Celebrate the second-rate, kneel down and worship the gods of mediocrity

Wednesday November 28 2018

Ugandans start the year by celebrating several primary schools and many school kids for coming top in the previous year’s national exams, in a widely discredited evaluation system. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG


Uganda’s Inspector General of Government is an unhappy woman.

The information she has so far indicates that some 16 impostors presented themselves for police recruitment in 2016 using forged certificates.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the fraudsters have since been rewarded with promotions over the genuine entrants. She now wants the police management to take a closer look at this apparent anomaly.

However, the IGG, Irene Mulyagonja, wouldn’t have been so surprised if she had taken time to observe our culture of celebrating mediocrity.

If you pay enough attention, you will find that almost every month, Ugandans celebrate some mediocre fellows for performing below average.

We usually start the year celebrating several primary schools and many school kids for coming top in the previous year’s national exams, in a widely discredited evaluation system.


For decades, everybody has criticised the hopeless examination system that seeks to reward those who cram the most “learning” into their skulls.

This celebration of mediocrity continues in February and March when O and A level exam results are released. Teachers who coached the best crammers are also celebrated.

From Easter time, we start musical awards at which some singers of little talent and near-zero training get crowned.

The winners are not those who sing best, but those who dress outrageously enough to become famous.

A month later, the award winners are forgotten, the “great” singers have sung their last song, and the audiences turn back to the enduring musicians who actually play music.

May and June bring in more celebrations of mediocre entrepreneurs. Parties are thrown in their honour and glass trophies are handed over as cameras click away.

Nobody asks why these great enterprises never list on the stockmarket. Soon, stories circulate as half of them get into trouble over mismanagement, tax evasion and staff abuse. Who cares?

In the second half of the year after the national budget, we start celebrating districts that reportedly performed well in managing their budgets.

Mercifully, the Auditor General’s reports come over a year later, and only then do we learn that the celebrity districts were just havens of mismanagement like all the others.

Then as the year comes to a close, we start celebrating “celebrities” whose claim to fame is spending money whose sources are unknown.

Without asking how they earn their money, we troop to their parties, which even national media cover with glee.

A complicit state doesn’t ask to look at the tax returns of fellows who claim to have millions of dollars. They don’t even call in “socialites” who abuse national currency by doing things to it, including using legal tender to wide dirt off their cars – on camera.

If national media don’t find time and space for the “young tycoons,” social media sing their praises for the amount of beer they buy and the amorous partners they snatch from those falling on hard times.

Talking of social media, a new breed of influential people has emerged and they are simply called “influencers.”

These people are armed with Twitter accounts to make your mediocre party “trend” until you become a celebrity. And the celebration of mediocrity and criminality goes on, as the IGG gets a few more ulcers.