By Henry Mutebe
Dear Young people,
I love writing about politics and pointing out the challenges of our times. Like many others, I will continue to point out things which are not right with our government. However, I will have cheated you if I do not write about what we should do as individuals. We can write exciting pieces and we all cheer each other…but, we need to do more than that.
Now, many are praying that government changes. The hope is that if government changes, everything will be okay. I can assure you that one day, soon or later, President Museveni will not be President of Uganda. Whether that happens now or tomorrow or after 15 years from today. That is a constant. It will happen. So his departure is not a question of if, but when.
It is my prayer however that when that time comes though, you are the best Doctor, Engineer, Teacher, IT specialist, Businessman/woman, artist or scientist…or whatever…and that if the system starts working as you wish it to, you will be the person that society will offer the job or contract.
In South Sudan, our neighbour in the north, there was a war between the north and south. Sudan was largely under the economic and political domination of the people in the northern part, who were largely muslim and had a ligher color tone. For years the south felt ignored and exploited. Having one enemy, they united to fight the northerners. The northerners knew that if the south became independent, they would lose a third of the oil revenues. To them, this could not happen on their watch. The war ragged on for years living hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.
However, in 2005, the South and North managed to reach an agreement that paved way for a referendum that led to the eventual break way of the south. This is how South Sudan became an independent country. When this happened, the hope had been that since the enemy- the Arab northerners, had gone, the problem had been solved. Far from their hopes, the south has seen worse atrocities under their own self-rule. Even in the absence of the northerners whom they considered the problems, they are fighting and killing one another in large numbers over the last 7 years.
The reason I am sharing this is to remind us that while we may fully attribute all our problems to Museveni and his regime, we have to also do some self-assessment and find out if we are fit for take off, in case the opportunities we believe will exit, are availed. Are you sure, you will be among the best 100 applicants if 1500 people applied for a job? Are you tech servy? Do you know your field very well? Do you understand what is going on in your field? Have you upgraded your knowledge? Do you take any courses every year, to stay on top of the game?
I know that many of you are entering or are already in the reproductive age. Have you thought about the fact whether it is Dr. Besigye, Muntu, Olara Otunu, Akena, Bobi Wine or Abed Bwanika, it will be you to meet the needs of your spouse and children? Have you thought about how many children you want to have?
As we ask government to be prudent with resources, have we thought about how we are saving at a personal level? Do you have any savings? This does not require you to have a big income. You can even save 5% of all you get and still have something in your pocket.
If you are the business type, do you have a business plan? If someone rich guy called you and asked you to front your business idea with proper statistics, would you front a good and well researched idea? Do you have a plan written down on how you want to get to where you want to get?
In relationships, are you thinking before you engage in sexual activity? Do you know that a few minutes pleasure can turn around your life for worse? Are you aware that your parents will be the most hurt when you catch HIV? Do you think about how your behaviour will hurt all your family members?
If you are at University, do you ever remember where you come from? Before you decide to live a lavish lifestyle, do you understand what your parents go through to give you the life you are living? Before lectures…do you know how many kids missed a place and wish they were you? Have you learnt how your parents made their money? Apart from school knowldge, have you learnt from your family or parents anything hands-on that can help you survive and thrive in case you cant find a job with your papers?
Lets asume, government changed tomorrow, are you sure, you would be the best candidate at an interview? Have you prepared enough? Do you have the best papers and skills? Are you learning from other people? What is the one thing you do or can do that no one else can do as best as you? Do you have any skill for which people look for you because its you that does it best?
Assuming this government will be here for the next 100 years, what is your plan B? Assuming things remain as bad as they are now, what are you going to do? How are you planning to start and raise a family?
As we ask government to be honest, are we honest with ourselves? Can we return money if someone gave us extra change? Can we do the right thing if we had an opportunity to do a wrong thing without anyone knowing or catching us? It is possible that you may rise to where the current leaders are.
It is possible for you to get those spaces where you have the discretion to determine how much to aportion yourself or take as your own. Are you sure, you have the intergrity to resist it? As we blame the police officers for being violent, are we willing to join the army and pólice and make a better and more disciplined pólice forcé? Do you ever thank the few good officers you meet standing under the brutal sun to manage traffic? This would encourage and make them feel loved and motivated.
In many places where I have been, I have seen a couple of things that left me wondering about our society. In other countries, young people are self-starters. They read, research and are curious about knowledge. When was the last time you bought a newspaper of 2000shs and read it? When was the last time you read a book out of search for knowledge and not because you are sitting an exam?
Do you know the population of Uganda? Do you understand your community, its needs, politicians/leaders, structures, opportunities and challenges? Assuming the person you want to become president miraculously became one, and he/she offered you a job as minister of your field of knowledge, would you be the best minister that Uganda has ever heard? Are you a person others can front as knowledgeable and skilled?.
Do you understand policy? Do you know what rules exit? Do understand whats happening around the world? Do you watch news or you are simply watching movies and soaps? Do you know that the people you are watching in those movies/soaps are making money as you watch and burn your time?
Do you care about your neighbours? We are asking government to care and be humane, but do you ever stop to look at the Street child whom you meet or bypass everyday? Do you know their name? Do you know their story? Just one child. Have you ever cared about those in need whom you are not related to? What about that woman who sells bananas or avacados on the Street whom you are not willing to leave 200shs with when you bargain to take the avacado for 800shs instead of 1000shs…but you will pay 30,000shs to go dance in a club. Do you care? Are you sure, when you have money and are in leadership, you will now start caring?
In your current workplace, family or community, are you known for anything or skill? Is there anything that all your peers celebrate about you? Is there anything for which you are the sharpest tool in the box amongst your peers? Are you sure when government changes, your life will change?
We ask the government to care about us. But do you care about your own family? When was the last time you called your sister or brother to check on them, except when communicating important/official or unavoidable information? When was the last time you helped your parents to accomplish work? When was the last time you volunteered?
As surely as day follows night, a time is going to come and the government you do not like will be gone. Will that time find you healthy? Are you watching our for your life? Do you drive with care? Do you save? Do you tell your partner how much you earn? If you do not, how do you expect government to tell u or show you how much they earn or use? Are we honest as a society, before we demand honesty from our leaders…who incidentally come from us?
I think that as a young person, you should start sharpening your skills, attitude and knowledge to be the best there is in your field. Use this time to learn, accumulate knowledge, read, research, volunteer, make good contacts, learn humility, start to care about others, take good care of your body because you will live there all your life.
I think that you may have been born at the best time. Uganda is at the edge of change. Are you ready for that change? Are you sure you are the best versión of yourself? Are you sure, if we considered merit, you are the best? Are you sure, once the government is out, your life will be sorted?
While we worry about the change, I think that we should also worry more about what we are not doing to ready ourselves for the future that we thinking about. It is going to come and only those who are prepared and have invested in themselves to take advantage of it will be better.
Are you sure, if they placed you with a kenyan for an interview, you wouls beat them? Are you sure if a scholarship committee was assessing applicants, your application would be the best? Is there anything you have done to improve yourself and your skills? Do you know yourself? Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses?
Assuming that nobody helps you or gives you any favor, whats your plan B? Assuming things dont change, how are you planning to defy the odds and still make it? I am asking myself these questions and I hope you too take time to ask yourself these questions. It is very tempting to always find an external cause of our problems but harder to look within and see what our own weakness could be.
One disadvantage (which sound have been an opportunity) is that many of us young people have been born at a time when things are over simplified. We have found our parents able to pay our fees, we have maids that do the work at home, we went to good schools, and we have a lot our lives worked out. So we missed out on learning some of the values that brought us this civilization we are enjoying. Our parents gave us too much…so we are struggling to do even the basics yet their lives were harder.
We have not learnt how to work or even save. We have not learnt how do house work. We have not learnt how to take personal responsibility. We have not learnt how to survive. We did not learn from our parents how they worked their way up. This is a very big undoing for us. We have been born in a time of plenty. Even after University, many of us can find accomodation at our parents without being charged.
In other places, our peers have to pay rent to stay with their parents. They are forced to work because nothing comes free. We want to carry iPhones when we hardly have a job. We want to dress like we are millionaires yet we hardly know if we will have our job the next month. We want to have a 100 million wedding yet we have no plot of land where we can build a small house for the children that we shall have.
I hope and pray that you reflect on the fact that the day you are praying for will come, but unless you prepare for it, it will make you even more frustrated as others move up while you remain where you are. The change is going to come but what are you doing to place yourself in the best position for the opportunities that come with that opportunity? Food for thought – for me and you. There are two people in this country. Those who are buying and those selling. What are you doing? Do you have anything to sell? A special product, skill, time? What are you selling? Take Care, keep safe and upgrade yourself.