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{UAH} My conversation with a boda boda man

My conversation with a boda boda man


I jumped onto a boda boda at Kabuusu. I had an appointment in Najeera and was getting really late.

I am in the habit of rebuking people who move behind the clock; so, I try not to offer others opportunity to feed me on my counsel. If the common Ugandan stereotypes are anything to go by, no guess would lead one into imagining that I am a Muganda.

Nevertheless, the boda boda man used Luganda. "Why did you greet me in Luganda?" I asked in the same language. "I knew that if you didn't know it, you wouldn't respond. Did you expect me to start with English?" he responded.

I had invited ice, and more, maybe because I was carrying books.

"You educated people amuse me. I think you are even about to start urinating in English. Where do you come from, sir? America?" I pretended to be unhurt; just as the person who swallows hot porridge feigns to be burnt where he wanted.

"I am from Masaka, hahaha," I sheepishly responded as I inspected the inside of the helmet he had handed on to me over his dusty shoulder.

"But this helmet of yours! Do you know how it looks like inside?"

It looked like a typical Ugandan public hospital.  He turned to check it with a quick glance and later advised: "Blaza [brother], the head is yours. You can choose between a broken skull and hygiene".

Huh! They are often assertive, but rarely this blunt.

I returned his sweat-saturated thing to him. And the conversation briefly shifted to 'schooled and rich people'.

"Hmm, you schooled and rich people amuse me! You act to live clean, eat well, sleep well, yet you often die earlier than us".

I had already been profiled and embroiled in a subtle spark of Uganda's silent class beef! Surely, it must have been the books.

We were at Jinja road traffic lights now. They were red in our direction, but he sped through, squeezing himself between cars in the jam around the Airtel tower.

"Blaza, sit firmly. This is how we manage Kampala. No car driver respects us. We also have to find our way".

In-between focusing on his manoeuvre and turning to me, he scratched a BMW car door, only to increase speed while simultaneously checking if he was being tracked.

"Hoooo, Blaza, you can't stop after doing that. Those rich people are ruthless. They know we can't afford fixing the damages. So, usually they beat us up until they are relieved. They all carry big sticks in their cars, as if we are snakes on the road". For a moment, I didn't speak.

"Blaza, you are quiet! Are you scared?" he quipped. "I am recalling the many times I have been a victim of scratch-and-run boda bodas," I replied.

He laughed sadistically, reminding me that as long as Kampala roads are the way they are, scratches will always be there. "Because we also have to find where to pass".

He went on to assure me: "... and, by the way, we are not leaving Kampala as some of you wish. First of all, you also need us when you are time bad. Second, and most important, we are voters. Who doesn't want our vote and mobilisation? And we are not few."

I understood his confidence, for I know how extensive the cemetery of things killed by populist politics is.

"Do you support any particular political party?" I asked. He mumbled some indistinct words, and I repeated the question.

"Blaza, are you a spy? You know government thinks we have a lot of information; so, we often get spies disguising as passengers to ask questions like yours. I have some little children to raise."

We both went silent for a while. But I thought that this would make him think he had smoked me out. I thus filled the silence.

"But I also hear some of you are spies," I said.

He laughed hard, choking under his helmet, although I couldn't tell exactly where the humour was. We passed by a huge new building, and he said in a, rather, measured tone while pointing at it.

"You see that building? These men have really robbed us. But we shall get to know the true owners someday".

I then interjected: "Which men?" Before my question could take a seat, he jumped in: "Blaza, leave me alone. I told you I have young children. Oh, by the way, I'm enjoying these Kyadondo East elections. Bobi Wine is my man".

What a way to run from a subject! Nevertheless, it was only a conversation. So, I never really minded his nomadic conversational style of moving in all directions.

Yes, we were on Bobi Wine now. "Do you think he is going to be of any use in parliament?" I queried.

"Oh, Blaza, was he supposed to be useful in the first place? Is our parliament meant for serious people? Who cannot fit into Uganda's parliament? Who doesn't know how to say 'Yes Mzee' and to count money? For me now, I just vote for the one I want to go and eat; and this time, I want our Ghetto President to eat also." I did not immediately respond, still mulling over his opinion.

He continued: "Blaza, it is no longer a secret. Our parliament is like a school parade. We know the head prefect, and he does what he wants. Each one of us is alone in this greedy country. If we were edible, those people would eat us too".

Our conversation was momentarily broken by a passing lorry emitting a thick cloud of smoke. But still, where he could not say certain things, at least he coughed them. And one of the things I heard him cough was his intention to stand in his constituency in Hoima.

Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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