Always well dressed with a matching bow tie, former Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah will always be a darling to many.
In 2019, when Oulanyah led a fundraising campaign for the construction of the Paimol-wipolo shrine in the Agago district. He scheduled interviews with reporters from the Nation Media Group-Uganda and had given 10 a.m. for the interview. Journalists arrived more than 30 minutes early to set up the equipment.
To their surprise, the then vice president was already there, adjusting his costume while cracking jokes. He always made sure his visitors were comfortable.
Those close to the former president can testify to his hospitality; Cheerful, humorous, witty, but lucid when matters of national importance were discussed. Oulanyah has always listened attentively to everyone, regardless of their political affiliation.
When the news of his death arrived, members of the opposition and the ruling NRM party reacted with dismay and messages of condolence were sent from all platforms. Lawmakers from all political divisions and parliament staff continued to pay their respects two weeks after his disappearance.
Dark emotions still hover within the confines of the Maison Auguste.
One after another, lawmakers have paid glowing tribute to a man they say was a beacon of unity.
Mrs. Betty Aol Ocan, representative of Gulu City Woman and former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, describes Oulanyah as a fantastic timekeeper.
She says the wise counsel of the late Oulanyah will be missed by the House during difficult sessions.
“He was talkative, cheerful, friendly, a fantastic timekeeper and a strong Christian. But also, he had great oratory skills and spoke with authority, especially in conducting parliamentary business, which earned him great respect and admiration among his colleagues,” Ms. Aol said.
Mr. Asuman Basalirwa, MP for Bugiri Municipality, describes Oulanyah as a man of many attributes.
Mr. Basalirwa also says that Oulanyah had a vast knowledge of the law.
“You wouldn’t put him offside. He had a strong sense of humor; whenever he noticed that there was tension in Parliament, he made jokes to bring everyone together. He had a sense of style that always made him stand out and that’s an important aspect. He was very tolerant, you disagreed with him and he tolerated your views, he knew how to agree and disagree and disagree to agree,” he says.
Mr. Gilbert Olanya, the MP for Kilak South, who made a controversial statement immediately after the death of the former President and demanded an explanation as to why prominent Acholi died shortly after being appointed to larger offices, said Oulanyah died at the height of his life. .
“The Right Honorable Jacob Oulanyah passed away at a very privileged time in his life. In this world even if death is normal, we can only celebrate your death after 90 years but our brother died at a very tender age. At the moment, we of Acholi are not very happy. We wonder what is going on in this regime,” he says.
To Mr. Barnabas Tinkasimiire, MP for Buyaga West County, Oulanyah died before he mentored his deputy.
Ms. Anita Among had only been vice-president for nine months when her boss died. During this time, she chaired more than 70 sessions while Oulanyah chaired only about 21 sessions.
“It is sad for the country to lose a leader of this caliber. We thought God took it so fast now that we are in crisis. He hadn’t supervised his assistant, she was learning on the job. It’s going to be nasty,” he said. “I will miss the Rt Hon Oulanyah for his intellect. I loved listening to it; he was knowledgeable, eloquent and articulate. He was a good timekeeper and never wasted our time, we never went to night events with him,” adds Mr. Tinkasimiire.
According to Mr Tinkasimiire, Oulanyah always sought out what he thought would work for him.
“We’ve seen him go from farmer to lawyer, go from the Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) to the National Resistance Movement (NRM), from vice president to president, who knows, he would have run for president too , he had what it takes, he would make a very good candidate,” he said.
Ms. Paparu Lillian Obiale, MP for Arua District, said Oulanyah was a leader who united northern Uganda and was ready to make sacrifices for the people.
She says Oulanyah has traveled to all districts in Northern Uganda to mobilize people to support the NRM and his loss creates a big gap for the party.
“Every time he came to Arua, he called me. We would meet and plan for the region and the country. He was a man for the people and now we have lost him when we needed him the most. He always asked the northern leaders to stay united and demand their due,” Paparu said.
Mr. Yovan Adriko, MP for Vurra County, said Oulanyah promised to make parliament a people-centred house.
“When we arrived he said this is your Parliament, use it raising critical issues on the floor. He promised to support lawmakers to debate issues that affect ordinary people. Who will then listen to our voices when he is not there? Mr. Adriko wondered.
The staff of Parliament pay a glowing tribute
Like the political wing, the technical staff of Parliament have fond memories of Oulanyah.
Mr Ahmed Kagoye, the Seargent-at-Arms since 1996, says Oulanyah had a rare attribute and answered calls even at odd hours.
“He always answered my calls at any time and when he is not able to speak at the moment he would come back, which is a very rare attribute among other bosses at his level,” says- he.
“He always had a target for each sitting, if he deals with a bill or two that day it had to be that way. He was jovial and always made jokes with anyone,” he adds.
Mr. Sulaiman Kiggundu, the Parliamentary Budget Officer who has been employed in Parliament for the past 20 years, describes Oulanyah as such a man of the law.
“He knew all the details of budget management, he was very knowledgeable and astute; it allowed for a very good debate on the budget process,” says Kiggundu.
He recalls that after Oulanyah spoke, he moved around departments and assured staff of how he would work with everyone.
“We were all surprised at his humility. He followed the rules of procedure. I remember his first session as President; he said Parliament would be based on evidence; we waited because we [budget office] generate a lot of information that would be useful to members. We missed a legislator and a man very knowledgeable about the law,” he says.
Ms Ruth Ekirapa Byoona, a director in parliament, who studied with Oulanyah at Makerere University, said the former president promised to turn the chamber into a house of prayer.
“He always attended our prayer sessions, Christmas and Easter carols and gave all he could, he loved to sing. He always encouraged us to follow the teachings of the Bible, to lead an exemplary life, to be fair and just. It comforts me a lot, because I am in mourning, I am sure that he is with the Lord”, says Mrs. Ekirapa.
Ms Olive Eyotaru, Deputy Hansard Editor, who joined Parliament when Oulanyah was Deputy Speaker, describes the deceased as approachable.
“It made you feel like you were around any other person. It endeared him to many. I loved the fact that he always preached tolerance; to be able to work with people, regardless of their character, mannerisms and behavior. I will always remember him for that,” she said.
Oulanyah will be buried on Friday at his ancestral home at Lalogi in Omoro district.