In the determination of wisdom, in Uganda there is institutionalised and state sanctioned discrimination against the majority. For example, it is the law that in order to become a minister one has to have a minimum qualification of an Advanced Level Certificate; which means that one has had at least thirteen years of schooling within the global-western education system. The majority of Ugandans have not attained this minimum qualification, but this does not necessarily make them less knowledgeable or less wise.
I agree with Toyin Falola, a distinguished African scholar, that African traditional cultures privilege the wisdom of elders, while ‘modern’ cultures favour the skills of the ‘formally educated’. Traditional African cultures place emphasis on experience attained over the years. Uganda’s vetting system – for ministers and other presidential appointees – is ineffective for it allows for Members of Parliament (MPs) to dismiss African knowledge and to bar highly experienced persons to serve as ministers. For instance, such was the case with Mr. Sebbagala, whom the electorate considered fit to hold the position of Mayor of Kampala City.
What is the role of a minister anyway? I do not think that it need be the case that the qualities of a minister must be overly pegged to their global-western academic qualifications – popularly referred to as ‘papers’. Charismatic and experienced persons, such as Mr. Sebbagala with a wealth of wisdom as qualified by African knowledge systems, make good ministers. With ministers such as these the technocrats would be forced out of the abstract and perhaps many of the government programmes would be more aligned to the common man. It should be noted that unlike many MPs and I dare say civil servants, Mr. Sebbagala is a well known and proven entrepreneur, who during the toughest of times established profitably run businesses. I am not dismissing the value of papers. However, a balanced system and policies that weight both the wisdom attained from formal global-western education of the ‘educated elite’ (papers) and that from the African knowledge systems (elders with experience) is the better one. The formal global-western education system is not the only source of knowledge and wisdom. It is just one amongst many.
Is it not the human right of all Ugandans to offer ourselves for leadership and to participate in the leadership of our country? Isn’t it about time that we come up with a system to vet our leaders on the basis of their practice, what they have done for our Country and their experiential knowledge other than that which is signified by papers? Considering the many problematic bills that our current parliament has debated and passed – which have later been challenged in courts of law or which have since been rendered dead-letter laws, my assertion is on the mark. Our MPs came into parliament on the weight of their papers (how seemingly easy these are to forge – some papers were actually successfully challenged in courts of law). When they get into parliament on the basis of their paper-weight knowledge, our MPs on our behalf vet presidential appointees. Suddenly, people who in the past had gone through rigorous campaigns and had been voted into public office by thousands of Ugandans are rendered unfit, because the MPs determine their papers as wanting.
This system is nothing but faulty. Just wondering, has anyone ever carried out a study to find out if ministers with more papers do better than those with less or no papers? Judging by the inability of some MPs to remember what they studied at school, as reported in the media, how can we rely on papers as a basis for deciding one’s level of knowledge and wisdom? And why does our speaker continue to wear a blonde wig, a sign of global-western wisdom? A costly one at that, I might add. We spend millions buying the blonde wig and millions to maintain it, while jiggers go on the rampage in Busoga, in particular and in Uganda in general. Surely, we need to re-think this.