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Keep time if you want to be rich

By Agnes E. Nantaba

Wasswa Birigwa is the party chairman of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). He spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about transforming his life from a slum dweller.

Any three things we don’t know about you?

I am someone who cares so much for his country. I have fought for peace. I am a founder of Celtel Uganda who may be the reason behind the mobile phone network in Uganda. By then there were only 400,000 mobile phones which has multiplied to millions.

I am a family man and I love Buganda as a culture and the Kabaka which I have worked hard to maintain it. I served in the Lukiiko for over 16 years.

Initially I started as a musician in the late 1960’s and the most famous song is ‘Joy Tonyiga’ so music is part of my life. I made an album titled Birigwa. I want to prove people wrong so I am a coffee farmer who also runs a small resort in Busaabala.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being at peace with yourself. I am lucky that 98 percent of my time, I am happy.

What is your greatest fear?

Heights; I have a phobia for heights and it makes me uncomfortable seeing people on top of the roof. I used to work for Citibank in USA and my office was located on the 63rd floor but it wasn’t an easy experience.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

May be I care too much.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Failure to keep time; when you are late, it means you are more important than me who you kept waiting. Keep time if you want to be rich because time plus energy equals success.

Which living person do you most admire?

Mohammed Ali; he went through difficult times because of his beliefs and being black but even through that, he still worked his way back to became great again. I also admired Mandela for his humility. In Uganda, it is Dr. Besigye because he has gone through a lot of harsh treatment for his people.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Gucci shoes; they are expensive but very comfortable.

What is your current state of mind?

Having to go through the political turmoil in the country creates some discomfort but on the whole I am at peace.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

The church in Uganda is overrated.

On what occasion do you lie?

To keep peace with my wife.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

When you reach my age it doesn’t really matter. At a younger age, I had always wished to have more inches.

Which living person do you most despise?

Anybody who accepts power to get to their head.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Stand for what you believe in.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

The same.  Stand for what you believe in.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Normally, I don’t hear myself.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

It is my wife.

When and where were you happiest?

I love birds, so I love watching them.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I have never tried it out but I wish I could be a good writer especially for poetry.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Coming from Katwe in the slums to walking this road and studying in some of the most prestigious universities; I have also held some prestigious positions in my work life and securing the Nile Bridge for Uganda as well as the fly-overs that are in the pipeline are worth being recognised. I am proud being one of the founders of Celtel.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

The same person but a better cook.

Where would you most like to live?

In a country called Uganda but specifically in the Ssese islands for the good weather and the trees around.

What is your most treasured possession?

My art pieces and music.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Poverty; when you look at your parents and they can’t even provide food for the home.

What is your favorite occupation?


What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty and honesty

Who are your favorite writers?

Chinua Achebe of Things Fall Apart and Mark Twain; every human being has a phase of loneliness that allows him or her to discover him or herself.

Who is your hero of fiction?

I don’t live a fictitious life.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Identification becomes tougher because I feel I am not any closer to him but I emulate Nelson Mandela for his humility and love for humanity.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Nelson Mandela for his selfless living.

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your greatest regret?

Nothing; I even told my wife that on the epistle of my grave should read ‘No regrets’.

How would you like to die?

In my sleep.

What is your motto?

Never get mad for more than five minutes.

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