Sunday, April 10, 2022

On Friday, the short-lived Speaker of parliament Jacob L’Okori Oulanyah took his final journey of no return to Ayom-lony village, Lalogi sub-county, Omoro district twenty days since his demise at the University of Washington Medical, a cancer centre in Seattle where he had been taken early February with terminal illness. It has also been a period of truly national and colourful mourning, an outpouring of emotions, paying tributes to and celebrations for a short life lived fully. Many will remember the nicknames Oulanyah gave them as acquaintances. Some will recall the sessions of high velocity debates, dance, hearty-cheeky laugh, eating full meals, and the red wine swallowed.


In the course of these closing days one couldn’t fail to notice those with crocodile tears standing in line to sign the condolence books or see Oulanyah pass silently in a casket draped in national flag. I believe that his silence exposed much of the hypocrisy, as the funeral became a high-stakes commodity trade. The opulence and waste witnessed now calls for the enactment of policy on official and state funerals so everyone knows government role and items to spend money on so as to avoid possible abuse. 


In parliament it was so comic seeing MPs mostly with ill-fitting bowties mimic and trying to extol Oulanyah’s virtues some knew and emulate so little, made uglier by pretentious tears rolling down their shiny cheeks. Others perhaps driven by envy in the opulence of a state funeral enacted drama to blackmail the president to offer more than available, including demand that Oulanyah’s incomplete castle in Lalogi be done so that his body rests there, yet they all know that the dead are buried in the grave underground, rarely in a house however great.


The country now fully knows, contrary to malicious conspiracy theories earlier swirling on social media and other platforms that Oulanyah didn’t died of poisoning or state neglect, but rather long cancer ailment which, he apparently mismanaged even though was eligible and entitled to the best medical support in Uganda or abroad. This has been so ably explained to the public by his close associates Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, Norbert Mao, Opiyo Oloya, and Dr Jackson Orem the Director Uganda Cancer Institute. By this self-neglect not to handle his malady well enough with those most qualified, for whatever reasons or apprehensions he had, Speaker Oulanyah failed in courage and leadership, and many should be disappointed. 


The mourning is for his immediately family and community that will permanently miss his direct financial, material and other support to develop their full potentials because he was a true and dependable provider. We, the rest of Ugandans may mourn his passing at the tender age of 56 years because he had just risen as Speaker through a very competitive and divisive election, number three in protocol and line of succession in case sudden catastrophe befell the president and vice president while in office. Otherwise, we have to quickly return to our usual routines. Some of those who showed the most visible grief at his death appear to have cashed in already, and, so you know it’s the nature of our world even when some may claim that it’s hard to replace the departed yet Oulanyah’s replacement with ease within a week shows the claim to be big lie and a fool’s errand.


Watching from a distance the Acholi Bwola dance accompany Oulanyah’s casket to parliament building, Kololo Ceremonial Grounds for the State funeral, and finally in Lologi village to his grave gave a befitting, beautiful, if not an opulent send-off. It was the first of its kind in Uganda that none probably will enjoy any time soon, because, after all, a president, speaker or Chief justice don’t die while in office that regularly. All Uganda’s presidents have died after losing state power and disgraced in exile life. The former Chief Justice or Speakers died when no law existed to accord them the elaborate paraphernalia that Oulanyah received.


Oulanyah’s life hasn’t been interrupted but rather completed. The dead are held in esteem that we only remember and speak the good things, and we not only forgive their faults but we forget them too. Graves are said to be the footspring of angels. Like a bird singing in the rain, let the grateful memories about Oulanyah survive in times of sorrow. And while we cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over our head, surely we can stop them from nesting into our hair by disclosing our maladies in time to those most qualified to provide support.


Grief, no matter how you cater for its wail, has a way of fading. Our wailing for oulanyah will surely fade, and after all, there are those who have already gained in his passing. Those who built the casket, transported his remains to the grave in Lologi, supplied public address systems, drinks, tents and food said to be in billions, in a way shows that not everyone lost. Adieu Mr. Speaker Sir! Alluta continua.