By Norbert Mao

A lot will be said about what happened last week when the alumni of the Uganda Young Democrats convened a gathering bringing together everyone that believes in regime change. It was a celebration but also an occasion for soul searching. The message was clear: DP should stop being the reluctant party and provide leadership for the multitudes that hunger for change in Uganda. DP should unite and form the nucleus around which an opposition coalition can be built. The many talented DP leaders who have been supporting other parties and candidates should withdraw their support and rally support for DP. Which brings me to the story I told the gathering with credit to Chinua Achebe.

Tortoise was a cunning fellow, who was known to pull a trick or two on the animals. When he heard that the birds had been invited to a feast by the sky people, his mouth watered at the thought of the delicious food that would be on offer. The land had been stricken by drought and Tortoise was so thin that his shriveled body rattled inside its shell.

He used his powers of persuasion to get the birds to allow him to accompany them to the feast. Of course he didn’t have wings like they did, but they were a friendly lot and each bird kindly donated a feather to Tortoise, which he made into two nice big feathered wings. Tortoise was a sly reptile and the birds didn’t really trust him at all, but he assured them that he was a changed man.

They all dressed themselves and then took off together for the feast in the sky. Tortoise, being widely traveled and knowledgeable, told them that it was important to note that when they were invited to such a great feast, it was customary that they should change their names for the occasion. This was news to the birds, but they respected Tortoise for his great wisdom. After the birds had all assumed new names, Tortoise renamed himself “All of you.”

When they arrived at their destination in the sky, they were warmly welcomed by their hosts. Tortoise, in his beautiful feathered plumage, stood up to thank them for their invitation and he was so eloquent and grand that the sky people assumed that he was the king of the birds. The feast began with pots and pots of delicious food being set before them. Tortoise could hardly believe his eyes. The sky people invited the birds to eat. Tortoise immediately jumped up and asked them who the food had been prepared for. “For all of you,” the man said.

Tortoise turned to the birds and reminded them that his new name was “All of you” and he said that the custom here was for the spokesperson to eat first and then the other birds would be served after he had eaten. Tortoise ate and ate and ate and the birds grumbled angrily. The people of the sky thought it was the bird’s custom to allow their king to eat first.

Tortoise ate his fill and left the birds nothing but bones and meagre pickings. They were so angry with him that they chose to abandon him.

The birds were so angry that they each took their feathers from Tortoise. He was now unable to fly back home. Tortoise begged the birds to send a message to his wife to bring out all the soft things from his house so that when he jumped from the Sky, he would be okay. They all refused but the eagle, the angriest of all the birds, agreed but instead told Mrs Tortoise to bring out all the hard things from the house.

When Tortoise jumped from the Sky, he landed on the hardest and sharpest objects and his shell broke into many pieces. He was able to pick them up and glue them back together but his previously smooth shell was never smooth again.

The moral is clear. Go to whichever tortoise you had lent your feathers to and retrieve them. It is only fair.