Prof Lawrence Mukiibi, who was buried by thousands at Katende Mpigi district on Friday, declined taking up a cabinet position in President Museveni’s government.
This was disclosed by Ps Robert Kayanja who was his business neighbor and friend for 24 years in Mengo/Rubaga. Kayanja was speaking during one of the numerous tribute-paying sessions that the organizing committee and family held in Mukiibi’s honor at St. Lawrence University campus Mengo next to Kayanja’s church.
Kayanja, who was speaking in presence of many dignitaries including VP Sekandi and NRM Vice Chairman Mike Mukula, recalled starting out in 1993 at a time this Mengo/Rubaga neighborhood was a deserted bushy place famous for violent crimes and human skulls that were left scattered all over after the Museveni/NRA wars of the previous years.
Some of the skulls had remained since the nearby Lubiri/Mengo Palace invasion of 1966 by Obote’s forces. “It was a very frightening place seeing skulls everywhere but Prof Mukiibi’s determination gave us courage. That is how we started here as two neighbors. The situation changed gradually and others started coming as this place returned to normalcy. I remember the first to come to this area joining us with Prof Mukiibi was Uganda Red Cross and then the return of Buganda kingdom created a new momentum and life gradually returned to normal,” Kayanja told the SLAU University gathering on Wednesday after the Rubaga Cathedral requiem mass.
He said that despite his material successes and accomplishments as a leading entrepreneur in education sector, Mukiibi was always humble and often disarmed him with his humility.
“He was always calm and had his own way of saying no. We used to interact a lot either with him or through [his son] Peter there or the Vice Chancellor Prof Kakinda. Prof Mukiibi was always graceful even when he was saying no. I remember telling him ‘I see you have very good credentials. Do you mind if we propose to the President and he makes you the Minister of Education because it’s you who can steer that sector to greater heights?’ He had his own way of saying no without being offensive or disagreeable. He simply laughed us off in his own way and that was end of story,” said Kayanja who punctuated his submission with a lot of humor in order to comply with Prof Mukiibi’s wish to have friends celebrate and laugh about his life in death as opposed to mourning him.
“He rightly believed God had enabled him accomplish a lot and in death he should be celebrated rather than mourned.” The disclosure of Prof Mukiibi’s refusal to become Minister sparked mixed reactions in the audience with some SLAU students whispering to each that: “Professor should have accepted; we missed having a minister at SLAU.”
Subsequent speakers like Mike Mukula confirmed Mukiibi was a staunch NRM supporter but was reluctant to personally plunge into politics. He preferred to keep his distance while quietly supporting and advising those holding public office. In the run up to 2016 elections, a number of NRM cadres approached Mukiibi urging him to offer himself to chair the NRM Entrepreneurs League but he politely declined.
As NRM SG Kasule Lumumba disclosed during his burial on Friday, Mukiibi also generously funded NRM activities including the Lydia Wanyoto-led Women League who’s planning retreats were hosted at his glamorous campuses.
He also supported many youth associations like UNSA and NYC whose leaders are always NRM-leaning. Indeed at his burial, the NRM party was heavily represented and even SG Lumumba insisted on wrapping his casket in NRM colors.
His greatest friend Mike Sebalu (of EALA), who was the MC during the burial, revealed Mukiibi was a strong NRM pillar and sponsor especially in Buganda region where he was a very influential figure both in the kingdom and Catholic Church. Indeed the Kabaka, who is culturally barred from attending funerals, paid glowing tribute to Mukiibi in a written message his Minister Dennis Walusimbi delivered to the family.
Arch Bishop Lwanga was equally bereaved at the passing of Mukiibi who was a strong supporter and active participant in the activities of Rubaga Cathedral Foundation through which the Arch Bishop or Cardinal fundraises for charity. At the Friday burial, Maria Justine Tulina (The Rector who was Mukiibi’s most trusted child) addressed mourners on behalf of her siblings.
She thanked especially Sebalu, Sarah Nkonge and Rose Seninde for sticking with her dad to his last day. The trio also oversaw the funeral arrangements since Mukiibi’s death last Sunday (3am) at Norvik Hospital. She also assured mourners, alumni, students and parents that the Mukiibi educational empire would carry on and scale greater heights insisting that is the only way they can ensure their dad doesn’t die in vain but his legacy lives on for eternity.
She recalled Mukiibi’s last moments at Norvik Hospital where he urged them to always work hard, respect and treat other people fairly and generously like he used to do. She assured all the adopted children within and outside of St. Lawrence institutions that the charity including paying school fees for them Prof Mukiibi was offering will continue.
She assured all Mukiibi’s friends and relatives that the children would continue receiving them honorably and with open hands like Mukiibi used to do.
“The good thing he has trained us; each one of us the children is responsible for something and in my case I have closely worked with him since 1993 when he was starting. Actually for the last 6 years he had taken a back seat and it’s us who have been running the show under his supervision,” she told mourners as her other siblings flanked her.
She thanked the President and First Lady for their solidarity through the bereavement period. According to Seninde, Museveni materially contributed many things including Shs30m. First lady contributed Shs10m towards the funeral arrangements and delivered more during the Rubaga requiem mass where she represented the President and her Education ministry.
On behalf of NRM SG Lumumba pledged the party’s and government continued political and moral support to ensure the St. Lawrence institutions live on.
Meanwhile VP Sekandi, who was the chief mourner, suddenly felt unwell and failed to address mourners. “He says isn’t feeling well even when he is in our midst. So he has requested Hon JC Muyingo to deliver his speech. Prof Mukiibi was very close to him personally and he prepared a written message which I’m now inviting Hon JC Muyingo to address us on his [Sekandi’s] behalf,” Sebalu announced.
Muyingo, who sat next to Sekandi who looked distraught throughout the ceremony, read the speech in which Mukiibi was commended for being a patriot, generous and selfless man. He also announced Sekandi’s Shs5m contribution towards funeral expenses. Sekandi’s failure to deliver his own speech sparked murmurs and anxiety in the audience with many wondering what exactly the big man from Kyanamukaka was suffering from.
Mourners observed Mukiibi’s plea not to cry but instead celebrate his life. None was seen wailing or shedding tears. Indeed speakers addressed the crowd as “fellow celebrants.” Majority donned white as per his wish. His other plea, which MC Sebalu worked hard to observe, was for a summarized ceremony so that mourners bury quickly and return to their respective places of work for the rest of the day.