The manager and the right promotion

As Lupapa branch manager of National Water, Eng Makubuya, was a sensational stand out. His job specifically had him meet a 95% revenue target and 100% implementation of new connections. To achieve this he assembled a small team with every member known personally to him. At the start of the week the 25 members would meet in his office and after serving breakfast he would appraise the past week’s performance. Targets were set and he would then let all go, occasionally visiting them individually in the field, to sort out intricate issues on the ground. Bonuses were attached to every member who met his target, and this motivated them.

Soon Headquarters heard of the amazing results of Lukaka branch and the man spear heading it all. When the job of General Manager at headquarters fell vacant, the Human Resource Chief, Rose, aware of Eng Makubuya’s performance, called and interested him in the position.

“But I am happy where I am and feel I need more time here!” Eng Makubuya protested.

“This is a bigger job,” Rose encouraged him to apply. “It will come with more perks, a larger office and you will be overseeing over 100 staff.”

Encouraged, Eng Mukubuya applied and got the job. But it didn’t take long before he started doubting his move. First, unlike the small Lukaka branch where members worked like a close knit family, at headquarters there were all these divisions involved in a cut throat competition for resources, more at the expense of the other. Departmental heads were quick to undercut each other so as to shine better. Eng Makubuya soon found that other than motivating the organization he was now spending more time blowing out fires due to internal conflicts, something as a results drive manager he was not so enthused with.

One day he got to office and found a Board member waiting for him. He let him to his office and the member was quick to get to the point. “I need you to get my daughter a position here,” the Board member said. “I know those positions are there or just create them.”

Eng Makubuya tried to bring to the attention of the Board member of a conflict of interest. “If you don’t I will make your life a hell!” The member threatened.

Just as he was dealing with this issue an audit report came out pointing to some staff companies bidding and supplying materials to the organization. Eng Makubuya decided to take action by firing the implicated staff and calling for new bidders. An anonymous staff quickly went to the IG office and lodged in a complaint accusing him of falsifying his qualifications and misusing company funds. Threatened with interdiction, Eng Mukubuya, decided to call up the line minister and explain himself. However, the line minister sent him a message through an emissary that, “I expect something if I am to save your job!”

At that point Eng Makubuyu recalled how he had hesitated to take up this bigger job. Nothing had prepared him for the fire he was receiving from all directions. He wondered if he should have insisted and not sought a promotion. Perhaps he was better fitted for the smaller local job than the big league jobs with all the intrigues involved.

In his last book on management, “It worked for me” the late US Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, shared a story of “an officer who was promoted from colonel to brigadier general… and he broke down under the burdens that were placed on him. One morning he committed suicide in his garage. He would have served successfully as a Colonel but we raised him beyond his potential.”

The point being as far as promotion is concerned two factors matter. The person should be ready for the bigger job having gone through the necessary trainings for the next level. But more than that it is important to realize, some of us are better at operating at mid-level than the big leagues, which comes with a different set of challenges.

The power of emotional intelligence

Godfrey Kakembo, a Management Consultant, was driving down Acacia Avenue just after fixing the troublesome gearbox on his red Mitsubishi RVR when he received a call on his cell phone. He noticed the number was one of his clients, Stephen Kadaga, the head of APEX Microfinance Uganda Ltd. He pulled over to the side and took the call.

“Hello, Stephen,” he greeted. “How is the office?”

“Well, I have got a huge problem here,” answered Stephen. “A few days ago we hired a new Operations manager but I am almost having a revolt from the team. I need your help urgently to see what we can do.”

Godfrey quickly run through his diary and promised to drive by the APEX office the following day at about 2:30 pm. Once he got there Stephen quickly brought him up to date with the issues. “I can’t believe the guy we just hired is not working out with his team. He emerged as the best in the interviews, scoring very high on the psychometric test. He has a B.Com (Upper Class Honors); a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Management and has just completed his ACCA. Besides, he has also attended numerous short courses in East and Southern Africa. He holds a Banking Certificate. He was highly recommended by a multinational bank he had been working with and we checked all his referees. They were clean. But things are just not working out. Since he joined two team members have resigned, morale has plunged to an all time low and I expect more quitting!”

“ You said he scored best on the psychometric test,” asked Godfrey.

“Oh, yes,” answered Stephen. “I thought he is a very bright fellow.”

“ Did you use any other tool to determine his strength and weakness?”

“ We asked him a few of those questions and he was without a blemish,” replied Stephen. “ He has always been at the top and won a lot of awards. There was no shortcomings in his track record he could isolate and as for personal weakness he mentioned none, which was good.”

“ Well, may be that is the problem,” Godfrey said, “But I need to first investigate why other team members are not warming up to the new guy before I come to a conclusion. Can I carry out a brief employee survey?”

“Of course you can!” said Stephen. “Please, let’s get a way of tackling this situation before it escalates.”

The next week Godfrey executed an employee survey. The comments he received were quite revealing. His new staff described the new Operations Manager in these sweeping terms:

“ A task master! Once I told him I was not feeling well and he said I was just lazy.”

“ Always boisterous of his qualifications and great organizations he has worked for! He loves pointing to his successes.”

“ I wonder if he expects ladies to kneel down while greeting him!”

“He tore my work in front others calling it rubbish.”

“ Never gets out of his office to socialise with staff and keeps all day to his grand office.”

“We hardly have meetings with him because he says there is no need.”

“For him work is war. You are tense around him. If you make a mistake you’re dead meat. He says he has no time to suffer fools.”

“ All he wants are clients, but he has no time to go out and meet those we bring over.”

“ He gave me work and then took it away a couple of days later saying he knew better.”

“ I think he enjoys only hearing his melodious voice.”

“Sometime he makes such sweeping sexist comments like “These funny broad women here!”

After receiving these comments Godfrey summarized them in an Evaluation Report of the New Operations Manager at APEX LTD and reported back to Stephen.

“My findings leave me with the conclusion that you have a classic case of manager who has a high IQ but a low EQ.”

“EQ! I have never heard of that.”

“Emotional Intelligence,” answered Godfrey. “Such a person needs coaching in people skills and Emotional Intelligence otherwise it is just not going to work out. I can offer to coach him and thereafter we can evaluate to see if there is any improvement.”

When in 1995 American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, released his bestselling book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ!” his emphasis was that when managing people there are other skills other than analytical and sharp memory that matter more. For example, in this case, while the new Operation Manager meets all the academic qualifications, he lacks social skills critical for his job success. The coaching he needs is to learn to be sensitive to other people’s needs, be a good listener and ultimately motivator of people. This will enable him realise all the results he craves to get through others without stirring up a revolt!

Patrick Bakka Male (1961-2021): “Aspire, inspire and leave” the man who lived serving others!

When you are new to a school and someone directs you- “That one is the Head Prefect” for some new students, the resolution might well be to keep as far away as you can from this enforcer of law. This was my impression when I first met Patrick Bakka Male, introduced to me in his white shirt and black slacks with a badge beaming “Head Prefect.” Immediately my idea was, to avoid trouble, keep away from this chap who imposed himself as the law. You see he had quite a number of stern prefects roaring below him, with a certain fundamentalist religious streak, quick to book and even lead any student who dared them to expulsion.

So, aware of my sins, which soon involved breaking boundary rules to explore village liquor hangouts at night when others were lost in prep work, I decided not cross paths with him. But as I would find out Bakka was the gentlest lad you could ever meet. Raised on the outskirts of Entebbe town, he had gone to Kiwafu Primary School, from where he joined King’s College in 1976 and assigned to Nigeria House. He embraced Budo unreservedly. Isaac Kironde, an Engineer now settled in UK joined a year after and recalls, “Bakka was always smartly dressed and orderly. He took me under his wings. Because of that, I’d follow him on several occasions to beat the drum ( KCB’s alarm clock) as school time keeper!”

This was the same impression Dr George Kaleebi, who is settled in US, had of him too. “Patrick was one of the first students I met upon arrival. As I got to know him I admired him for being a model student: neat, well groomed, orderly, well organized and punctual.” He had a penchant for wearing clean vests “Bakka Male had many white vests,” recalls David Sseppuya, a housemate who later went on to edit Uganda’s two leading dailies, New Vision and Daily Monitor.

It came as no brainer when in his S2 he was appointed time keeper, progressing on swiftly to sub-lumper and market mayor. Isaac Kironde again recalls, “In S3 he was our Treasurer Agriculture Club as well as house gardener- directing all junior to maintain the House flowers.”

No one goes to Budo and fails to come across Born Again Christians- the Balokole! One day, in his S2, on 5th July 1977, Bakka stumbled into the School Christian fellowship meetings referred to as “Contact fellowship.” Dr Francis Owori who was a class above recalls something that happened and would forever change his life. “Bakka Male literally got saved in my hands..!” It was the best decision of Bakka, and he would never look back.

In 1980, after he returned for A’level to do PCM combination, he was nicknamed “Backhouse”- after the mathematics textbook that he frequently carried around! Budo had a long tradition of appointing as Head Prefects often the tallest student who could impose order, like Herbert Wamala (RIP), Head Prefect 1977 and Ben Wakiro, Head Prefect 1980, who easily towered over the rest. When Bakka decided to stand as Head Prefect for some because of his rather much smaller stature he stood no chance. But, “There was something magnetic about him,” recalls Dr Timothy Sentongo, a US based medical doctor. “He did not weaponize his voice with verbosity. His words were always few, simple and deeply illustrative.”

“The moment he opened his mouth and amplified his deep voice,” George Bamugereire, the former Deputy Inspector General remises, “he immediately became the front runner.” Most of the students were already aware of his work ethic and they elected him by landslide. He would be deputized by Jennifer Lubwama (Musisi), later Kampala City Authority Director. Isaac Kironde recalls, that soon after his election, Bakka started joking, “one day I will become Head Master of King’s College Budo!”

Prefects at Budo tend to suffer an intended consequence of spending so much time supervising students, returning to theirs much later. In the case of Bakka he found he needed to attain a better score at A’level and would only join Makerere university together with the class of 1983.

At Makerere University he was assigned to Lumumba hall. That’s where he spotted a beautiful girl called Molly.

Molly was the daughter of the famous Abbey and Florence Kibalama, a singing maestro family, known as Eschatos Bridal Choir. She had gone to Gayaza High School and had been admitted to study Geology. She too had made a decision to accept Jesus as a personal Savior back in August 14th 1977, while at Gayaza. Bakka attended St Francis Chapel where Molly was also a member. Late one evening while returning from a church sponsored mission trip in Namutamba they made a stopover at Molly’s house. Bakka would recall “I was struck by the way Molly interacted with her parents. After making the necessary consultations with God and prayer I proposed.” She said, “Yes!”

In 1987, the new Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, who had earlier shot to power with blazing guns presided over his first graduation ceremony at Makerere University as Chancellor. Dressed in graduation gowns in that cohort was Bakka graduating with a Bsc degree in education. If graduates are supposed to look forward to a bright future after toiling through school up to the famous hill, by then after years of war and economic mismanagement, Uganda’s economy was in doldrums. Perhaps the worst casualty of these times was the teaching profession. To survive, those who graduated as teachers would quickly pack off for Kenya, Southern Africa or elsewhere other than Uganda. This was their chance to escape a life of misery, that was the misfortune of being a teacher.

But Patrick was different. He had already decided on a career as a teacher. Other than flee for greener pastures across the borders, he lingered and soon the Ministry of Education posted him to Namilyango College as a teacher of Physics and Maths. Meanwhile, his relationship with Molly had matured and on 24th September, 1988, which happened to be Molly’s birthday, they tied the knot at Namirembe Cathedral.

If there was one rocky start, full of test, here was one. Soon blessed with a baby girl, the child died at just three months after a short illness. Then they had a boy. At eight months while crawling he picked up an object, put it in his mouth and choked to death. Patrick was out of town when he received the devastating news of the loss of his second child!

Such trials can tear apart a young family but Bakka and Molly’s love and faith was of true mettle. They weathered through it all. And then a life changing career move took place.

For much of the first half of the 1900s, Budo would attract back her best students to return and serve as teachers. The list is endless and reads like a Who is Who in Uganda. Among these one finds: William Senteza- Kajubi, later twice Vice Chancellor, Makerere University; Erisa Kironde, later Chairman of Uganda Red Cross; Joshua Zake, later first post independence minister of Education; William Kalema, later Minister of Commerce in Obote government; Sarah Ntozi, first Uganda woman graduate; Appolo Kironde, later first Ugandan Ambassador at UN; David Sentongo, later long serving Makerere University Secretary. In the late 1960s a former student called Elizear Kizza Bawuba had returned too, before going to Ohio University, US for postgraduate studies.

But the 1970s were harsh, as Uganda spiraled into an age of darkness. Budo lost the bulk of her expatriate teaching staff, many graduates of Oxon- Cambridge. Teachers struggling to survive abandoned the once most coveted profession and, the school, which at one point threatened as the best in East Africa, became like ordinary. There was only one old Budonian, Rev Laban Bombo, who stuck to the trade but had no ambition to serve beyond being School Chaplain and maths teachers.

In 1980, desperate for a successor, the Board led by Mr E M K Mulira, a veteran politician and writer remembered there was once a teacher called EK Bawuba. They approached him and found he was interested in returning as Head Master and help revive the school. Coming as a man on a mission within the first year of arriving back, he resurrected the Budo model of excellence, and that year she was announced as the best performing school in the Secondary exams. Bawuba preached to his students, “only the best is good enough.”

Unfortunately, by mid 80s, Bawuba’s health had started to suffer, after being diagnosed with cancer. Not wanting to see his dream perish he went out with characteristic energy to entice back some of his old students as teachers. Once he got wind that Bakka had been placed at Namilyango College, he maneuvered his way around and had him move to Budo. In fact, earlier he had had him back for his teaching practice but this time he was a confirmed teacher.

In 1998, Mr Bawuba passed on, but with his mission accomplished. There was now a new crop of graduate old Budonins as teachers. These included: Prossy Sengoba, Edwin Dhauke, Henry Semwanga, Lawrence Semkube and of course Patrick Bakka Male. Mr Bawuba would be succeeded by Mr Sam Busulwa, a superb educationist, who maintained the school at its top, in spite of reluctance by certain Budonians to embrace him because he was not a former student. Of course this was a moot point. All the first7 white headmasters none had studied at Budo but went on to serve the school excellently.

Bakka and Molly happily settled in Budo and after walking through a tunnel of fire, the Lord opened the floodgates of blessing. They saw their family grow to three boys, Peter, Paul, Joseph and a girl, Rebecca. Every Sunday he fellowshipped at Namirembe Cathedral, where he was a church warden.

In 2000 as Mr Busulwa’s term drew to a close the question of his successor took center stage. Bakka had quickly progressed to Deputy Head Teacher but there was a small problem. His experience was virtually limited to Budo and some considered him too young. An opportunity emerged in 2002 when an opening emerged and he was posted as Head Master of Muntuyera High School- Kitunga in Ankole.

Budo has a history of exporting her model of excellence to other schools. In 1926 a former teacher at Budo, Ernest Calwell, left and started Nyakusura school in Toro Kingdom along the same model of education. In 1991 the once Ag Head Master and old Budonian Stephen Kamuhanda was posted to Ntare School which had lost its luster and helped revive it back to its place of glory. Started in early 1960 as a church founded school, Muntuyera High School, had already produced notable alumni, including Gen Mugisha Muntu, Justice Yorak Bamwine, Attorney Enos Tumusime. However, the school had lately started to disintegrate due to persistent strikes.

Bakka saw it as an opportunity to prove himself outside the shadow of Budo. He exported the Budo clockwork system of excellence and not only did the culture of strikes cease but the school suddenly became an academic power house in the West. Now noticed he was moved to Mengo Senior School, one of the first schools in Uganda. There not only did he see it become one of the best performing schools but also set out to build an administration bloc.

Encouraged by his progressive leadership, come 2008 and there was a switch for him to rejoin Budo as Head Teacher, replacing Mr George Semivule who was moved to Mengo School. Upon return Bakka found one hot issue awaiting him.

In 2006 Budo had celebrated her 100th anniversary. Among some of the activities leading to the celebration was fundraising and opening up a swimming pool on the school premises. The earlier pool based at Nansove, known for its environmentally unfriendly bush, had long fallen into decay. A prominent section of Budonians settled in the diaspora focused on raising funds. However, by 2008, in spite of all the money, except for a few dormant blocs, there was no pool!

This lapse had created a toxic atmosphere of restlessness within the Budo fraternity and it was an issue that needed to be addressed head on. Using some of the skills he had picked up along the way in fundraising and financial management, Bakka, who had by then gone back to school and acquired a Masters degree in Public Administration and Management from Makerere University, got the job of raising a swimming pool, finally accomplished. Buoyed by this success he moved to the next building project and fundraised to build a new administration block, which he also completed to success.

However, not all was well. The job of being Head Master of Budo is one of the most challenging in Uganda largely due to high expectations from Old Budonians. In 1977 Dr Daniel Kyanda had resigned as the 8th Head Master, spent and exhausted by a barrage of criticism, especially by his contemporaries unappreciative of his work to maintain the school in a turbulent time. Many Budonians, accomplished in their right, are unsparing in their criticism the moment they sense the school is sliding below number one, which is taken as a right. Upon release of national exams various sections of the Budo community habitually sit down in cafes, bars, gyms and invade social media chat rooms to analyze every last detail. Woe behold, if the school is not among the top three! The wires are going to ring off the hook the whole day. “The man is killing our school!” so goes. “He must leave!”

Bakka’s work would be complicated by another challenge. In 1997 Uganda introduced Universal Primary Education and the primary leaving population soon jumped from 5 million to over 7 million. Once PLE and UCE results were released throngs of anxious parents would queue up begging for a place in a school meant initaially for a population of 500 at the most, but which had since doubled but with more or less the same infrastructure. Much as he pleaded lack of space, often going at great length to squeeze in as many, Bakka always stood hurting someone who he failed to admit his child.

Bakka could be forthright and rather blunt in dismissing off some of the requests. Once he confessed to a highly placed official disturbed about his relation with his schoolmates he had spurned, “There are two Budonians,” he shared. “There are those who love the school and never left and are always involved in school projects. Then there are these other Budonians who left but only return and start demanding that I admit their kids. I have little respect for them.” And in one uncharitable mood he went on record to say, “Budonians, already made, should learn to give others a chance!”

Feeling slighted, some of the Budonians started a campaign to have him recalled, especially when his health suffered complications. They called up Ministry of Education and went on to complain to Church of Uganda as well. But there were two things which made such a campaign a dead start.

First, while Budo is a government aided school, except for the salaries of some of the staff, it only receives paltry funds from government of Uganda for its maintenance. With the school charging some of the least school fees in the country, government officials aware of their admission lists too, knew that the man was up to the job as through all his years Budo’s attained a 95% average first grade pass, while still engaged in building projects. By then he had started renovating and expanding teachers houses, which had also fallen in decay.

Secondly, because of his selfless service for Church of Uganda, Bakka was now one of the most influential lay leaders. He was not only head of laity at Namirembe, but had since served as Chairman of Namugongo Museum construction. He sat on Boards of various church owned institutions, including Uganda Christian University. Bishops all over appreciated his work.

Yet, if Bakka was facing challenges with his fellow Budonians, none could match as when he decided to build a school wall and fence off the vast school land. While in 1980 Uganda’s population was at 12 million, growing at over 3%, by 2008, it had risen to over 30 million. This had led to scarcity of land and encroachers had started laying claim on Budo land, too, often using a combination of farcical historical claims or bogus state military connections. Among some of the claimants was also a certain group of old Budo acquaintances and their beneficiaries. The moment he started land fencing they took to fighting him personally, hurling all kinds of insults and threats.

It is without saying all this must have had a stress effect on Bakka’s already fragile health. Not a man to give up, helped by the ever available and indefatigable Counsel Jimmy Katende, President of the Old Budonian Club, he calmly soldiered on, and helped secure back 90 percent of the land on top of hill.

Early last October after clocking retirement age his successor, Mr Fred Kazibwe, formerly of Mengo School, was named. A number of Old Budonians, including this writer, proud of all Bakka had done started putting together plans to host him for a job well done party. He had done us proud, simply. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Somewhere about Sunday, November 7th, a sudden rush of discomfort brought Bakka dowm. After being rushed to Mulago hospital he was admitted to Intensive Care Unit. After receiving the news, early in the morning of Tuesday, 9th November, I called up Molly to inquire how he was doing. Her answer was not very encouraging. I sensed all was not well and assured her we were praying. About 30 minutes after hanging up I saw a message that Bakka had passed on, just one month into his retirement.

When he was in S2 Bakka served as school time keeper. The time keeper at Budo is the chap who wakes up before the rest and rushes even through the rain to sound the drum that wakes the school up. As I often lay in my bed catching up on my sweet sleep and usually the last to rise, I had this curiosity what kind of kid was that who instead of enjoying his sleep decided to deny himself and serve the rest. For all his life, Bakka was a time keeper, serving others.

His whole life has all been about building up people. For all the criticism he faced, Bakka was most appreciated by one constituent that in the end mattered the most. It was his students who looked up to him as a fatherly figure. Bakka was a man of aphorism and loved to share folksy stories with his students whom he ministered to in the chapel and at school assemblies. He believed in a holistic education and one of his inspiration saying was “aspire, inspire and leave”; meaning that after all life’s accomplishments one would leave all behind for posterity.

When he had moved off the hill and was residing in his personal house, critics often charged that he wasn’t around to ensure school discipline. Yet the reason he had moved was because the old Head Masters house was in a bad shape due to tear and wear. According to the Chair of the Board of Governors, his classmate, Dr Charles Walaga, “In preparing for succession he knew the new Head master would need a house and therefore decided to build a double storied house which he was never going to sleep in!”

Yet, Bakka, did not just live for serving others at the expense of his family. In spite of all the fears that those who ended up as teachers in Uganda were destined for a life of poverty, using his managerial skills, entrepreneurial acumen and networks he gave his four children the best education and has left all qualified in their respective professions. He had long planned and built a beautiful house with an orchard and a banana plantantation up on Luwungu hill, past Masaka road.

On Friday, November 12th, after laying a flower in his grave, driving back to Kampala, not far from the Equator, I reflected on his life. I remembered what President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of Defense, Edwin M Stanton, said after he breathed his last from mortal wounds inflicted by an assassin, John Wilkes Booth in 1865, dying aged just 56. Stanton looked up and said, “He now belongs to the Ages.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is not the amount of years but the life in them that matters”! Some would say at 60 Bakka has gone too young. But at an early age he found his purpose in life- “Become Head Master of King’s College Budo”- and when the door opened he lived up to the bill. He used that opportunity to serve humanity and improve his society. In a time where integrity is a scarce commodity he maintained the Budo brand of excellence and service above self. Because Bakka lived his life impacting others, many decades, if not a century from now, he will still be living in all those whose life he touched and built.

The writer is Associate Professor of Management, Uganda Christian University and writing a book, “The Budo African Headmasters.”

The Manager and Solving Problems

Johnny felt he had the best job in the world as DJ of one of the most popular FM radio stations, Sharp FM. He hosted the afternoon drive show whose popularity was evidenced by the number of calls received. Johnny would normally drop in at 2pm and spend an hour picking music, ads and jingles to play. Right on cue at 3pm he would enter the studio and be lost with his listeners up to 7pm when his show ended for a talk show.

Soon after the show he would spend about an hour at the station writing reports and responding to some of the e mails and text messages that had come while hosting. Then it was time to hit the bars where he caught up on his company.

Sharp FM was operating in a very competitive environment. The station relied on commercial adverts but due to stiff competition securing business was a flex of muscle. The government had also started to count on FM stations as potential revenue source and was beginning to squeeze them for taxes.

One day Johnny dropped in for his show only to find the station General Manager had suddenly quit. He couldn’t handle it anymore. But the station proprietors seemed in no hurry to find a replacement and for a while the station carried on without. However, as sales dipped without anyone to lead and DJs started dropping in late or absent themselves without notice, it became very evident the station needed a Manager.

One day Johnny reported to work only to be handed a letter. “You are hereby appointed as Ag General Manager!” Being a manager was the least of Johnny’s desire and he declined the offer on spot. “I am happy just running my show because no one bothers me!”

“No!” the owners insisted. “We feel you have managerial potential.”

Pressed, he decided to take up the offer, hoping he would balance it with running his show. The first day as a Manager he was awoken with a call. There had been an attempt to steal a transmitter that supplied power to the station mast. Johnny spent most of the day with police filing reports. He only got to run his show just in time.

The next day again before rising, a call came in. The van that picks up DJs had broken down. Johnny quickly authorized renting one from a dealer. When he got to work he found on his desk a letter of resignation from a DJ who had captured a huge market for the morning show. He had been snatched by the competition.  He started looking for replacement by placing an ad in the papers.

Then as the day progressed he received a letter from the tax authority. The station was on notice to pay up a huge tax debt or be  shut down in a week’s time. Johnny started running around banks to secure an overdraft and stay afloat.

It seemed like every day there was no room to catch breath. Just as he had solved one problem another cropped up. The days flew past and soon there was payroll to meet. But then the sales had been slow, forcing him to borrow. Occasionally one of the station machines was down and had to call up a technician to fix it. Because of all the problems that kept flowing on to his desk Johnny started missing his daily show. Eventually, he decided to give up hosting.

Stressed by all these problems he was encountering, Johnny decided to throw in the towel. However, just as he was about, he accidently bumped into an Executive coach, who had been invited as a speaker at a communications conference. He cornered the coach and bared his woes. “I am thinking of quitting because my job is so stressful,” he said. “I am always running around fixing problems.”

“Well, just imagine if there were no problems would there be a need for a Manager?” the coach asked.

“We tried to do that but then discovered we couldn’t do without one,” Johnny said.

“That’s exactly why you are a manager,” replied the coach. “Your job is to manage problems!”

Johnny came out of that meeting with a better perspective and understanding of his new role. As a DJ he had led an almost carefree simple life without anyone looking up to him. However, now as a manager, everyone looked up to him to solve their problems. Being someone who loved taking up challenges he agreed when he was confirmed. Whenever a problem came up to him, he would smile, and go ahead to figure out a way to fix it.

What makes a manager is the ability to handle and solve problems. Where you are a manager and are not encountering problems it would mean there is no cause for your positions. In fact, what makes any manager exceptional is the ability to deal with and manage problems with effective solutions.

Sabotaged by his people!

After a long career abroad, culminating as regional IMF chief of Latin America, Mukulu returned to settle back home. Feeling still energetic, he formed a to do list, with setting up a mixed farm of banana plantains, a dairy farm of exotic cows and an orchard of oranges, at the fore. He had over the years been buying land back in his village of Bigenge which by the time he retired had expanded up to a square mile.

In planning to go into large scale farming, one of Mukulu’s main motivation was to give back to his home district. Through the years whenever he visited he was always grieved to see the extent of poverty washing everywhere. Passing through Bigenge town he saw children scattered about in rags while the youths were loitering in the center of town playing board games.

As a developmental financier, Mukulu had seen how investors had transformed rural areas by putting up large scale farms or a factory that lifted the neighborhood from poverty by creating jobs. “This will be my way of fighting poverty back home,” he had long reasoned and couldn’t wait to get started.

However, his brother Dr Laba, who had also retired from public service as a medical officer, advised him against. “Just invest your savings in the money market than throwing it to those ungrateful people!”

Mukulu ignored and collateralized some of his assets to secure financing for the dream farm. Because of the specialized nature of his project he brought over workers from neighboring Kenya with expertise. This included the Farm manager, Mr Koinage, These workers were housed in uni-pots scattered over the farm. As migrant workers they ate mostly out which gave a boost to Bigenge’s town life. Restaurant and bars suddenly opened to provide services. And once the farm started harvesting produce, Jubilee bank, that had long neglected Bigenge town opened up a branch to provide needed services for farm workers and the growing town population.

Mukulu was happy that because of his project Bigenge was finally being transformed into a prosperous town. The farm was always looking for extra hands and in town businesses were in need of help. “Finally Bigenge is going to be on the map as a model town,” he called up his skeptical brother Dr Laba. “I have created jobs for our people!”

“You wait!” Dr Laba shot back skeptically.

Mukulu wondered why Laba was so skeptical when his project had even improved the road leading to Bigenge. He remained convinced of his mission and opened up a juice factory. Each time he wanted to expand his farm he would go to his bankers who impressed with his vision extended him another credit line.

In spite of all Mukulu was struggling to make ends meet. According to his business plan he had expected to break even in his third year of business operation. But come to fifth year he was still in the red. One of the things affecting progress was pilferage. “We would be braking even by now,” Mr Koinage had once told him, “but there is theft everywhere. These people steal the milk, the fruits and even at the factory they end up stealing and selling the our manufactured goods on the market to compete with ours.”

“How ungrateful!” Mukulu said, recalling Dr Laba’s concern “Maybe we should carry out a sensitization community workshop to win them over.”

The Local Council Chairman, Liso, was a forward looking man who had welcomed Mukulu’s project because it would create jobs. He was tired of seeing youths aimlessly loitering about. Upon being contacted he quickly organized a community meeting. Yet when Mukulu turned up early with Liso, attendance was poor. In fact, soon after, things just got worse.

One day Mukulu was summoned by the National Bureau of Standards threatening to shut down his factory claiming that he had compromised quality. Mukulu was surprised as at the factory he took extreme care to meet all the set standards. Apparently, someone not happy with his factory had reported him to the regulator, whishing he close shop.

By then Mukulu’s debt had soared to worrying levels. “I brought development here,” he talked to his bankers who were now threatening to liquidate the farm and factory, “yet instead of supporting me these are the same people sabotaging.”

As the debt worsened Mukulu called another community sensitization meeting. This time effort was made to have residents attend by urging them to attend through a loudspeaker blaring out invitation for a week. The turn up was quite better and at the meeting Mukulu got straight to the point. “I am asking all of us here to come and pull together,” he pleaded. “Our farm and factory have all the promise of creating jobs but some of us here are the ones sabotaging it. Not only do they steal farm produce but some have started reporting us to the authorities who are threatening to shut us down. What kind of bad people are these! I want us to be sincere with ourselves if we are closed down, who will have gained!”

There was silence. The meeting ended with everyone pledging support. However, just as Mukulu was stepping into his car to head back to the city, he overheard some of the villagers sharing. “I don’t understand why this rich man is bothered with the little we steal!”

“Those people just want to have everything,” the friend countered. “Why is he telling us he is helping us like he found us starving!”

Mukulu now realized he had a far bigger problem. For all his effort to develop and modernize Bigenge he was being accused of exploitation. Unable to service his loan due to recurring fraud at the farm and factory, the bank finally auctioned off. The new owners other than him decided to plant trees which didn’t need much of farm hands. All the foreign workers left and shops closed. Bigenge reverted back to its old dusty town of youths loitering about playing board games and children scattered waiting for someone to come and sponsor them out of poverty.

On occasion we do come across such well-intended developmental projects brought to the country only to be sabotaged by the very people they sought to help. Around one town a story is told of a certain commercial bank that was ruined and brought to its knees by the very workers it provided jobs with due to internal fraud. A lot that had been going on to the detriment of the bank was known and could easily have been arrested through mutual cooperation. But there was an attitude that this bank “belongs to those rich people” giving justification to fraud. The interesting thing is when the bank was closed the majority of the staff who lost their jobs, tainted with having worked for a fallen enterprise, failed to secure employment elsewhere. Most soon packed and went back to the village where they died languishing in poverty.

Here Mukulu had brought home a development project but he lacked support, or at least there was a significant section of the population that did not appreciate him. In the end, just as Dr Laba had advised him, he decided to cut his losses, went back to the city and put all his money in the money market to live off  interest without any further stress. But for his people in Bigenge it was back again to their life of squalid poverty.


@ Turning Point is authored by Dr Martin M. Lwanga with the purpose to inspire by reflecting on life through personal experiences and life observations. The first collection of “Turning Point” is finally out, titled “Who is my Friend?” You can order a copy at only UGX 30,000 ( extra costs for delivery). Send/ Call Whatsup message 0772401774/ 0752921386.

The danger of a disempowered central bank

A story is told that one day General Idi Amin called up Governor Joseph Mubiru, of Bank of Uganda. Amin was short of cash which he desperately needed to beef up his army, after Israeli and Britain who had incidentally helped him take over government in January 1971, failed him. Faced with the threat of war from Tanzania, harboring the fallen President Obote, he was furious when they balked at his request for ammunition.

Amin, the story goes, turned to the Central bank for money. But when he asked Governor Mubiru, he gently pointed that he had no such powers due to strict money supply controls. “But can’t you print for me money?” the General boomed. “No, that will worsen inflation,” replied the cool central banker.

The General was not used to being disobeyed. On September 20th 1972, Governor Mubiru, just after visiting his ageing mother in Masaka, was stopped and thrown into the boot of a Peugeot, which was driven to Malire barracks. That was the last he was seen alive!

I have taken time to cross check this story. Actually by the time he disappeared, Governor Mubiru had already left the central bank and was waiting for a posting with IMF. There is some mystery about what prompted his disappearance, soon to be followed with that of Chief Justice Ben Kiwanuka later in the same month. However, even as this story may have certain loopholes, there is some credence to the fact that under Idi Amin the independence of the central bank was severely compromised.

The  primary objectives of Bank of Uganda, as once shared by Governor Emmanuel Mutebile is “ to protect the interests of depositors and to ensure the overall stability of the financial system, through prudential regulation and supervision of deposit-taking institutions.” Central banks world over ensure monetary stability especially by controlling inflation. The primary weapon central banks use is through managing interest rates which are raised once inflation heats up to discourage money supply in the economy. High interest rate force borrowers to access less money as it is increasingly costly to borrow. On the other hand central banks use money to pump life in a weak economy by lowering interest rates enabling more business access funds for investment. In brief at the heart of Uganda’s economic growth is a professionally managed central bank.

But not all has gone well ever since Uganda founded Bank of Uganda in 1966, which Governor Mubiru was a prime mover. By the time Amin regime had collapsed in 1979, inflation had worsened eroding the earnings of ordinary Ugandans. In fact, the value of the shilling had depreciated so much that future regimes had to periodically devalue the shilling.

Between 1981 and 1988, for instance, the government repeatedly devalued the Ugandan shilling in order to stabilize the economy. Yet the money supply continued to grow at an annual rate of 500 percent. In July 1988, the government again devalued the shilling by 60 percent. Eventually government’s efforts to bring the economy under control succeeded in reducing the country’s staggering inflation from over 300 percent in 1986 to about 72 percent in 1988.

Since then Uganda’s inflation rate has stabilized at 5-7 percent, quite within the norm. The benefits for the economy are obvious. Low inflation brings confidence in the economy, as stable prices ensure that earnings are not rendered useless. People can deposit their savings in banks and not fear loss of value. It is this money that banks lend out for investment.

If it were not for the prudent management of the central bank, there is a possibility Uganda’s inflation could easily have worsened back to the 1980s nightmares. To get a reality check on this, one has only to take a peep at Zimbabwe’s economy. After series of economic mismanagement, brought on by the ill-advised land seizure from white farmers causing a steep drop in Agricultural output, capital flight by investors and economic sanctions forced on her by donors, Zimbabwe’s inflation at one point run up to 431.1 Quintillion percent ( that is 431,900,000,000, 000,000,000) change in prices in one year, as reported by the 2008 Annual Report, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

It is against this background that recent moves to humble and perhaps downsize the powers of Bank of Uganda, are worrisome. Bank of Uganda has the power to regulate all financial institutions in the country, including closure, especially once it observes customer savings are being threatened with a worsening balance sheet due to mismanagement. If a customer happens to go down to his bank and finds it no longer has enough money to release, a rumor can sweep through town, and before one realizes queues are in the middle of streets, of depositors desperate to withdraw their savings. This panic run can lead to a run on banks climaxing in a collapse of the financial system.

To avoid such a scenario Bank of Uganda has been quite aggressive to act decisively against any financial institution that failed to pass its periodic test. Since 1993 she has closed seven banks: Greenland Bank, Teefe Trust Bank, International Credit Bank, Crane Bank, National Bank of Commerce, Gold Trust Bank and Cooperative Bank.

As expected not everyone has been amused. Where one would have tried to research into why our local banks have been more liable for closure,  predictably many have resorted to question the management of the central bank, with possibly the goal of undermining her powers to regulate. In 2019 a report presented by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) to parliament urged the punishing of various central bank officials accusing them of not following procedure in bank closure.

So, there is no applause, even after protecting depositors whose savings might have withered in face of a ruined financial system. As the central bank continues being bludgeoned with suits, Uganda needs to pause and ask if we believe in a robustly managed central bank, that protects depositors. This is not to argue that there are several management lapses at the central bank, flourishing on some abuse of power, as revealed during parliamentary hearings. These ills must be addressed. But not at the expense of leaving behind a much humbled central bank, that next time its radar senses a commercial bank that has over shot its luck, it’s fearful of touching the powers that be!

Balancing Work & Family

“I don’t think the new CEO will last!” Sanyu, who was HR chief of Wangala Commercial Bank, was sharing with her husband. She was still trying to adjust to the working style of her new boss, as the last CEO stayed in office as late as 9pm.

“But why?” Kato asked, curious.

“Well, he hardly puts in enough working hours,” Sanyu aired her concern. “Yes he gets to office quite early but by 4pm the man closes his file, to go to the club to play tennis, leaving us buried in our work.”

“But is that bad?” wondered Kato who normally picked up kids from school, as Sanyu stayed late in office, with a desk covered with all sorts of papers to clear. “Give him a chance.”

As new boss Mr Mukasa was different. After successfully completing his six month probation he started instituting changes. Early on he had observed the working culture here involved getting to work by the crack of dawn and staying late in office. This followed on Saturday, with some staff dropping by even on Sundays. Most of the managers were pulling in 90 plus hours of work in a week.

Looking at the performance of his bank compared to others, Mukasa, could not justify those punishing working hours, as it only managed mediocre performance. In fact, lately profits had stagnated, which had caused managers to pull in more hours, as they sought ways to keep the bank afloat.

But it was all coming at a cost. One of the first thing Mr Mukasa had noticed was the huge medical bill the bank was incurring to take care of staff health. The contracted health insurance company was always billing the bank, as staff would stop at her clinics. Request for sick leaves was the order of the day. A number of staff had just had strokes while at work, and the bank had to meet their long therapy.

“I want us to enroll all staff here in some recreational programme,” Mr Mukasa called on Sanyu. “Staff here must balance their work with play.”

“But that will come at huge cost,” Sanyu hesitated. “Instead of attending to work some of these young people will just louse away in gyms.”

“First of all staff don’t need to stay up late in office if there are meeting their targets,” Mr Mukasa explained. “But I have seen the medical bill here, and I know what is causing it. I don’t want to win a war with corpses scattered all over!”

Mr Mukasa then sat down and wrote a Memo which he asked Sanyu to circulate without fail. “Staff who are unable to complete their tasks within the allocated 8 hours a day would be seen as inefficient,” the Memo read, “and must first ask permission from their bosses to stay after 5pm. No Staff is now allowed to come to work on Saturday except when absolutely necessary to beat a certain deadline.”

Once the Memo was out it caused no small excitement. The more senior staff, who equated pulling long hours with productivity, hesitated. However, the younger managers quickly embraced it. What won this camp over, including Sanyu, was that at the end of the financial year, Wangala Bank outperformed her peers on all important indicators. A staff survey found staff were generally much happier and the huge medical bill had also gone down.

There is a belief embraced by some managers that the longer one stays in office the more productive he is. However, evidence for that is sparse, as some staff just ends up creating work to fill up the hours. More so, this can also come at a huge cost by lowering staff moral due to stress, family disintegration for lack of time at home, and sacrifice of personal health.