Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Professor Apolo Robin Nsibambi who served from 1999 until 2011, and died at his home in Rubaga division on Tuesday, has received glowing tribute.
President, Yoweri Museveni said “I have learnt of the untimely passing of the former Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi. He was a true patriot and great academic. The country will miss him.”
Museveni’s message said he had instructed the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda to lead a team that will ensure that Professor Nsibambi gets a befitting send-off.
Democratic Party President, Nobert Mao in a twitter message paid a rich tribute to the deceased “I’m saddened to learn of the death of former Prime Minister Prof. Apollo Nsibambi. I convey my condolences to his family and also to all Ugandans. An accomplished academic who transitioned smoothly into the political arena, Nsibambi served with integrity, dignity and class. RIP”
Ramathan Ggoobi, a Policy Analyst, Researcher and Economics lecturer at Makerere University Business School said in tweet “You want a true definition of a Professor? Apollo Robin Nsibambi. Rest In Peace Prof. Your soul must already be in heaven; you always kept time.”
A message from the Health Ministry in Kampala said “the Minister deeply regrets the passing of the former Premier, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi. Prof. Nsibambi will always be remembered as a great orator, academician and an intellectual leader. May his soul Rest in eternal peace”
David Mpanga, a Buganda Kingdom loyalist and Kampala Lawyer tweeted sayings “Very sad to learn about the passing of Professor Apolo Nsibambi. He was an erudite and knowledgeable person. He had a great sense of duty and a great sense of humour – always teased me about only having one degree. Rest in Peace Mukulu.”
The Late Nsibambi was born on October 25 1940. He attended King’s College Budo for his high school education. He held a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, with honors from Makerere University under London University.
He also held a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Chicago in the United States. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophydegree from the University of Nairobi. Professor Nsimbambi was married to the late Rhoda Nsimbambi who died at 62 in 2001. He later married Esther Nakiboneka Kabuuza with whom he has been living until his demise.
His time at Makerere
Professor Nsimbambi became the first non-Head of State Chancellor of Makerere University, following the enactment of the Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Act.
He was Chancellor of Makerere from 2003 to 2007. His four year-tenure as Chancellor of Uganda’s largest University was rewarding but was marred by turbulent times marked by several strikes. In October 2007 he talked to Uganda Radio Network about his time at Makerere University as a Chancellor.
” I feel like greatly privileged to serve Makerere as Chancellor I enjoyed job satisfaction when I served Makerere,. I came to the top of my career, I enjoyed carrying out research, I enjoyed teaching, publishing articles. So it has been a great opportunity to pay back my academic debt to Makerere University. But there have also been other problems like indiscipline,” he said.
Growing hooliganism was one of his main concerns. “Strikes encouraging students to loot their neighboring areas. I was greatly disgusted by this thuggery. And let me hope that this ind of thuggery will be stumped out of existence. I was more than disgusted by students looting innocent areas during strikes. Makerere has some internal problems like any other University. It has problems of quality, large numbers, members of staff not getting adequate salary. But Makerere is still a viable institution. It has not died as alleged. And I’m delighted to having been given the first non-Head of State to preside over this great institution my the Almighty bless Makerere University”
Before joining Cabinet as Minister of Education, Public Service and later Prime Minister, Nsibambi held various positions at Makerere from Lecturer to Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences.
He was also the Director of Makerere Institute for Social Research (MISIR). Nsibambi was a gifted orator who diligently steered Parliament as the Leader of Government Business there. His role was quite evident especially when Uganda decided to return to multiparty politics.
He was loved across the political divide. Despite heated debates on the floor of Parliament, he would be seen talking to members of the opposition and the ruling NRM at the parliamentary foyer at times bursting into prolonged laughter.
He was found of asking Parliament to avoid what he termed as ” political lugubriousness” That earned him the moniker “Lugubrious” in the Parliamentary circles.
At the peak of disagreements on the floor of Parliament, Nsibambi would plead with the then Speaker, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, his Deputy Rebecca Kadaga and the Leader of the Opposition, Professor Ogenga Latigo for a retreat.
The Speaker would briefly adjourn to allow caucusing for an amicable solution.
Nsibambi’s death comes at the time of a heated debate about the need to amend the constitution to strip MPS of powers to determine their emoluments.
This debate has been on since 2006 when Nsibambi appeared to have been contradicting the position of the then Speaker, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.
Ssekandi had insisted that Parliament would retain the powers to determine its emoluments but Nsibambi diplomatically drove his point home.
Nsibambi the Church Man
Professor Nsibambi Apollo Nsibambi loved church faithfully. He was at St. Paul’s Cathedral every morning, says Olive Nakatudde, a journalist who had witnessed him and his wife, “Esther” as he fondly introduced her to the members of the congregation.
“He would walk in quietly. He was not the kind of a leader that could show a lot of power around him. He didn’t with an armed guard in church yet he had one. He was a down to earth person and quite approachable” said Nakatudde.
The absence of the Nsibambis from Church would always be noticed and it was a practice for the clergy to announce why they were not in attendance.
“For the past two months he has not been attending church, He was respected member of St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe. He would attend the Luganda Services that starts at 10:30 AM. “And he would always grant interviews to journalists. He would jokingly say you journalists why don’t you let me rest since I’m in retirement? He would hold your hand through the corridors of church then allow to be interviewed,” Nakatudde said.