A joke is told of two men, one Indian, the other Nigerian, who became friends while attending Graduate School in the West. Years later, each rises to become Finance Minister of his country. One day, the Nigerian ventures to India to visit his friend and is startled by the Asian’s palatial home, the three Mercedes-Benzes, swimming pool and servants. “My God!” the Nigerian exclaims, ‘We were just poor students before. How on earth can you afford all this now?” The Indian takes his friend to the window and points to a new elevated highway in the distance. “You see that road?” he says, and then proudly taps himself on the chest. “Ten per cent.”

A few years later, the Indian returns the visit. He finds the Nigerian living on a massive estate with a fleet of cars, an indoor pool, etc. “My God!” says the Indian, “How do you afford this?” The Nigerian leads him to the window and points. ‘You see that highway?’ he asks. The Indian looks and sees nothing, just an open field with a few cows. “I don’t see any highway,” he says. The Nigerian taps himself on the chest. “One hundred per cent!” I was reminded of this joke this week when it emerged that the Civil Aviation Authority was forced to borrow more than Shs70 billion to pay for repairs at Entebbe Airport ahead of the November 2007 Chogm meeting.

It has been clear for a long time that Chogm was one large banquet for a handful of visitors and the Mafioso that ‘chewed’ most of the Shs400 billion of taxpayer’s money spent on hosting it. Ambulances meant for hospitals either did not arrive in time, arrived without the right equipment and specifications, or did not arrive at all.

Hoteliers were given dubious handouts, including, infamously, one who received billions to build rooms only two days to the event. More billions were spent to sweep the roads and plant trees a week or so to the event. In one green corner of the city, just between Sheraton Hotel and Rwenzori Courts, some cheeky contractor even put up potted plants that lasted a few days of Chogm before they returned them, probably to their mansions.

Until this week, all my misgivings about Chogm would desert me temporarily every time I would pass through Entebbe Airport. Although many of the contracts to repair the airport were also inflated, there is evidence that some work was done. In fact, two years after the event, the airport is one of the few Chogm legacies we can point at with any degree of pride. Until now.

Revelations that most of the money spent on Chogm was borrowed while taxpayers’ money was being spent on potted plants shows that our corrupt vultures have eaten through the bone and sucked up all the blood and are now gnawing at the bones!

When Uganda hosted the 1975 OAU Summit under Idi Amin, we were left with the Nile Hotel Mansions to show for it. There must have been corruption then but our appetite and our craving for ill-gotten wealth has only grown since then.
In the early days of the NRM government, we started digging narrow valley dams, moved on to buying junk helicopters, creating ghost soldiers and school pupils to take money meant for their upkeep, to stealing medicine from the sick. Like the Nigerian, we have gone from 10 per cent to 100 per cent!

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