Uganda: Legendary Wenger, Please Go With Museveni

Will Wenger go with Museveni?

The 1999 FA Cup semifinal between Manchester United and Arsenal at Villa Park is the game that made me fall in love with English football, and Arsenal football club in particular.

I had grown up supporting Express football club which I interacted with only on Radio Uganda through live broadcasts. Like many villagers, joining Makerere University in 1995 gave me an opportunity to continuously live in Kampala for the first time. Going to Wankulukuku to watch Express became part of my itinerary.

On the continent, I supported Nigeria because the skillful way they played their football won my heart. I memorized names of almost all Nigerian players that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, beating Zambia 2-1 in the final.

The way I liked Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Rashid Yekeni, Daniel Amokachi and Samson Siasia would make you think they were my relatives. Because Kanu played for Arsenal in the FA Cup game against Manchester United, I didn't face difficulties in choosing who to support.

Defunct Sanyu TV used to broadcast Premier League games, and watching them was free before these pay televisions such as DStv grabbed those broadcasting rights. The rise of Arsenal and English football in Uganda coincided with the demise of Express and local football. I now, unfortunately, know all Arsenal players including Santi Cazola who is in sickbay. However, I don't know a single Express player, manager or chairman.

I watched nearly all the 49 games that Arsenal's invisibles played without losing during the 2003/4 Premier League title. I followed all developments at Arsenal, including the construction of the Emirates stadium, as though it was a road project in my constituency.

The man who presided over this growth is no other than Arsene Wenger. I, therefore, felt emotional when he announced last week he would be stepping down as Arsenal manager after nearly 22 years in charge.

The announcement of his departure coincided with conclusion of the hearing of our constitutional petition in Mbale. In this petition, we are asking court to reinstate presidential age limit in our Constitution which would afford us the first orderly succession.

I love Wenger, and felt bad each time I saw placards denouncing him during Arsenal matches. The man transformed Arsenal and made it great. Why on earth can't they respect his contribution? I kept asking myself.

I am, therefore, extremely happy he has finally read the signs and announced his departure. Our revolutionary leader, the chairman of the High Command, Gen Yoweri Museveni, came into my mind immediately I heard of Wenger's departure.

Like Wenger, Museveni has made his mark removing the murderous regime of Dr Milton Obote 32 years ago. I think his biggest contribution, like all strongmen, has been the stability of the state. By refusing to go peacefully, Museveni risks rolling back all his and Uganda's achievements.

That is what Wenger didn't see. A man who managed a team through an entire season unbeaten, is now languishing in position six on the table. Wenger kept thinking he would fix current Arsenal troubles without realizing he had become their source.

I think, and here I beg old people to forgive me, there comes a time when age in itself becomes a problem. Museveni, who inspired many young people to risk their lives in the Luweero war, is now carrying boda bodas on his shoulders for distribution in Rukungiri.

And that he can't recover. He is no longer a source of inspiration. Besides, how would you inspire one of the world's youngest populations when sleep is overcoming you before cameras at international conferences?

To me, that is the biggest problem facing our country. There is almost nobody that gets inspired by Museveni these days. When the first four years in office expired in 1990, Museveni secured an extension without paying a single shilling.

In 2003-2005, he bribed MPs with Shs 5 million each to remove presidential term limits from the Constitution.

Museveni is giving MPs in the current parliament Shs 200 million each for having removed the age limit to enable him contest in the next general elections. In addition, he allowed the MPs extend his and their term by two more years because he didn't have one billion shillings each MP was demanding. That is how he has turned himself into an agent carrying boda bodas to Rukungiri.

His appetite for power is like that of a man who has not eaten for decades. How I wish Wenger had spoken to him since he was also in London attending Commonwealth conferences! Museveni has replaced Robert Mugabe at such conferences.

The author is Kira municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.

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