The Chief Justice (CJ) Owiny Dollo on Tuesday gave a blow-by-blow account of the last days of fallen Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on earth.
This was during the vigil at Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga a Kampala suburb on Tuesday, where the CJ narrated how Oulanyah spent his last days.
theGrapevine agrees that sometimes it’s painful to lose a close friend and it is human to feel deeply emotional, so we won’t dwell on the trivial issue that many have turned tribal.
We are one people with different colours.
Here are some of the highlights from the CJ’s speech recounting Oulanyah’s last lonely struggle in pain:
“I arrived from Seattle, USA via Dubai today in the afternoon with Norbert Mao. Sadly, we came back with Hon Mao empty-handed. we left the body of Jacob Oulanyah lying in a cold room in a top cancer institute; a world-renowned cancer institute in Seattle.
When I listen to people talking about Jacob Oulanyah, I will just sum it in one sentence: that he was larger-than-life. We have said many things about Jacob Oulanyah, but then there is one thing that nobody wants to say. He was a very strong-willed person and could be very difficult. I was privileged to be one of the very few who could bully him and I did bully him a number of times.
Before I went to the United States of America, I was briefed by his doctor, Dr. Orem, who heads the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). He told me an account of what I didn’t know.
One other aspect of Jacob Oulanyah was for some reason he became secretive about his malaise. Maybe I would have bullied him to take his condition seriously. I asked Mao ‘did you know this?’ Then said, ‘No I didn’t.’ I am yet to find someone who will come out to say ‘I knew this’.
When he came back from Dubai, he would leave those chambers of his, these people told me he would go to wash room, kneel down and hold the feet of washroom in pain and then he would come back and chair meeting.
I am told that even when he was at the hospital, if his children were the ones talking with him, he did everything for the children not to know that he was in pain. His eldest daughter wept before me when he passed on.
Jacob Oulanyah died on March 19 at about 10:30pm or thereabout. But it was already 20th here.
So, his certificate will read 19th, not 20th. She cried and said ‘my father didn’t prepare me, didn’t prepare us for this’.
But, also, Jacob, true to his nature, believed he would get out of hospital until one week before we went when the doctor told him what he told us; that there was nothing they could do anymore. That they had come to the end of the road and it was a matter of time.
If Jacob had confided in a few of us, maybe, maybe just. But his doctor, who is here, a fellow Acholi as Jacob was, must tell the people what my brother went through.
So, when he was flown out, the social media was awash, “oh, he is in the UK, flown here and there, Turkey”. Jacob was in Dubai. Oryem Okello is here. He called me and said, ‘the Lord Chief Justice, we must go and see our brother.’ I said ‘true.’
Minister Jane Aceng and myself went to Dubai and met him. We came back and I told him, ‘Jacob, you have nothing to prove, you have been a Deputy Speaker, you have chaired Parliament, rest at home. Then when you are well rested and you are healed, you will go and take charge.’
But I heard that he was in Arua, he was even in my place in Patongo. He feared to tell me because he knew I was going to quarrel with him. Sometimes, when he would go to those trips, if he saw my call he wouldn’t pick because he knew what was coming. He knew I was going to admonish him.
Then one day I was seated in my official residence at Nakasero, the Deputy Speaker called me and said I am at Jacob’s place and ‘I have been told its only who can move Jacob. If he refuses to listen to you, he will die in this house; Jacob will not take more than two days’.
On my way, I tried to reach Mao, but I couldn’t, so, I told Hon Ojara Mapenduzi that ‘tell Hon Mao even if he has a morsel of food in his hand, let him put that morsel down and come to immediately’, which he did.’
I found my brother in his bedroom seated on a chair. When he saw me, he started crying and started singing, but you couldn’t hear him.
So, I had to go near. He was singing a funeral dirge in Acholi which means he was ‘fighting alone like the mighty warrior who speared a lion while lying down.’ To spear a lion while lying down means the lion has already brought you down and as you are down, you spear the lion and disable it.
I told him ‘you are lying, I am not going to join you in that song’. I told him ‘the song I am going to sing will be a Bwola song.
We are going to dance with you in Laloogi, in the thanksgiving when we are thanking God for giving you your health. That one we will dance with you the whole day.’ I know the song he liked most, I will sing it at his burial.
So, when I came home here, I said ‘why do you want your father to call me a wicked man? How can you die in the house as if there are no hospitals? How can you die here and I don’t know?’ I said ‘I have come here we are going with you to the hospital now. And I want you to tell me yes’. So, he looked at me and tears started rolling and he said ‘wa ceti’ meaning ‘let’s go’.
So, I told the Deputy Speaker who had lost hope that ‘he has accepted that we can go to the hospital; so, let’s prepare and go’. So, the doctor who was around said ‘we have to make special arrangement. So, let’s take him to Mulago Hospital’.
I said that ‘but for today and tonight I hope you will have sufficient care’ and the doctor said ‘we are going to do everything’. So, they made an arrangement at the new wing. He was taken to the seventh floor where he was alone.
We did everything possible to ensure people didn’t go to him because he had serious infection which had to be managed before he could be flown out.
I told the Deputy Speaker that a decision has to be made on whether he should be taken to Turkey, or Germany, where he has been going a number of times. But the decision was made by the medical team that was in-charge of him because Jacob was suffering from cancer, long-term cancer.
We decided to take him to Seattle because it is a world-class cancer centre.
It has been in long relationship with Makerere University teaching hospital, Mulago. There is Fred Hutch Cancer Centre where went.
He couldn’t go by ordinary flight; so, they chartered the plane that took him there and that is what the witches, the wicked people of this world, have used Jacob Oulanyah as a pawn in their political chess game.
Really wicked! Actually, wicked to a point of being tribalistic. But just like Joseph Kony and Alice Lakwena never represented the Acholi people, these wicked people don’t represent their tribe at all.
A week before I went, I had found his missed call the day for Emorimor at Kololo, but when I tried to call back, I didn’t succeed. Then later he did. His speech was already slurred. So, I told him ‘my brother, next week I am coming there.’ He said ‘bin’, which means come.
So, I went, we visited him twice in hospital.
The first day we went, the lady who was looking after him looked at him and said, ‘the Chief Justice whom you wanted to talk to has come, please open your eyes.’ He would struggle to open his eyes so I told him, ‘I am here, the whole of Acholi is here now. I want you to know if you didn’t know how much people love you in Acholi land, how much people are praying for you to be healed, to go back home, you know now.’
‘But I want you to be strong, I know how strong you are, you will recover and you will go back home. Remember the thanksgiving I told you about. We must have our Bwola dance.’ But I was lying to myself, there will be no Bwola dance. He didn’t respond and I was now stepping back to sit down and, I think, his brother was stepping to him to convey the message from his father.
Then in a long drown, he mentioned my name ‘Chigamoi.’ That is the only thing Jacob spoke for the duration of our stay in the USA. Probably that is the only thing he said and he died. But when he said my name, tears started rolling down his eyes. I am emotionally a very weak person, but I refused to shed tears, I went and shed tears in my hotel room.
The following day we went and met the lead doctor. He said they did their best, they even wanted to apply some of the most modern techniques, but unfortunately it couldn’t be done. The details will be in the report that government will read it. I want you people to know that he was telling us he was going, the only thing was to save him from the pain.
So, what they were giving him would sedate him. If they didn’t sedate him, I think the pain would be too much. They were helping him to end his journey as peacefully as possible.
Parts of his organs had started failing, the kidney and many other things.
His personal security is the one who came knocked and I opened. Then he told me, ‘he is gone.’ And he started weeping. Then I told him ‘don’t weep, the time for weeping has gone’. The time to weep was when he was still alive so he could see our tears and change his tears and intervene.
Then I informed Hon Mao ‘I know your hand is very quick with the pen, no tweeting. Jacob Oulanyah was no longer an Acholi; he was a national figure and it is the President to announce and after that we can do other things. And since then, I have not spoken about Jacob Oulanyah’s death, about his condition, about what we saw.