If all man’s dreams as a child were to come true, then many a people would be living a life far from what they are today or maybe not. Imagine if Dr. Ekwaro Obuku the President of the Uganda Medical Association was a lawyer? Would he have stood out uniquely in that aspect as he has in the Doctor lab coat?
“I wanted to be a lawyer but my father persuaded me to be a doctor…” Obuku narrated but the tight Senegal sports jersey he was wearing that hugged his body coupled with the khaki shorts seemingly carries one away from the outspoken authoritative physique that he usually fits into a suit and tie.
However, never do the clothes hide the bellow of a voice that is symbolic of the silent thunder of Uganda’s doctors whom he stood for and led into a successful sit-down doctors strike in 2017. A committed altar boy in his childhood, it is no wonder that his dedication to a cause is never shaken by the roars of a hungry lion.
“…the cause we stood for was in touch with reality for everybody who uses public health facilities…I was a vessel to communicate precisely the feelings of the doctors who were sincerely fed up with the frustrations of a public health system,” Obuku said.
The challenges medical workers face were not new to Dr Obuku, having spent a lot of time by his parents side at the hospital as his father was a Medical Superintendent at Mubende Hospital and his mother a nurse.
Dr. Obuku recounted, “I come from a family of doctors. The clan itself the Inomo people are orthopedic surgeons. My father was a doctor before he passed away, my mother a nurse, so I lived in the hospital environment for a greater part of my childhood until I went to boarding school. I understood because we shared with him so I understood the challenges facing a health worker."
A man with an identity is one with a distinctive culture embedded in his own independent beliefs; Dr. Obuku silenced his Catholic christened name Anthony for what he deemed as an enlightenment of the African struggles something he feels many an African should do to embrace “Africaness”.
Dr. Obuku whose noble self-climbs above the medical fraternity in Uganda also charismatically functions naturally in his community of Kiira Town Council as the chairperson of the Kitikifumba Association an initiative founded by residents for development of a model estate.
He says, “...we focus on security, we now have a SACCO, the women also have a women’s group, there’s a sports initiative for children and at least we’ve had once an annual marathon to raise money for security lights”.
Quick to brush off any assumptions that his interests in politics may be well revealed given his leadership track record which has followed him since school, Obuku says politics is a natural thing for man and a system that starts from home. He also alluded to God who he said was the greatest politician for having thrown out Satan who didn’t not meet his rules of engagement.
Politician or not, Dr Obuku is committed to fighting for better service delivery. This led him to volunteer as a secretary for publicity for the Uganda Medical Association since 2010 and formally joining in 2013 to advocate for quality of health care for every Ugandan, access a doctor and improve the welfare of the doctors.
He hopes the Ugandan government will adopt health financing in terms of either health insurance, government collections of monies or the direct individual pay out of pocket for a health service.
He believes, “This will empower the citizens giving them direct control and responsibility to demand for quality services and accountability instead of the government selling the ideology of free service when in fact there is no free service because the patients either pay for a doctor or medicines which brings about the black market”.
Before seeing us off, Dr Obuku advised Ugandans to watch their lifestyle in terms of what they eat and what they do since the epidemiology or the burden of the disease is changing with a surge of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes among others.
He reveals that he has taken to gardening and digging to burn some unneeded calories and prevent physical inactivity. Dr. Obuku encourages casual routines like household chores, communal engaging duels and ignoring excessive use of alcohol and cigarette smoking.