One of the first lectures we had on joining Makerere University in September 1996 was in Political Science.
The PS class was a huge one, with over 500 students. As such, our lectures were conducted in the university Main Hall. Even us who were doing a bachelors degree in Mass Communication, we were required to take Political Science classes.
As we sat, waiting as anxious freshers always are, a bald-headed man wearing big glasses and a freely fitting floral legeza-like shirt sauntered in.
Increasing his paces as he approached the raised platform, he quickly scaled up the few stairs and stood on the podium towering. He was a giant.
“My name is Foster Byarugaba, I am your teacher for this Introduction to Political Science Class,” he said.
I was always an attentive student and always endeavoured to find a seat in the front row. So I was right there looking at Professor Foster Byarugaba and can even still ‘see’ how he stood on that platform that day, 22 years later.
“Today, we are-(-he pronounced those words as –wiyale–in a style we always associated with Roman Catholics of that generation )– going to study about Man in a State of Nature, ” he added.
Man in a State of Nature where he has no rules, no regulations, no conditions. Man on his own, in a jungle if you may, Professor Byarugaba explained.
To further get us to understand what he meant, Prof Byarugaba gave us this narrative: ” Imagine you are in a house alone or in your case, you are in a room in the Hall of Residence like Mitchel Hall alone. You have no roommate. You can choose to walk around naked –completely naked–pacing from one end of the room to another with everything swinging,” he said as he paced on the raised front of the Main Hall, in a demonstrating gesture, throwing his hands up and down.
This sent all of us into a frenzy of prolonged laughters. Some girls laughed so hard, kukwenkwenuka style, that I could see tears of joy running down their cheeks.
“That is what I mean when I talk about man in a state of Nature.,” he added.
He then said that political philosophers have always based their understanding of the behavior of man (encompassing women as well) using the parameters of the state of Nature.
Referring to one specific political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, he said that Hobbes described man in that state as “selfish, greedy, brutal, harsh and egoistic.” Egoistic was a new word for me, so I noted it down in my small notebook to later check it out in the dictionary.
He said that man,left in that state of Nature without rules, the world would experience war, arnachy and destruction. He said that to avert that situation, society has to be governed by rules to take the animalistic beastly traits of man in a state of Nature.
In subsequent lectures, Prof Byarugaba took us through other political philosophers such as Machiavelli, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, St Thoman Aquinas, John Locke among many others.
If you were not careful, you could easily leave his lectures with the fun and loose the conceptual points he was making. If you were keen, you would find his teachings both fun and insightful. Professor would never dictate notes in the traditional sense. He professed knowledge. It was up to you to decide what you wanted to jot down or leave.
After graduating from Makerere University in March 2000, everytime I went to that Social Science Building, I would make it a point to climb up to the second floor to say hello to Professor Byarugaba. Thank you for your service to the country and for nurturing many of us.