Why I have great memories of one of Bukedi’s greatest sons, Oboth Ofumbi
TRIBUTE | Jackson Oboth | In commemoration of Janan Luwum day February 16, NTV Uganda ran a documentary in remembrance of my late kinsman Oboth Ofumbi which I watched with nostalgic feelings. Luwum (c. 1922 – 17 February 1977) was the archbishop of the Church of Uganda when he was murdered, together with two cabinet ministers, Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi.
As a little boy back in the mid 70s, I belonged to a village choir and dance group put together by the late Odemba Jayang of Pajwenda, a village in the current West Budama Central, in Tororo district.
Every year around October, then Minister Oboth Ofumbi would throw a party at his Nyamalogo farm residence where guests and locals would be treated to two days of live Congolese band performances. The music was accompanied, with what seemed to my young mind, an endless feast, complete with non stop flows of all tribes of drinks.
Luckily, our choir was always given a special place at the celebrations and so I had the rare previlege of watching all the strange and amazing things up close. There would be magicians, some of them riding a bicycle on a rope, a man pulling a car tied to a rope using his teeth, tricksters making a woman ‘lay an egg’ and many other strange things.
Our choir would have the previlege of being picked from our Panyirenja base by a blue farm trailer. We would gleefully board the cargo wagon and be transported to the venue like sacks of potatoes. To say that our mode of transport would muffle our excitement would be an insult to our grateful hearts.
It was at the late Oboth Ofumbi’s home at Nyamalogo where I had my first taste of whiskey! I still feel the strong flavour of that whiskey in my mouth to this day whenever I think of the occasion.
We had the privilege to tour the Minister’s house, the gorofa, (storied house) including a peep into the big man’s bedroom.
The host Oboth Ofumbi would let out a roaring bout of laughter on seeing how our mouths would drop with excitement.
In one room was a line of exotic drinks stock in one corner of a special room, I think reserved for his exclusive guests.
The Congolese live musicians I mentioned earlier, were world class!
The lyrical sounds of the guitar smoothly complimented by the vocals would echo across the nearby swamp separating Nyamalogo with Nabiyoga, reverberating into the moon lit night. The dance would go on deep into the night spilling over the following day. We certainly felt the closeness of government in Padhola.
Our Oboth Ofumbi was a reserved man but he truly knew how to wow the villagers.
Bukedi was blessed with three Ministers in the post independence era, first in Obote 1 UPC government and later Idi Amin’s regime where Oboth and Fabiano Okware served.
First was James Silas Malilo Ondowa Ochola (1924-72) another Nyirenja, who happened to be my cousin.
Ochola was South Bukedi Cooperative Union Chairman (1954-59) where he mentored Oboth Ofumbi. By the time of the Amin Coup in 1971 he was minister of Local Administration and established national hospitals in Bugiri, Apac and clinics in Mulanda, Kisoko and Nagongera. He went missing in 1972 and has never been found.
Oboth Ofumbi was a seasoned civil servant, who by the time of the coup in 1971 was Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence and close ally of Idi Amin. He started as Defence Minister, was acting president for nine days in 1972 and by the time of his death was Interior Minister.
Third was Fabiano Okware, who was Minister of Agriculture who had a big farm at Mile 3 on Mbale Road. Idi Amin sadly murdered both all three of them.
According to researcher Prof Umeya Kiyoshi, “Ochola and ACK (Oboth Ofumbi) were two powerful men who were always depicted in contrast. ACK never contested an election, nor was he popular, while Ochola had considerable public support during elections.”
While Ochola is remembered by the locals fondly for building the present day Mulanda Health Center 3, on the other hand, Oboth Ofumbi is remembered for being the first to construct electricity power line from Tororo town to his Nyamalogo farm. He however strangely refused to connect the nearby Health Center with power despite the lines bypassing it, to the chagrin of the locals.
All that aside, it is obvious Oboth Ofumbi aka ACK knew he could easily warm up the hearts of his people by throwing lavish parties. He is remembered for his generosity in that aspect.
May His Soul continue to Rest In Peace.
Jackson Oboth is a Development Communications Specialist, Journalist and a Public Relations Practitioner. He was part of the fundraising committee for the establishment of Rock City Radio in Tororo
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