go straight to the top to get services fixed

ONE morning this week, a friend of mine texted us a call for help; his internet connectivity was faulty and he had failed to get a response from the provider’s Customer Care department, so he needed the contact of “someone” in the company “to help”.

We fell upon him like a tonne of bricks; questioning why he was so accommodating of a service from a corporate entity he was presumably paying money to yet he often rants angrily when some government service or another does not meet his approval (even though he does pay taxes for it).

Some people, however, responded giving him names and numbers of people to contact within the organisation “to help” him.

Before he could make the phone calls for assistance, we told him he was subsidising mediocrity, abdicating his customer rights, and most importantly, wasting our own mobile internet packages because we were using WhatsApp.

Eventually, he emerged with a scathing blog post that the people at Orange Telecom will not be happy about for a while.

But the people who thought nothing of sharing contacts of “helpful” people made me stop to think – and my thoughts rested with three people: two of my brothers, and President Yoweri Museveni.

The two Kaheru boys both worked at different telecommunication companies (telecoms), in different departments, but were always fielding phone calls from people seeking their help in resolving or explaining or forwarding or generally helping with some cellphone-related problem or the other. Even after they had left employment with the telecoms, the phone calls and queries continued – for anything, some times without the caller having tried the official channels first.

But many of these callers would get to these two boys after having faced massive frustration with the official channels – and it was in very few cases that they asked for the number of the Chief Executive of the telecom, yet I have always felt that if you need intervention when things aren’t working properly then THAT’S who you should call – the ‘boss’.

And that’s where the President came into mind; you may have noticed that in recent months the number of ordinary people struggling to break through his security rings at public rallies has increased somewhat. And as he has always done, he shouts his security detail down and has these people listened to only for them to reveal that they have a claim that has met with frustration in the lower orders of the government.

And he has to give an ear because at the end of the day he is the one most supremely accountable to them, one and all, and needs to ensure that the government doesn’t lose even a single supporter, or the Party a single voter.

And even if it’s not the perfect solution to this problem, I believe it works quite well in getting things done and issues handled.

So people like my frustrated telecom customer friend should adopt the methods of those frustrated widows and orphans who cut through highly trained heavily armed security personnel to get to the top.

After absorbing the effective frustration of these corporate customer care systems, instead of seeking mid-level contacts a la the Kaheru boys et al to “help”, go straight to the Chief Executive for intervention; after all, he or she is the person most accountable and needs to ensure that the company doesn’t lose even a single customer.

For me, personally, the escalation to CEO level is always one step above my first official interaction with the Customer Care people; because the CEO is just an employee of the company. The CEO is senior-most, highest paid employee, with the biggest perks, and therefore the one with the most to lose.

I don’t allow them to be ‘bosses’ who are unreachable – and as the President shows when he barks at his security personnel as they try to do their job and stop those widows and orphans from cutting through, WE are their bosses.

the day stephen bought some new car insurance

Dedicating this morning to the protagonists in a series of actions that constituted the following experience recounted to me last week, and that I hope you one day go through first hand, if you have not already encountered people of this nature.

Stephen (not real name unless you actually know the guy – in which case, feel free to shell him to the high heavens) is the lazy type of gainfully employed Ugandan who will not do anything close to manual or menial provided there is a chap nearby who values a Ushs500 coin or two.

Last week on about Thursday he renewed his third party insurance by way of a loose boda-boda bound courier, and realised as he got to his home later in the night that the sticker had not been applied to the relevant part of his vehicle windscreen.

He was too lazy, as mentioned above, to reach across to the co-driver’s seat for the insurance tag and accompanying adhesive sticker, un-peel both and apply them against the glass.

The work involved would have taken almost as long as reading the above paragraph both times you did.

Instead, he went to bed, and the problem was still present when he returned to the car the next morning. By convenience, the askari was hovering nearby and ready to receive instructions to place the insurance sticker where it should be.

“Take off the old one first, then put this one there,” Stephen told him, handing over a couple of thousand shillings for the job, before going back in to do something less menial for a few minutes and generally not be in the presence of such work being done at his vehicle.

He eventually drove to the office and just as he was tossing the keys to the fellow who washes it every morning, he noticed something amiss with the newly-placed insurance sticker.

He couldn’t believe that the askari fellow had done the job so wrong, and turned to the car-washing chap to ask, “Do you see what’s wrong with that insurance sticker?”

“Yes, sir,” responded the car-washing guy, chuckling a bit at the foolishness of whoever had placed it, and quite certain that this was going to result in a revenue earning task for him.

The sticker had been placed on the windshield upside down. The words were facing downwards instead of upwards. The logo of the insurance company, which was quite recognisable even if one were incapable of making out the words by way of reading, was also upside down.

This proved both that the askari was definitely not a scholar who had fallen on hard times and resorted to that lowly occupation, and that he was not a man of simple logic. The wretched chap had probably stood by the side of the car at such an angle that he was holding the sticker upright by the time he approached the vehicle windscreen, but found himself having to turn his arm downwards in order to place it in the required spot.

Stephen shook his head in both wonder and dismay, then issued instructions to the car washing guy to fix it. And he left to get some white collar work done within the comfort of his office, surrounded by computers, internet access, coffee and biscuits and people far more sensible.

Several hours later, responding to a meeting alert about a lunch meeting at a trendy nearby cafe, he put his computer to sleep, made for his clean vehicle and was just about to set off when he noticed something else amiss.

He shot out of the car in a panic and went closer to inspect it, and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

The car washing guy had ‘fixed it’ by pasting the insurance sticker onto the front of the windscreen, with the back of the sticker facing up top; so that if a traffic officer needed to read the sticker, he would have to push his head into the car to see the details thereon.

Stephen was flummoxed. He could not understand how the car washing guy had never noticed in all these years that the stickers are placed under the windscreen with the details facing outwards. He also could not work out why the guy had not noticed that this was the case with the other, older car insurance sticker that was still in place.

And by the way, hadn’t he told the askari to first remove the old sticker and then replace it with the new one?!!!

Ugandans, re-arrange Ebola to spell opportunity

Please bear with the ebolised focus; this disease is like that. It takes over your mind, your every waking thought, and you eventually succumb.

But before it kills us all, you guys need to get up and smell the handwash detergents. Ebola can be spelt O.P.P.O.R.T.U.N.I.T.Y.!

Seriously, guys, stop whining and dying and pay a little bit of attention here because there is serious money to be made doing the following:

1. For Ugandans, start with the fact that we kicked Ebola soundly out of the country many years ago and proved that we are the most bad-ass at kicking Ebola’s ass (you need to use Americanisms like that because the main target market for what we are about to start selling will be the Americans). Get the entire world talking about how seriously we handled the disease the first-time round so that the world looks at us with a seriously newfound respect as they try to handle the disease and realise that it is actually harder than HIV/AIDS by FAR! If we can spin that story carefully with the Kony one, we could become the targets of all manner of efforts ranging from being asked to identify someone faster than Usain Bolt, to providing a supply of X-Men and Women.

But this is NOT the real opportunity, it’s just a foundation.

2. Ugandans, Start selling soap and hand sanitiser. I mean, World, Start buying Ugandan soap and hand sanitiser. It works best!

We need to get the world to understand that we didn’t get rid of Ebola by using dainty hand sanitisers in little teeny weeny bottles ensconced within feminine clasps and handbags, or using silly little bits of hand washing soap a la miserly hotel bathrooms. We used Sabuuni!

We used hardcore, proper, germ and virus decimating Ugandan made Sabuuni. It doesn’t smell unnecessarily sweet or fragrant; it doesn’t disintegrate for days and days even if you forget it in the basin when you delay to wash clothes for a little while; if it goes into the drain then the entire neighbourhood complains about a certain smell due to the blockage to the soak pit.

Sabuuni! The hardest soap ever made, only available in Uganda. If the rest of the world does not begin importing Ugandan made soap then they should import HazMat suits against Ebola and coffins.

All these so-called ‘lapses in protocols’ while handling ebola are just a result of an ill-advised reliance on soaps NOT made in Uganda.

Be like us, the people who beat ebola hands down back in the day when it was fresh and unknown and at its deadliest since there was so little research done into the damn disease and so little was known about it.

Use our Sabuuni. Or our JIK hand sanitiser solution, in canisters used from State House right up to my own home. In fact, dispatch it to the Ugandan candidates in the Big Brother House right now (mpozi who are they?)

3. Make videos about how to handle Ebola: Park all those Ugandan music videos I hear Sitya Loss ndi Boss and Panadol…keep the names and replace them with ‘Sitya Ebola ndi Boss’ done by the same Eddie Kenzo or Chameleone/Bobi Wine/Bebe Cool/Isaiah Katumwa/Maurice Kirya/Juliana Kanyomozi/The Afrigo Band/Rema/etc. In fact, let’s do a Ugandan All Stars Ebola song the way those other guys did We Are The World – call it We Beat Ebola! and fill it with the same catchy, dancy, rompy Ugandan beats that the world loves so much.

Do that and we will beat Naija music hands down. We won’t have Nollywood renamed Ebolaville because that is just scary, but if we multiply the popularity of Nollywood with the notoriety of Ebola and turn it into prosperity, then China will probably create a virus of their own called Ebolq just to get in on the action!

4.  Why are we not all international consultants on Ebola eradication? How are you a Ugandan sitting in your home or office just reading about this on the internet or watching CNN reports instead of being consulted, yet even random characters in the world of science, like Chris Brown, are making headlines talking about Ebola even though the most he has ever had is that disease that makes men slap their spouses black and blue?

Be serious!

Any one of you can release a book titled, ‘I Survived Ebola’ or a documentary about ‘How To Wash Ebola Out Of Your Life’ and this week you will be guaranteed more sales than that woman’s Anaconda video.

5. There are also hidden opportunities such as one chap posted onto Facebook, when he said he had walked to the end of a long supermarket queue in the United States, then taken a phone call in Luganda only for the entire supermarket to clear out on hearing the language because they realised he “was African” and therefore likely to be carrying the disease.

#Eish! That opportunity means you can open up an entire retail shopping business provided you have a white guy to help you with deliveries; or, on the dark side, you could rob banks by simply standing akimbo in the banking hall and shouting out stuff in your local vernacular while looking African – nobody will shoot, they will just flee till someone finds HazMat suits, by which time you will have emptied the vaults.

What you do, though, is don’t say “Gunigugu” – they’ve worked that one out already thanks to Eddie Murphy being so popular for so long.

I’ve told you – Ebola can be spelt O.P.P.O.R.T.U.N.I.T.Y.

where are you getting your news on ebola in liberia, nigeria and guinea?

It’s always been clear that we are not in control of much, in these countries on the continent of Africa, but I stopped to think today about how odd it was that all the coverage on Ebola that people in Uganda quote and tweet about is from the Guardian, the Washington Post, CNN and so on and so forth.

How come these journalists are so brave that they are the ones who go into war zones and have now deployed right into the infectious jaws of death by virus contamination? And if they can do so, why are our own journalists missing? A journalist is a journalist, by any other race/colour/nationality, right? We are committed to the truth, objectivity, the people, our profession…right?

Well, I focussed on Liberia and discovered that they DO have local media there; so somebody should start quoting them a little bit so we are sure that we’re hearing the truth from there.

Of course, what with our obsession with the ‘developed world’ we have no clue what the Liberian media houses on offer might be, but there’s a list of journalists up on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Liberian_journalists and newspapers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Newspapers_published_in_Liberia as well.

One of them even has a specific tab on Ebola: http://www.frontpageafricaonline.com/index.php/ebola-central but does not compare well to our own news websites in Uganda.

The others are also not easy to find, but certainly exist – such as The Daily Talk – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Talk and The News (search for the link yourself).

Journalists, especially those on this continent who might not be able to deploy people to physically go to Liberia and wherever else, make those phonecalls to your colleagues, establish email contact and get us the REAL stories. Show us their REAL countries so we can appreciate what they are REALLY like from our perspective.

Tell us how different or similar we are through OUR eyes, please?

And readers in general, open YOUR eyes and LOOK FOR information rather than just consume what gets sent your way; and for everybody’s sake, analyse it carefully at all times – whether it’s from the Analyst Liberia or the Herald Tribune of the United States.

For instance, what does the phrase “lapse in protocol” mean in this ebola story, and why is it only used when a patient outside of the countries on the continent of Africa gets ebola?

Do you realise that it establishes in your mind the natural expectation that in some countries such as the United States and Spain (surprisingly) there are protocols that make it surprising for anyone – especially a health worker – to fall sick, but that in those countries on the continent of Africa where they do, it is normal?

Why is the phrase only introduced months after thousands have died in Liberia and Nigeria and Guinea, and in reference to three or four people elsewhere?

Do you realise that you almost know the name of the pet dog of the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola yet can’t name a single dead West African even though their DNA is closer to yours than the said sick dog?

Source and read your news analytically, carefully, wisely and pay special attention to all the seasoning you taste as you consume it. Feel free to wash it down with libations that suit your traditional palate, rather than fancy foreign drinks that might disorient you.

Day 1/7: cue laughter in court

I was going to let the events of earlier today go by with just the tweets shared from my court experience, but then a group of tweeps threw the #UGBloggers7Days challenge my way and the literadrenaline was let loose.

Since I’m deeply involved in the case I can’t speak about the facts surrounding it, but today I was in the witness stand of a courtroom for the first time in my life, thanks to a lawsuit brought against MTN Uganda andSMS Media Uganda by former Mayor and almost-Minister Al-hajji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala.

Briefly, Sebaggala claims that the two made a ringtone out of his speech and have raked in billions of Uganda shillings, infringing on a copyright that belongs to him.

Legalities aside, why are we NOT spending more time hanging around court rooms for our general entertainment?

The curtain-raiser was seeing this massive maroon Uganda Prisons bus sidle alongside me and try to squeeze into the queue entering the commercial court, the way Kampala drivers tend to do as if the cars are just an extension of their bellies.

After realising that the bus wouldn’t fit, the driver drove on a little bit and parked by the side of the road to let the following alight:

BadBrown

It took me a couple of seconds to understand what I was seeing, and by that time she was walking right past me and all I could snap was:

20141014_085022

#BadBlack, I tweeted.

“Maybe #BadBrown!” someone replied.

Everyone at the Commercial Court was a comedian, for some reason – even the askaris who exchanged looks, comments and giggles as she walked past. In fact, #BadB herself was joking with that blouse matching her skin complexion.

The bus driver had started it all, though, having driven an entire damn bus all the way from Luzira just to drop this one prisoner with her guard.

Inside our court room, the opportunities for laughter were countless – even before we saw the playback of Seeya’s famous video recording (find that here or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmJ7AzBQB7c).

I doffed my hat off to the judge for not guffawing out loud as most other people did throughout the day, even though his face broke up more often than not.

At one point I mentioned that I had offered Sebaggala’s team refreshments when they came to SMS Media offices, to which his lawyer responded, “…you say you gave them groceries…”

“No, my Lord, refreshments. NOT groceries!” I quickly corrected the fellow, lest the court record indicated that I had attempted to bribe Seeya with some shopping items…

Then, at another point the same lawyer asked, at a very unnecessary (to me) point: “The content was the same but the codes were different. By different, what do you mean? What do you mean they were different?”

“Er…they were not the same.”

“They were different?”

“Yes.”

“What do you mean?”

I turned to the judge for help, but realised I could try one more time with, “They were not the same.”

He appeared to finally get it.

Drawing to the end of an entertaining cross-examination, the second lawyer said quite distinctly at one point, “You claim you got the recording and created an altercation which you call a CRBT…”

“I did not!”

“Yes, you did. You made an altercation out of the recording!”

“Surely not an altercation, my Lord!” I interjected, again.

The lawyer, however, was off on a tangent and not to be interrupted, so he went on for a bit while the rest of us tried to work out what chaos the ringtone had caused, besides this outburst…

“…an alteration, you mean?”

He smiled.

As did everybody else in the room – including Seeya himself.

Would that all court appearances were this amusing; or that I were being paid to attend them…