Maj. Gen. Ssewalya, now chairman of the General Court Martial, looked over the epaulettes on his shoulder and gestured to me how Mrs. Okuku was seated uncharacteristically close to the guest of honour. The guest of honour that night was the mighty Chief Justice, Kaleeba Aaron Joel an accomplished lawyer, former partner and close friend. We had actually started out together from the bottom at Kaleeba and Ntungwerisho Advocates before he was appointed to the Supreme Court bench and recently Chief Justice. He was a remarkable gentleman, always smart to the nines. You could never catch him with his shit un-tucked even on the golf course where we played out a few rounds once in a while.
From my seat, I could sense the class that St. Mary’s College Kisubi had taught us to revere more than forty years ago. All were polished gentlemen, through and through. I could see it from the signet ring on Jeff’s little finger, or from the Chateau Margaux Bordeaux wine that Ojambo and Ongom shared. I could smell it from the unmistakable perfume scent that knocked my nose when I leaned over to hug Mrs. Ssewalya. Plus the five course meals in five star hotels serenaded by music from live bands. This was supposed to be the dream.
Also at the chief justice’s table sat Mr. Okuku Patience and his wife. He was effervescent as ever, easily mingling with everybody. His conversations were never dull. He told stories about almost anything, right from his student days in Canada to his latest political manoeuvre against the ruling party. It was a public secret that he was scheming for the highest office in the land. As leader of the main opposition party, his party was expected to sweep the polls in the next year’s elections. We still called him supreme leader.
At the high table sat another notable figure, Ms. Okello Jennifer our high school teacher of literature and English, now old and grey. Her hair was prominently white and she looked like she could use a walking stick but it seemed she had stubbornly insisted on labouring her wobbly legs. Even in old age, she had never stopped talking. She had plenty of stories for each situation and laughed as much.
It goes without mentioning that I was the 2nd most sought after person in the room (after the chief justice). You see my firm which comprised of 5 partners and 30 associates- a huge number for any firm, was one of the best in town. 40 years of consistent and pragmatic growth had moved the firm from a small stingy space on the ground floor of a downtown arcade to the 10th floor of Mapeera House and negotiations were in the concluding stages to acquire our own glass building right in the centre of town. This was one of those events which I attended, partly for the fun and partly for business, divorce, land deals, contract arrangements, name it. Now divorce is not an interesting branch of the law and neither was it my specialty, but it was one I had handled a lot for my Old Boys. That night alone, there were 10 of them for whom I had handled divorces and from the look of things, I predicted that I would leave with more to deal with since only about half had turned up with their wives.
Midway the event, Jemba Lutaaya Junior took to the stage to perform his latest hit. The youthful energetic star was a global star, but to many of us in the room, he was an embodiment of the half hearted dream of his father Kevin Jemba who had himself been a youthful upcoming music star before ditching a music career for a more rewarding one in law. He had initially made a name from protecting intellectual property rights especially music, again from his own experience as a musician but had moved on to serve as corporation secretary to the biggest corporation boards in the land. He had since retired but now trotted around the world as manager for his celebrity son. Tonight he was seated as ever next to Maj. Gen. Ssewalya. I still wondered what they talked about now as old men since all they ever did in youth was gossip. They thumped high fives often like they had done since the early days of their friendship in school. Nevertheless, Jemba senior had never lost the flamboyance that had characterised his youth. He was the only one dressed in a white suit.
In the room that night was also Messrs Ongom Brian, Jeffrey Kaddu and Ojambo Peter, another set of accomplished and well bred lawyers. At their table were all tribes of alcohol. The trio were well known connoisseurs of wines and spirits. If any of them recommended a bottle of wine, you were sure not to go wrong.. Ongom Brian meanwhile was fixed on his tablet- I guess playing FIFA55 or some ancient video game like Teken or Mortal Combat like he had done on prom night. He was an avid gamer and I was stunned by the levels he could take it to. Once when I visited his chambers, I noticed the huge screen, consoles, pads and joysticks that cluttered one corner of his huge office. On the other hand, Jeffrey Kaddu had found his niche in oil and gas law while Peter Ojambo was the president-elect of SMACKOBA.
As the function came to a close, I squeezed my way through the sea of bodies covered with the flamboyant suits made from the finest linen. In fact it was a well known fact that some among us like Mr. Naigambi Kenneth, Q.C ordered their suits from Savile Row- Mayfair, London. Anyway, I needed to have a word with the learned chief justice, about some files of mine that were stuck in the Supreme Court registrar’s office. The files had to do with a multimillion dollar merger between oil companies that had gone wrong. Some could call it buying favours, but was it my fault that I studied with the Chief Justice? Surely not.
On the whole, we had turned out to be a bunch of lawyers whose abilities were never in doubt. I had faced off with most of them in court and we had nevertheless gone for each other’s necks. Top notch lawyers that you would recommend to anyone. Often I joked, that one could close his eyes and pick any of us and be sure that we would do justice to a case. At what rate did we come? Only top dollar.
PS. I know life is not a straight line but it has never been a crime to dream. If any of the above never turns out as I write it, please don’t judge us harshly.
16th April is the day, Grand Imperial hotel is the place. Be there