By Don Wanyama
Lovers of published African literature, especially the short story sub-genre, must have come across a piece titled “A Mercedes Funeral” by celebrated Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiongo. The summary of that short story is that Wahinya, a bar watchman in the town of Illmorog, dies of alcoholic poisoning at a time when there is an election frenzy for the Member of Parliament seat.
The little-known Wahinya becomes the centre of the campaign as four of the candidates try to use his death and preparations for his burial to score political points. The story climaxes during Wahinya’s burial when each candidate is asked to unveil the type of coffin they have brought for the ceremony. While the other three candidates bring state-of-the-art coffins, Hon JJJ, the area and incumbent MP, unveils “an immaculate model Mercedes Benz 660S” and tells mourners he had information that before Wahinya died, his wish was to die in a Benz! That explains the title of the short story.
My mind ran to this story following the events of this week involving a little-known musician (he has no single song published on YouTube) called Michael Alinda, also known as Ziggy Wine, whose medical condition and later death dominated the media headlines. Like Wahinya in death, Ziggy Wine shot to the headlines because of opportunistic politicians, to be exact opposition politicians led by Hon Robert Kyagulanyi, who thought they would spin and tell lies about the events leading to Ziggy Wine’s death so that they score cheap political points while maligning the government and President Museveni.
On August 5th, at exactly 4.46pm, the Kyadondo East MP and leader of the so-called People Power pressure group posted a statement on his official Facebook page, accusing the State of kidnapping, torturing and later murdering Ziggy Wine, whom he describes as “a long-time friend, musician and strong supporter of People Power”. In what is now perhaps the greatest piece of fiction fit for the Nobel Prize for creative writing, Bobi Wine claims, “Ziggy Wine was abducted and subjected to horrendous form of torture. His left eye was plucked out, two of his fingers cut off and parts of his body burnt with a flat iron.” It goes on and on, of course using the opportunity to smear the government, security agencies and President Museveni, whom Bobi Wine says “is determined to silence any form of dissent using extreme violence”.
As they say, lies might set out early but the truth will get to the destination first. Complete with this fake narrative of a close friend (some say Bobi had never met Ziggy in decades), a musician (minus any known hit to his name), a strong supporter of People Power (can we still believe this?), and somewhere called a blogger (again minus any known published writing), Bobi Wine went on a lie-spreading spree, along the way recruiting the usually excitable lot who think anything negative about Uganda will dent President Museveni’s image. Charles Onyango Obbo, Norbert Mao and others swallowed the bait hook and sinker before leading a social media crusade apparently demanding justice for Ziggy Wine.
Amidst this hullabaloo, the police kept asking for restraint and calm, requesting for time to piece together what exactly had happened. The truth is finally out, corroborated by dozens of eyewitnesses. Ziggy Wine was never kidnapped, never tortured and never murdered. Ziggy Wine was a victim of a motorcycle accident around Kyebando Round-about in Kampala, having knocked Loy Atworo, a 24-year-old nursery school teacher.
Ziggy Wine crashed into a trench, sustaining severe injuries. Good Samaritans rushed both victims to a nearby clinic, with Loy easily identifiable while Ziggy Wine minus any documentation on him made it hard to be immediately identified. Going to the scene later, something the media should have done first, it is now established from eyewitnesses, that Ziggy Wine had a likeness to someone called “Hitter” who is a musician with Bobi Wine’s FireBase Crew, and explains why the locals there tried contacting Bobi Wine following the accident.
Keen readers have probably seen the police version of events and listened on TV to the residents of Kyebando where the accident happened. I won’t regale you with details but it is clear that Ziggy Wine, sadly, died due to severe injuries sustained after a motorcycle accident. He was rushed to a nearby clinic, taken to Mulago Hospital (all documents of admission are available yet Bobi Wine says he was dumped), moved to Nsambya Hospital and back to Mulago but he could not make it.
For Bobi Wine though and his handlers, they would never let the facts stand in the way of an opportunity to attack the government and President Museveni. Lately, he has taken to attending burials largely for political posturing and not empathy, which perhaps could explain his burning desire to score as many cheap points as possible from Ziggy Wine’s death. A typical Hon JJJ!
The decent thing for Bobi Wine at this point would be to admit his lies and apologise to Ugandans and President Museveni whom he has already accused of “murdering” Ziggy Wine. But that might be expecting too much from a junior politician who has chosen lies, drama and character assassination as the foundation of his leadership. The big question though is; how far will this charade spur him?
The writer is the Senior Press Secretary to His Excellency the President of Uganda