I met Tony Muguma in 1982 at Kigezi High School (KHS) which was one of the best senior secondary schools in Western Uganda. Tony was a tall, dark, slim and handsome boy with an infectious smile. It was evident that he came from a wealthy family. Young as he was, Tony had already acquired excellent driving skills, he had a perm hairstyle, he was loaded with good pocket money for his upkeep and he spoke fluent English. In spite of his background, Tony was very respectful and humble. He would never lord it on the less privileged students.
As we interacted, Tony discerned that unlike him, my own background was humble, yet he chose to love me. I think he was attracted by my dancing skills. I was arguably one of the best dancers at KHS. Years later I must confess that I wasted a lot of time in discotheques. To my recollection, it was Tony who gave me the nickname Disc Jockey (DJ) and later I came to be known in school as DJ. If anyone reading this tribute was a student at KHS in the early 1980s, you should remember DJ. One of Tony’s favourite songs was “Last night a DJ saved my life.”
Tony was not heavily built in stature but he had a big heart. A number of his friends, myself inclusive, depended on his pocket money and we never lacked snacks or beverages. His cupboard was always stocked with an assortment of teas, coffee, powdered milk, creamers, biscuits etcetera. In fact, Tony went to the school dining hall out of choice. He had the wherewithal to survive without the daily rations of ‘akahunga’ (‘posho’/corn bread) and beans which was the main school menu. Because of Tony’s generosity, our group of friends became quite distinguished from the majority students and we were soon referred to as Young Billionaires (YBs) – at least in the school. Of course, a few students who knew our backgrounds made fun of us by calling us “Young Beggars”. It was only Tony Muguma and his cousin Aggrey Kagonyera who were the real Young Billionaires.
Although he was generous, Tony was not extravagant. He would spend his pocket money wisely to sustain him up to the end of the school term.
Tony impacted my life in many positive ways:
He helped me to overcome a poor self-image by his lifestyle. As a result, a deprived child who had hitherto carried a baggage of attitude(s) and mind-set challenges began to change.
Because of Tony’s words of affirmation, I became confident in public speech and leadership (by the grace of God, I currently serve as a Chaplain of Makerere University).
Tony’s stories of Christmas holidays spent in London inspired me to dream big beyond the boundaries of Uganda. One of the places I longed to visit was the Tower Bridge because Tony mentioned it a number of times in his fascinating stories. A bridge that would open to let tall boats to come through and then close. Amazing! As a result, during my first visit to London in 1998, when I was an adult, I asked my host to take me to the Tower Bridge.
At the beginning of every school term, we would just spend time with Tony to hear stories of what was trending, latest movies, sports stars like Carl Lewis, Diego Maradona etcetera.
Tony introduced me to reading a lot of novels (some of you will remember the works of James Hadley Chase) and this helped me a great deal as a student of English and Literature.
Tony and I went to different schools in Kampala for “A Level” but we often shared quality time, basking in each other’s presence. We were bosom friends. He later moved to London but we kept in close communication.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior on 8th January, 1988. It was very gracious of Tony to call me from London and verify the rumour of my transformation. When I shared my testimony, he was greatly encouraged to know that if DJ could be saved, then anyone was saveable.
Sadly, my desire to reach out to Tony in London has not come to pass. But he has always been in my thoughts and prayers.
I will miss you my friend.
Rev Onesimus Asiimwe