Joash Mayanja Nkangi, one of the most prominent, and perhaps one of the most consequential politicians of our time, passed away at Nakasero Hospital on Monday March 6. He was aged 87.
After dedicating his life to the service of his country in different high profile Civil Service positions, in a career spanning over four decades, Nkangi, returned to private practice as an active lawyer and a member of the Uganda Law Society (ULS).
Nkangi, lost a short battle to pneumonia early this week. But his passion for work demonstrated that he had so much he desired to achieve than just stay home and enjoy his pension. It is only those closest to him who will probably live to tell and try to tie-up his many unfinished businesses, but from the public and private interactions he made, some of his unfinished endeavours will remain to be dearly missed.
His most recent legal pursuit came when he had to represent his client, Pastor Samuel Kakande, in Parliament during an inquiry into the controversial allocation of plots of land in the expansive Lwera Swamp, that later became a huge sand mine. While he might have attracted a number of people to his firm, there are some businesses that clearly had a potential to impact on all of us and future generations that sadly never left his mind, his desk and so, he left with them.
One of the biggest undertakings in his life, The Sunrise had the privilege to know about, but one that Nkangi never lived to complete, was the publication of his memoir, as a central figure in the tumultuous history of Uganda, before, during and after independence.
In an interview he gave, the lake Nkangi was asked whether he wanted to record his vast experiences, but he froze those attempts saying: “If I give you those facts that you are asking of me and you go and publish them in your publication, you will pre-empt my book that I am working on and one I am expecting to be released soon,” he said.
But as one of Nkangi’s contemporaries and the late Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, put it in one of his books; “Death is a bad harvester because it harvests unready fruits.” Indeed, the cruel hand of death has robbed many Ugandans and future generations, an opportunity to peek into the events and circumstances that obtained at the time of Uganda’s independence, especially Nkangi’s point of view.
Whereas some people had a glimpse of his impeccable record from speeches at his funeral, thanks in part to newspapers, others were left yawning for authentic works and words written by Nkangi himself. He has died with his facts and ideas.
Yet, several of his contemporaries, still alive, have not written their biographies. For example, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, the former President General of DP, has only written a book on Party Financing. “I decided to write this book because it will be very useful to put in place controls in the way parties obtain and use funds.” He said. For those interested in biographies, those will come later.
When one reflects on the number of central figures who have died without documenting their political and commercial experiences, one is left asking why. It is the question The Sunrise put to some of the senior citizens. to answer as the country bids farewell to Mayanja Nkangi.
Former Buganda Chief Justice Minister, Aloysius Darlington Lubowa,85, who was also part of the high-powered delegation that negotiated with the Queen of England’s Government for Uganda’s independence, is another prominent Muganda politician, who is yet to write a book.
He explained his reluctance to record the historical facts to the poor-reading culture among Ugandans. “With such a culture, attempts to write books are nipped in the bud because what comes to the mind of would-be potential writers is that it is not worth the time, the money and the energy that it all takes. This is simply because after going through all that trouble, books just gather dust with no people to appreciate them and read them, ” Lubowa stated.
But the discussion with Lubowa appears to suggest he might have regretted that decision when he said.” It is unfortunate that my eyes are already dimmed. And apart from a few lines I may scribble down, I have not written anything yet and unfortunately again, chances are becoming slimmer and slimmer for me to do so,” Lubowa said.
He spoke to The Sunrise in an exclusive interview shortly after delivering his eulogy of Nkangi at a requiem service organized by the Buganda Kingdom at Namirembe Cathedral on Wednesday this week.
To former Buganda Katikkiro, Dan Muliika, the blame goes to the academia and the media for not showing interest in recording the historical facts that are in the custody of senior citizens like himself while they are still alive. “Much as they may not have the time, none of those iconic senior citizens can be approached by willing intellectuals and they turn down the idea of having their stories recorded. But who has taken such an interest apart from just asking for their books until we shall lose all of them?” Muliika regrettably remarked.
Muliika, who has had run-ins with the NRM Government, also blames fear of political persecution as another reason as to why people prefer to spend their retirement in peace than annoy the Government. “I know some people who fear to write down facts they know and witnessed simply because they don’t want to run into problems with the regime,” Muliika added.
Perhaps the most plausible of all reasons is one that was stated by one of the retired former cancer expert at the Uganda Cancer Institute, E.B. Tomusange, who bluntly stated that it is laziness that makes many fail to write. “We are just lazy. We just need to wake up and write or we shall have no explanation to offer to the next generations,” said Tomusange. For those of you who are still lucky to be alive, this is the time to get up and write. No one can ever tell your story better than yourself, he added.
Mayanja Brief Bio
Mayanja Nkangi: Born 1937 – Died March 6, 2017
Started education at his fathers school at Kabungo, present day Kalungu district, which is part of greater Masaka.
Moved to Kako primary school
Went to Kings College Buddo
Joined Makerere College for his A’level and proceeded to Makerere College of East Africa, which was then affiliated to the University of London. He was one of only five Ugandans admitted to the British university that year. At University of London, he studied maths and economics which he passedd with flying colours something that earned him a scholarship in 1954, to the prestigious Oxford University where he did a masters degree in economics and public finance.
in 1960, he formed United Party, later United National Party.
In 1962, abandoned his party to join the Kabaka Yekka (KY) party that was hurriedly formed to take care of interests of Buganda in the soon to be new independent Uganda.
He was elected KY MP for Masaka East in May 1962.
During Obote I, Nkangi served as Parliamentary secretary, Minister without portfolio in the ministry of economic affairs, Commerce and Industry minister.
In 1964 Nkangi was appointed Buganda Katikkiro,
Between 1985-86, he served in Okello Lutwa’s government as Labour minister
Between 1986 to 2002, Nkangi served as Museveni’s minister holding the dockets of Education, Planning and Economic Development, Finance as well as Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
He was later appointed chairman of the Uganda Land Commission a job he did till 2013.
He returned to his law firm to practice law and was an active lawyer till the time of his death.