By Pauline Luba
The leadership journey that Nkurunungi Seth Niwabiine started in May 2023 was not for the fainthearted. His courage was resolute. With faith, he forged challenges.
The 24-year-old had just made public his longtime desire of leading Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) Bishop Barham University Campus (BBUC) as its guild president. That particular semester, Niwabiine says he had reported to school with sh10,000 (about $2.6) as money for upkeep. Many who knew Niwabiine’s financial status thought his ability to fund his campaign was wishful thinking.
“No matter where you come from or what your background is, be positive,” Niwabiine said during a late November interview with Uganda Partners. “My personal motto is ‘believe, begin, become’.” Indeed, he believed he could win. On November 11, 2023, he did. He became the university’s guild president.
But Niwabiine’s was no ordinary campaign. He was honest with his classmates about his financial status and, therefore, many of those who campaigned for him did not expect compensation.
“In my first meeting (to strategize about how to conduct the campaigns), only five students showed up and I was honest about having no money,” Niwabiine said. “I ended up receiving contributions and help from several students.”
As luck would have it, on voting day, Niwabiine said his name was the first on the paper ballot. Could that opportunity have worked to sway fence-sitting voters who could have opted for any candidate whose name was first on the ballot? Perhaps, but Niwabiine says he believes voters knowingly chose him because he was the best among the contestants.
To Niwabiine’s mother, Mary Aida Nkurunungi, her son’s victory was a family triumph. Nkurunungi said she informed almost every relative she could reach about the new pride of the family. She said she not only often talks to her son on phone, but also prays for his successful tenure as guild president.
There is no doubt his father, Eric Nkurunungi Muhoozi, would have been just as excited. However, the day Niwabiine reported to school to start his journey of university education was the same day Muhoozi complained of pain and was rushed to hospital. Tests at hospital revealed he had liver complications. Three months later, those complications claimed his life.
That tragedy catapulted Niwabiine, as the first born in a family of five children, to fill the leadership void that his father had left in the family. He would often engage in different money-generating activities, with the hope that they would supplement whatever his peasant mother got in her pursuit to put bread on the table. Tasks like brick laying and farming were common activities from which Niwabiine and his family earned a livelihood.
The manifesto of Niwabiine, a year-three student of Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship, is built on accountability, security, advocacy and welfare of the students. He said he will strive to establish a cash fund, to support the tuition of needy but bright students, especially those from humble backgrounds.
Niwabiine attended Ishasha Primary School and Rushoraza Secondary School for O’level and and Kyamakanda Secondary School for A’level. All the three schools are found in western Uganda. In both primary and secondary school, Niwabiine was a student leader, including holding the position of head prefect.