Small and petty. Contemporary Uganda is a society that is so sad and pitiful to see. It has been reduced to a smallness and cheapness that words can’t describe. LC I chairpersons walk about their villages feeling and being treated like VIPs. Kindergartens now even have graduation ceremonies complete with gowns and caps, Timothy Kalyegira writes.
Am I the only one who feels that Uganda is increasingly looking like a cheap, petty and low-value country? I doubt.
The country is getting smaller and smaller and more and more petty. The economy is bigger than it was 25 years ago, but the society feels smaller and more like crumbs of bread.
It feels like an entity that was once whole and intact but which has now crumbled into small and inconsequential parts.
The small and petty is elevated to great and important, while the important and significant is reduced to smaller and smaller parts.
The big is becoming small and the small is becoming big.
Over the last 25 years there has been an inflation of the low quality and a reduction in value of almost everything.
Merit no longer means much, spelling and grammatical errors now appear with more frequency on the front pages of our national papers even with the benefit of auto-correction software installed on our computers and with many more educated people than we saw in national newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Ministers and Members of Parliament were once distinguished, highly-respected people.
The maximum number of Cabinet ministers during Idi Amin’s time 40 years was about 17 ministers.
Today, one could count 17 Cabinet ministers from Kigezi or Ankole sub-regions alone.
Once-large districts are being divided into ever smaller and more meaningless districts, while small towns are becoming bigger and bigger in name but in nothing else.
Originally during colonial times, there were not more than 12: Buganda, Ankole, Bunyoro, Busoga, Toro, Kigezi, Teso, West Nile, Bukedi, Bugisu, Lango, Acholi and Karamoja.
Later the division into smaller districts started.
In the 1960s, there came East Acholi, West Buganda, East Mengo, North Ankole and so on.
On and on the divisions went over the years until today it has reached a ridiculous level.
The average person, even in the media or politics, would struggle today to name every district located between Mukono and Jinja, Masaka and Mbarara or Kampala and Masindi.
At the same time, we see the small becoming big. In technical terms, a city is a geographical or administrative entity that has more than 100,000 residents in it.
Soon, someone will clamour to have Wandegeya, Kabalagala, Nateete, Bukoto or Bugolobi in Kampala declared town councils.
At present, only Kampala qualifies as a city in Uganda. The rest are towns. But lately, Mbarara and Jinja have started posturing as cities.
Because of all the populism and erratic policymaking today, most likely these two towns will be declared cities.
Contemporary Uganda is a society that is so sad and pitiful to see. It has been reduced to a smallness and cheapness that words can’t describe.
LC I chairpersons walk about their villages feeling and being treated like VIPs. Concert tables are sold as VIP. Kindergartens now even have graduation ceremonies complete with gowns and caps.
Every profession has now taken on a formal, proper title. It used to be that only doctors, academics and military officers had titles before their names (Dr, Lt, Colonel, Professor).
Then in Uganda engineers were added (Engineer Ssali, Engineer Tumwesigye). Now we have Rotarian Okello, Statistician Wanyama, Teacher Jane, Teacher Peter.
The government has managed to generally keep inflation under control or within a reasonable range. But these fiscal controls have been drowned out by the inflation in public administration.
Uganda now has one of the largest parliaments in the world and in proportion to its population and geographical size, one of the largest public administration budgets on earth.
I cringe every time I take a tour on popular social platforms like Facebook. There is a class of urban-based Ugandans who have been ill-educated and do not know a thing about punctuation.
Bakeries, hair salons, boutiques, hotels, restaurants, schools and other businesses create Facebook pages without any sense of quality.
The name of the business is written with typos and nobody seems to notice. The photo quality even for businesses that deal directly with the beauty industry is shoddy at best and the owners can’t see or sense that.
It’s not just that most Ugandans don’t know right from wrong in terms of ethics and the law, but they don’t know right from wrong in the areas of quality.
This is what happens when a country loses its sense of value, hierarchy and professionalism. Its citizens no longer know what is right or wrong, professional or not, proper and informal.