By Henry Mutebe
I do not know which genre of music most politicians and government officials in Uganda listen to but if they asked me to recommend a song they ought to constantly feed their ear with, it would be Cold Play’s award winning song – Viva la Vida. In that song, Cold Play offer very insightful lryics for current leaders on what to do with power and the inevitable consequence of abusing power. They sing;
‘I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word.
Now in the morning, I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own.
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes…
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.’
Those lines should help our leaders understand that while power makes you feel you are far and above others, if you abuse it, the speed at which you will come down will leave you, without a doubt, shuttered and hurt. Leaders ought to listen to this song and constantly remind themselves that whenever they reach the apex of power and forget that one day; power being fluid, it will flow from them and move on to another person.
As the news of Kayihura’s arrest started spreading like a wild fire, sending many in shock, I couldn’t help but think about the lyrics in that song. In the 3rd line, Cold Play say, ‘I used to roll the dice and feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes… one minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me.’ No time in Mr. Kayihura’s life does this statement come alive and make any sense than now.
Mr. Kale Kyihura, in custody as in times of power and freedom, remained a magnet that attracted the attention of the big and small. As we come to terms with the fact that the hitherto larger than life figure is now under arrest (or to be polite, is under custody), the overarching question is, in my view, what the totality of all this is. What lessons do we draw from the story of a man, who only a few days ago was power, spoke power, ate power, had power and displayed power?
I would like to wheel this conversation about Kayihura to a literary space, where we can peel off some of the conventional layers of meaning and interpretation and explore a little more if anything rests beneath. In my view, the fundamental question in need of adjudication as we reconcile this unbelievable reality that now unfolds before us, seeing the arrest of a man who only yesterday, was in and the power to himself is, what does this teach us about life?
As the fault lines in his power and life begin to emerge; laying bear the infinite infallibility of human judgement, we must quickly ask, what does the rise and seemingly potential downfall of Mr. Kayihura mean about life, ambition, power, pursuit, conscience and choices? Why do these events happen? Why does nature always make us spectators of such rise and downfalls of people? What is life communicating to us through the story of this man?
As people of different political shades, social media critics and experts from diverse disciplines of political and social sciences piece together different strands of information to understand the whats, whys and how’s of the apprehension of a man whose power was felt by friends and foes alike, we must; without undue simplification, extract this story from its ordinary interpretation and explore the concept of ambition and power.
As the once powerful man whose presence crowded extreme fear in the hearts of his foes but in the same measure brought admiration and respect in those who loved him, we must comb through his life, and travel through the lessons that life often offers us through the things, events and people we see every day. As we watch Kayihura’s power geometry disintegrate, his social and political circuit being disintegrated, we must ask, what is life communicating to us through the events in the life of this man.
Mr. Kayihura is a man loved and hated in equal measure. He became obsessed with power. His ambition went ahead of him. His obsession with power helped him achieve success and be seen by the powers that be but sadly, it also became a site of self-entrapment and consequently self-destruction. He became a man drunk with power. Bertrand Russel once said that, ‘the man who is actuated by love of power is more apt to inflict pain than to permit pleasure.’
Mr. Kayihura was offered an opportunity so grand that that he found himself in a situation he had never experienced. Alone and drunk with his new found power and money, he fell prey to the temptations and excesses of power and unconscionable ambition. Far and above counsel, Kayihura was enveloped in his own power and consequently lost the oxygen needed to breathe.
Like all humans, in Kayihura was both an angel and a beast. On some days he was angelic and on other days, he was a beast. I cannot, in my current state of knowledge, tell which of the two he was for the most part. His quest for power trapped him in the extreme and deep end of power, where man is apt to give more pain than to grant pleasure.
His rise and current unenviable situation can only serve to reinforce one standing rule of life: No matter how big you are, no matter how powerful you get, no matter how clever, genius or smart you are, as long as you abuse your power, there comes a time, when the infinite infallibility of human judgment weighs on you, and you fall. Power is fluid, It flows from one moment to another, from one person to another, and at some point, it inevitably leaves and you stand alone, with your past, as your only defence. Today, Kayihura’s defence will be his past.
The example of Kayihura dramatizes for us the folly and irony of power. History is rife with examples of powerful figures who fell because of abusing their power, yet we fail to learn from these never ending examples. Images of failure and downfall should send powerful lessons about our own quests in life. How do we deal with power?
How do you use your power as a man, woman, teacher, policeman, state official, church leader, husband, son, daughter, and other influences you have over others? We have inbuilt compulsions. I would maintain, that we use the story of Kayihura to reflect on our lives and understand that in the end, most of these pursuits are not worth it if they do not serve humanity. When you think about it all, you only discover one important thing, there is a limit to everything.
For as long as you remain human, it is important to be humane. One day, you have power, another day, power has you. No matter how much you give, the country goes on. One must therefore have a sense of balance and proportion over how much they should do while they have power…because someday, you have to account for that power. I hope that Kayihuras example sends us into a room of reflection, where we can sit with ourselves as individuals and rethink our pursuits in life.
We all have some sort of power and advantage over someone…or some people. Let us use it well.
In the past we saw Kayihura as very powerful! Today the events lead us to even wonder if he was ever powerful? Power flows. This, my friends, is the irony of power: too much of it and its abuse sends you to self-destruction. Let’s be more humane whenever we have an opportunity to serve. Power is very fluid and as surely as night falls day, a time comes and it flows out of you.
Those handling Kayihura should also reflect on this song, today you have power like he had, tomorrow you may not have it. It is important that they treat him with proportion and good conscience. For wisdom is always finite and stupidity infinity. Tomorrow another person will do the same things Kayihura did. That is the tragedy of our human society. Few learn from the mistakes of others. I pray that we pick lessons from Kayihuras life. Nature is talking. Pick the signal. Yesterday many wanted to be like Mr. Kayihura…today I don’t know how many want to be like him. Power is fluid