to produce more wealth. That requires a good dose of delayed gratification. The only pleasure that the bride’s relatives allowed themselves was to milk the cows.
The family that ate muchomo had a hand to mouth existence they could barely make ends meet because they never allowed their assets to grow and multiply.
The family that took milk got wealthier and was able to pass on both the wealth and the knowledge for producing wealth from generation to generation. That is the milk attitude.
The muchomo attitude is very common in today’s Uganda. It is found in households where people now use loans as though it were income you hear of wedding loans, hospital delivery loans, school fees loans and the like.
Not even the members of Parliament have been spared of the Muchomo attitude. The land bonanza that saw valuable public real estate sold for a song was all because of the fact that the people who presided over the sale possessed a strong muchomo attitude whereas the ones who acquired the property during the colonial and post independence governments had a strong milk attitude.
If we must develop, whether at the household or national level, whether in business or in employment, we need to break away from the muchomo attitude and embrace the milk attitude.
James Abola is the team leader of Akamai Global, a business and finance consulting firm. E-mail: james.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor