How the mighty fall is a book by Jim Collins. In the book, he basically talks about institutions and companies. He says that every great institutions stumbles at some point in history. He goes ahead to say that institutions and companies fall through five stages of decline, which can be detected early and avoided. The five stages he lists are: Hubris from success, Undisciplined pursuit of more, Denial of risk and peril, Grasping for salvation and Resignation to downfall.
Well, reading Collins’ book, one can’t help but draw similarities with many Ugandan businesses and strong men or individuals. And one must add that many haven’t read this book so as to avert a looming fall.
Let us look at the interesting story of Muhammad Ssebuwufu. Here is a man who grew up in biting poverty, made his way to the city and had lady luck smile upon him. He set up a used car dealership and quickly made his way to the top of the used car business in Kampala. Ssebuwufu’s Pine car bond was the go to place if one needed a used car, ready to drive. But what really happened to Ssebuwufu?
At his prime, about 5 years ago, Ssebuwufu oozed money and power. He was a darling of the then all powerful Police boss Kale Kayihura, who has since fallen from grace as well. Ssebuwufu was untouchable. Fellow car dealers say that it was useless competing with Ssebuwufu over buying a car. He had the money and means to see anyone off. He had such power that even police officers feared him. He had cells at his pine car bond were he tortured and detained people over whatever crimes he thought they had committed against him. He basically operated above the law. He was a staunch NRM party supporter operating just like Abdullah Kitatta.
Outside his car business, Ssebuwufu was a darling of celebrities. He injected money into music shows, sponsored parties and was a regular patron at various hangouts in Kampala. His name received mentions on radio shows from opportunistic presenters who wanted a share of his money. He also received mentions in a number of local songs. In popular speak, Ssebuwufu had indeed made it in life.
Ssebuwufu clearly forgot the first two stages in Collins’ book. Stage one, Hubris from success refers to excessive pride and arrogance that makes people forget the foundations of their success. Stage two, Undiscipline pursuit of more, says that arrogance from stage one leads people into pursuing growth without the right people or resources.
Ssebuwufu’s hubris and undisciplined pursuit of more couldn’t be missed. Stories are told of how he unleashed gangs to arrest those who owed him money. Many of his customers were arrested, tortured and jailed by Ssebuwufu at his pine car bond. He started impounding cars he had already sold off, he was accused of being part of a car theft gang, which accusations definitely were rubbished. His impunity was all aided by Gen. Kale Kayihura.
But like fate would have it, Ssebuwufu’s days were numbered. He reportedly sold a car on loan to one Dona Katushabe in 2015. As usual, he kidnapped her and tortured her at his bond and she later passed away. Ssebuwufu would later be arrested and charged with murder. Like they say, the rest is now history. Ssebuwufu was convicted of the murder on Monday 24th June 2019 and he now awaits sentencing. He is expected to receive a life sentence which will see him spend the rest of his life in jail.
The Baganda have a saying, literally translated that “They were powerful and the world feared them”. The statement mocks the legacy of fallen strong men. Ssebuwufu was so powerful and all trembled before his feet. But look at him now, staring at the cold walls of Luzira prison!!