Museveni, Ferguson and lessons from Man U
WRITTEN BY OSKAR SEMWEYA-MUSOKE
There are some Ugandans who love English Premier League (EPL) football even more than The Cranes, our national team! Manchester United (Man U), based in Greater Manchester, Northern England, is one of the top three teams in the EPL.
Certainly Man United has a grand history, having acquired its name in 1902, about the time our 1900 Agreement was being effected.
It has won 20 league titles – more than any English club – plus many other titles, including three European cups. It is Man United’s previous manager, Sir Alex Ferguson (Fergie), that most of us know best.
Similar to our own President Museveni, Fergie took up office in 1986. There are more similarities.
Fergie was their most successful manager, with a haul of 38 honours, including 28 major titles. He is admired by many as the best football manager in history. Museveni has also won awards and accolades over the years.
Not surprisingly, he was invited to speak for the African presidents at the US – African leaders’ summit in August, yet Uganda has been criticised for her stance on homosexuality.
He also spoke at the opening session of the UN Climate Change Summit in September, dared to blame North America on global warming and got away with it!
In May 2013, after 27 years as Man United’s manager, Fergie announced his retirement. His loyal club honoured him and he was asked to choose a successor. Fergie’s ‘Chosen One’, David Moyes, failed miserably. He lasted just 10 months and was sacked for poor performance.
Since Ferguson’s departure, the club has experienced unimaginable, lowly records, amusing opponents that used to suffer at Man United’s hands during their imperious time. For the first time since 1994, they failed to qualify for any European competition!
They were the first club that lost both home and away matches against their regional rivals Liverpool, Everton and the ‘noisy neighbours’ of Manchester City. They ended the season with their lowest ever Premier League points, lost three matches in a row, and many ‘small’ teams beat them at their Old Trafford home, for the first time.
Of course in Uganda we know well the pain of football failure, seeing that the ‘not-so-mighty’ Togo has done a double on us by beating our Cranes at home in Namboole and away. Yes, we lose regularly but it is still painful. So, what is there to learn about Man United’s woes? The lesson is that we all need a succession plan.
Like Man United, Uganda has had a strong and omnipotent-like manager for nearly three decades. Uganda’s success on many fronts can be attributed to Museveni, who carries the nation in the same way Fergie did at Manchester United, even when, at times, his teams were not powerful enough to win league titles on merit.
The trouble with Fergie was that he never had an anointed second-in-charge. Of course there were several assistants and some left to try their luck elsewhere, as bosses in their own right. But he did not have a deputy that could be recognised as the Number Two in the management hierarchy.
He also never got on with players who were strong leaders. Stories are told of how he threw shoes at David Beckham in the changing rooms, and a battle of words is still raging on with Roy Keane, a former club captain and now assistant coach of Northern Ireland.
President Museveni is of the same mould; a strongman leader without a distinct deputy. Indeed, this is ironical because the Constitution clearly spells out the hierarchy of leadership. Technically, Vice-President Edward Ssekandi is next in line, followed by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga. Just like it was with their predecessors, no one really believes that Uganda’s power is theirs after Museveni.
Man United’s lack of a Number Two has led to loss of income, great embarrassment and failure to win the Premier league. Now consider what Uganda stands to lose by not having a succession plan.
And he is much loved, our president! On his return from the Americas, on a trip he had undertaken after sacking the perceived country’s Number Two, Amama Mbabazi, crowds lined Entebbe road, all the way from the airport, to welcome him – or was it to celebrate his [perceived] successor’s departure?
For me, as I go to bed every night, I begin my prayer with: Oh Lord, I hope the president of my country wakes up tomorrow morning…
The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers