Ahmed Oduka: The man who heard about Obote and ‘everyone’s death rumour’, but not his own
Uganda’s former Police Band Master, the decorated Senior Superintendent of police Ahmed Oduka literally saw death roaming around, and tipped the ‘neighbours’ that it would be knocking on their doors soon.
Death and those who stand for it do not want it announced and Oduka could have forgotten the very fact or maybe must have decided to stick to the religious aspect that preaches the mantra of forgive 77 times and forget.
For a man that tipped victims that death was coming to them, it was not possible that he would have forgotten just months later that it was still roaming around, and instead walk straight into its path.
The story of Oduka therefore in a two-phased one, the first phase where he tells Obote and his entourage not to land with aircraft at Entebbe or they will blow up, and another where he forgets and lands back in Uganda months later, and his ‘blows up”.
When Obote set off to attend the January 14-22 Commonwealth meeting in Singapore in 1971, he was finally under suspicion that Amin was planning a sinister move.
Unlike previous situations where Obote would brief Amin and other officials close to him on the day of his exit, on this occasion, Amin was overlooked. He was left in a room by himself as Obote talked to Oyite Ojok.
Because Ojok was Amin’s junior, it was both undermining and revealing, as Veteran politician Henry Kyemba would agree, that at that moment, if Amin had any plans against Obote, he had to bring them quickly forward.
Amin would later chair a meeting in Old Kampala at the home of 2nd Lt Juma Oka Ali Rokoni alias Butabika, and the meeting resolved to allow room for Obote and his entourage to land at Entebbe airport and blow up the plane with all on board.
The meeting resolutions were eavesdropped on by Butabika’s wife, a sister to Oduka and she hastily briefed her bother on the matter, being that such a situation would drag him in as collateral by his position as bandmaster.
The bandmaster would have to be present to take charge of the parade that would welcome Obote. Oduka was at this moment out of options, and he straight away called Basil Bataringaya, the minister for internal affairs to avert the situation.
Bataringaya escalated the matter and involved the Inspector General of Police Erinayo Oryema whom he tasked with arresting Amin immediately for treason.
Alas, Oryema had been party to Amin’s plan and he must have been relieved to learn that he would be in charge of arresting his co-plotters.
Back in Singapore, Obote called his entourage of ministers and government officials on January 24th in the hotel room and briefed them on the situation. According to Kyemba, he told them: “We shall be landing in Kampala but the situation is tricky.”
In Kampala meanwhile, Obote was no longer president and whoever had briefed him from Kampala was under arrest, Oduka and Butabika’s wife had fled but most of their associates were now under arrest.
While Oduka successfully managed to avert the plane from blowing up, he did not succeed in getting the results that he intended. His tip-off was supposed to also bring Obote back safely and oh yes, Obote returned safely, but to Kenya, not Uganda, very alive but not in charge.
Oduka had also sought refuge in Mombasa, Kenya and Amin ran the show.
Oduka had not been forgotten, not in the sense that he was very good at his job, which he was arguably, but in the sense that he almost cost Amin and his colleagues their lives and their fortune.
Only, Oduka must have forgotten this fact and he was not suspicious at all when a friend convinced him to return to Kampala, apparently at the request of Amin.
Oduka was on the bus to Kampala, later on, he met up with his wife Julia Oling with whom he would go to meet Amin.
The meeting with Amin happened on 23rd April 1971(exactly three months after Oduka foiled Amin’s plans) but there was no outcome literally, as Oduka did not come out of it. To date, he has never been seen.
Oduka was a man who appreciated quick change and lived by it. He was initially a Christian, born in 1930 in Pakwach as Steven Oduka, only to turn into Ahmed Oduka 19 years later in Kampala.
It could have been Oduka’s belief in such life changes that gave him the impression that Amin would change about him because, for a man who saw everyone’s death coming, it is incomprehensible that he failed to see his own death three months later!