Author: Pius Bigirimana
Reviewer: Don Wanyama
The cliché goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.
The life story of Mr Pius Bigirimana, the current Secretary to the Judiciary, which forms the core plot of “Abundance Mentality”, is perhaps best exemplified in the aforementioned phrase.
Born 62 years ago in rural and remote Kisoro, on the border with DR Congo and Rwanda, Mr Bigirimana, like many a child of that time, had to trek kilometres on foot to access school, doing this amidst the threats of an intimidating environment (forests, thickets), marauding wild animals, tempestuous weather, among others.
He was lucky, however, that his father, Peter Kalerangabo (RIP) had through interaction with the early missionaries appreciated the importance of education and was willing to go the extra mile to ensure that one of his last children in a family of 10 (eight of them girls), got a decent education.
It explains why his father accompanied him to school daily and perhaps the magnanimity, minus admonishment, to find him another school (St Mary’s College, Rushoroza) following his expulsion from St. Paul’s Seminary, Kabale, after with friends, they had drunk a local brew (muramba) on a weekend out much to chagrin of their rector, Rev. Fr. Schindler.
But “Abundance Mentality” is more than just a narrative of a path to success of a rural boy who climbs to the pinnacle of public service.
As we trace Mr Bigirimana’s life journey, it is expertly weaved with the tale of Uganda’s post-independence safari, from the era of dashed optimism in the first Obote government, the eight harrowing years of Amin, the instability between 1979-1986 and the more stable Uganda under the NRM and President Museveni.
There is no doubt that Mr Bigirimana is an accomplished career public servant—for his 36 years of work—he has known no other calling, serving all the years in public service and rising from an assistant district commissioner to now a Secretary of the Judiciary.
His previous stints as a permanent secretary were in the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. The only time he took a break was to do short courses in the UK and later his Masters degree at Victoria University of Manchester.
It is therefore important to listen to his voice, especially in Chapter 21, when he dissects what he believes is ailing Uganda’s public service.
“I have observed that in the recent years the public service has increasingly been unable to attract good workers,” he writes. “I believe, to us, who have been in the service for some decades, the reasons are clear.”
Mr Bigirimana goes ahead to list a plethora of ailments suffered by the public service. From low wages, stagnated growth, favouritism, to shortage of facilities, little training and wrong recruitment timing.
It is an incisive insight into the malaise that is gnawing at our public service and for those whose duty it is to set things right (including Mr Bigirimana himself); this book would offer a good starting point.
For many authors, book titles are perhaps one of the most critical yet troublesome part of the whole. In Chapter 24, Mr Bigirimana elaborately explains the concept of “abundance mentality”.
It stems from a speech he heard delivered by a motivational speaker, Eric Kimani, titled “The Abundance vs Scarcity Mentality”. In brief, those with the abundance mentality are optimists. Where others see challenges, they see opportunities.
For a man whose life has been chequered by its own share of misfortunes and struggles; the death of his first wife, Anna, followed 18 months later by death of his son, Peter, then the demise of his sister, Clare, a nun, his struggles with obesity, and the much-publicised “OPM scandal” where he blew the whistle on a corruption web running through several government agencies, it has indeed taken an “abundance mentality” for Mr Bigirimana to rise above all these and keep soaring.
The book is written in simple English with a linear plot, occasionally broken by flashbacks, making its narrative easy to follow. With the exception of a few typos, “Abundance Mentality” is a great read.
Note: President Museveni officially launched “Abundance Mentality” on Friday July 24th, 2020 at State House, Entebbe, in a colourful ceremony.
The reviewer, Don Wanyama, is the Senior Press Secretary to His Excellency the President.