PROFILE : All you need to know about the late Prof Apolo Robin Nsibambi

By FRANK WALUSIMBI

Wednesday May 29, 2019

Prof Apolo Nsibambi 

Strongly religious, the sort of man who was always punctual with dignified cultural mannerisms and coloured humour, Apolo Nsibambi filled his space to the fullest - socially, academically and politically.


A habitual Church service attendant at the St. Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, Nsibambi loved to listen to the preacher-man every Sunday - calmly perusing his bible or a hymn book.


He would sing his heart during service - at home he played some of the hymns on his upright piano - a friend that probably toned down his retirement boredom with resounding musical notes.


Many times, he would give a speech to the congregation at Church; articulating each word that he spoke in Luganda or English, like he were a linguist teacher making sure everybody understood him properly.


Writing, reading and church occupied most of Nsibambi’s time after he retired from politics in 2011.


In 2014, he had completed his book National Integration in Uganda 1962-2013 in which he discusses the Buganda quest for federalism and the need to bring together the different ethnic groups in Uganda.


The academic turned politician never gave up his desire to share knowledge though publications.


He had crossed straight from academics to politics in 1994 when he was appointed to the Constituent Assembly by the President - never having stood for any elective position or held a political office. In the CA, Nsibambi supported a federal governance system for Buganda that would grant the region a semi-autonomous status.

14 years later he changed his mind and he suggested that Uganda needed a governance system that would be marketable to all Ugandans - and that was the regional system of government - according to Nsibambi, this would be the road to federalism. Mmengo would later turn down the idea after protracted negotiations.


His past experience during the negotiation of the restoration of Buganda kingdom and properties or ebyaffe had made him a patient, moderate gentleman who carried the same trait when he dealt with opposition politicians. At one time he laughed off opposition politicians who offered to collect money and pay him for the contribution he made to the restoration of Buganda kingdom and the reparing of the Kasubi burnt tombs so that he keeps off Buganda issues forever.


The politicians accused him of settling for a regional system of government or regional tier as an alternative to federalism. In the regional system, many did not settle with the proposal of the Lukiiko or Buganda parliament to elect Katikkiro.


At Mmengo Nsibambi had served in many capacities including minister of constitutional affairs.


To be leader of government business in Parliament during his tenure as prime minister enriched him with vast political experience. Nsibambi is Uganda’s longest serving prime minister. He occupied the office in April 1999 up to May 2011, making a total of 12 years. Not so easy from a man who had walked from a background hinged on church and academics.


In 1996, new from Makerere University where he headed the Institute of Social Science, Nsibambi was appointed minister of Public Service. In 1998 to 1999, he was minister of education and sports. Working on meagre budgets but always optimistic about the sector’s future, Nsibambi was further elevated to position of Prime Minister in 1999. He proved his worth. He served the NRM government diligently.


At Makerere University, Nsibambi taught in the faculty of social sciences through the 1960s. He would later become the dean of the faculty between 1978 and 1987. He headed the department of political science for some four years.


Nsibambi was born on 25th October 1940 to Simeon Nsibambi a historical Anglican clergyman. He went to King’s College Budo, he attained a bachelor of science degree in economics at the University of Chicago, where he also graduated with a Master of Arts in Political Science. He had a doctorate from the University of Nairobi.


His first wife Rodha died in 2000 and in 2003 he remarried Esther with whom they have been staying at his Bulange home in Kampala.


He has suffered old age-related illnesses in the past three years and such started the lugubrious end of a fine politician and academician.