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You do not have to stay in power to make history

By Joan Akello

Associate Professor Sabiti Makara, 56, apolitical scientist talked to Joan Akello about politics and academics

What don’t we know about you?

I’m a family man, married with four children. I help those in need, like educating children who are not mine because other people lent my father money or helped to keep me in school. At Nkongooro Primary School because of my good performance, my teachers ensured I stay in School, even when my father had not paid fees.  At Makobore High School in Rukugiri, I was School Food Prefect. There was a legacy of food prefects failing exams because of overeating. I passed highly and studied history, philosophy, and political science at Makerere University. I‘ve been teaching political science for the last 28 years.

Who are some of the people who have helped you professionally?

Prof Apollo Nsibambi, as head of the political science department asked me to stay as a teaching assistant when I finished my bachelors and later sought for me a British Council scholarship for Masters in Public Administration at the University of Liverpool in the UK in 1987.

What else have you done besides teaching?

Nothing. It’s been a lifelong job for me because when I returned in late 1988, I was appointed lecturer and then senior lecturer in 2000 without a PhD. After completing and graduating with a PhD in political science from the University of Witwatersrand in 2008, I was made associate professor.

What about your publications?

I’ve edited four books so far centered on politics and public affairs published in International Political Science Review, a world-rank journal and currently doing research on China- Africa relations.

Any misconceptions about political science?

People think that it is a science of politicking but it’s the mother of social sciences

Were you not a political scientist, what would you be?

A writer of novels and poems.

What are your greatest achievements?

Though I’m from a poor background, I rose through academic ranks, interacted with national and international scholars and been a devoted teacher. Though I haven’t achieved politically because I’m not a politician I have publications to my name and that is what matters.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It is achieving in my professional work, having stable, progressive family relations and cohesion to think properly.

When were you happiest?

In 2008, when I got my PhD.

What is your greatest fear?

To fail; if you try to do something, you should have a reasonable degree that you are going to succeed in it.

What is the habit you’ve outgrown?

Overdrinking and heavy smoking; I stopped when I got saved.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cheating, I believe people should succeed honestly.

Which living person do you most admire?

Barack Obama; being the first black president of the U.S. Africans have been struggling for 200 years.

What is your current state of mind?

Settled and focused on being promoted to a full professor, I’m one rank away and want to achieve just that.

What is most overrated nowadays?

This habit of tulye cash; that is let’s eat money, is producing a wrong society. Whether you have big or small money, save it.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Honesty and extra hard work.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?


Who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife, Beatrice. We have been married for 25 years and to celebrate that anniversary we went to China for 19 days last December.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Being good at mathematics and statistics; those people calculate precisely and deliver answers unlike political scientists who go round and delay.

What would you change about yourself?

I wouldn’t because I admired Kwame Nkrumah not as a president but for his scholarly work in political science and philosophy.

Who are your favorite writers?

Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ  wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka,  Okot P’Bitek, Mary Okurut- she is a great creative writer and Andrew Mwenda, Prof. Mahmood  Mamdani , Hobbes, Socrates.

What would you be if you died and came back?

A serious male pastor like Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Bishop Festo Kivengere.

What is your most treasured possession?


What is your favorite occupation?

Reading. Every day, by 7:30am, I’ve read all the newspapers.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Nelson Mandela; he taught us that a statesman should never be a prisoner of history; instilled in Africa the idea of reconciliation.  Like George Washington, he teaches us that society can advance beyond one person. You do not have to stay in power to make history, let future history vindicate your achievements. I loved Mandela’s simplicity and humility, yet he was deeply philosophical.

What is your philosophy about politics?

I believe in politics of equal opportunity like in the Nordic countries not predatory politics where people grab power and everything and deny everybody opportunities.

How would you like to die?

At about 80 years, peacefully in my sleep.

How do you want to be remembered?

As one who made a humble academic contribution.

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