From Street Preaching to Position of Recognition, a review of Dr Sam Mayanja’s Book 

In their famous book, The ONE Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan argue that focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re NOT going to do.” You can only know what you are not doing once you know what you are doing. For Dr Sam Mayanja, that one thing is land. He knows what he is doing when he talks about land.

In the first 109 pages of this book, there is a healthy mention of the word land at least once for every two paragraphs. That is how much Dr Sam Mayanja’s interest in matters of land is hard to miss out on.  

You cannot avoid the land question irrespective of who you are. Land is pivotal to every citizen yet the manner in which it is usually handled (often with a lot of secrecy) leaves many ignorant of the law and how it is supposed to protect those in whose interest it serves.

You cannot put emotions aside when talking about land. It is a case of life and death. The very land from which we harvest our food, is the very land in which our bodies are interred when we come to the end of our tour around the sun. Matters of land are always discussed in private. In hushed tones. Away from any cunning eye.

Educated people like Dr Mayanja who are the authorities to bridge the knowledge gap on land issues are the most feared by the local people. Educated people who occupy the high decision making offices have, for long, acted in selfish interest on land matters leaving many landless. And sometimes lifeless.

It goes without mention that the author refers to his dedication of writing about land to the tail end  as his means of spreading the gospel. Afterall, the gospel came for the lowly. His pen and black gown are the pulpits through which he is/ has preached this uncomfortable gospel.

At the time of writing, Dr Sam Mayanja is the minister of state for lands in Uganda. It is not really a surprise. He has been on this road long enough to be a voice of authority. Squared to that is his open admiration for the president for whom on several occasions, through his law firm and the photos shared in the book, has had an opportunity to represent on legal matters in courts of law.

According to the title of the book; From Street Preaching to Position of Recognition, you would expect to have at least a chapter dedicated to this transition. Save for the introduction, there is none. It is only implicit. It is talked about in passing.  For the reader for whom this is the ideal, they are left wanting.

However, the content of the book is heavily aligned with the subtitle; Dr Sam Mayanja’s guide – which is really true. For the last decade, Dr Mayanja has dedicated himself to the daunting task of speaking his truth on matters of national importance especially land. As a former banker, a lawyer, a founding partner at Kampala Associated Advocates, one of Uganda’s polished law firms, he comes next to none in articulating issues that are very personal and to the core of human interest. This is more than a decade’s body of work woven with a lot of wit and research.

In his historical novel, The Great Ponds, Elechi Amadi describes his protagonist Olumba as thus: what he lacked in height, he made up for in thick solid muscles. In the same light, what this book lacks in detail on the life experiences of the author (going by the title), it makes up for in giving huge lessons about the political history of Uganda, especially the missing chapters of arguments that have not been published in the mainstream. A lot of Uganda’s history has gone by undocumented. A whole chapter is dedicated to various political events that led to independence and those afterwards. In this, Dr Mayanja tries to link the current challenges of the country to what could have been the source for all the things gone wrong.

One can scarcely come across the works written by the giants of Uganda’s history especially in the years before independence. There is a tendency to trace the history of Uganda only in reference to either pre or post-independence as published by the colonial government, a misguide if you ask me. Dr Mayanja tries as much to outdo himself by digging deeper.

The reason we have been labelled as a continent that never reads is because we are an oral people. We sit down in conversation and pass on information from one generation to another. There is information shared in this book that Dr Mayanja must have been privy to get access to from oral sources. It is unique. His historical sources are outstanding.

This is the second edition of this non-fiction collection. It is the author’s narrative of things as he has seen, done or read as they happened. You therefore have to expect a lot of authorial authority in-between paragraphs. Each article is independent of each other but organised in a sequence of chapters i.e. land, banking, politics, Buganda and other matters of great public concern. 

This book is available at Aristoc, Uganda Bookshop and Mukono Bookshop. 

Author: Dr Sam Mayanja 

Title: From Street Preacher to Position of Recognition

Pages: 276

Price: UGX 80,000

Publisher: Media World Production

ISBN: 9789913984584

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