This is the second time I am showered with congratulatory messages for becoming a “Permanent Secretary”. The last time was about seven years ago. The President in Exercise of his authority appointed new Permanent Secretaries (PSs) and shuffled some in 2014. A staff of MUBS in the department that I headed at that time, was appointed a PS for the Ministry of Energy. On the same list a similar name to mine appeared as PS for the Ministry of ICT. Immediately calls flowed. I was baffled a bit having missed the news bulletin. Not likely that the President could appoint me PS without a prior notice.
The scenario has reoccurred. A staff from the Department of Economics at MUBS has been named PS Ministry of Finance. On the same list a name similar to mine appeared as PS Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Up to midnight Thursday July 15 2021 messages poured in; calls, SMS, whatsup, emails; when close family friends hit on my phone engaged, they dialed my wife to be among the first to share the excitement. Instead, as an archetypal academic, I was stuck on my desk polishing a manuscript for an Elsvier journal. I picked a few calls and responded to some messages to share the “bad news”. I had done the same seven years ago. I was not the new PS Ministry of Foreign Affairs! I reached for my phone to send him a congratulatory message; but as a student of management, I turned to writing this blog. I will text or call him later.
Using the principle of storytelling Iam sharing this brief narration in order to communicate lessons, complex thoughts, concepts, and causal connections that at times we take for granted in organizational life. When a single ‘i’ differentiates our names, it may pass in administrative interactions but in computer code it would not. When I explain that my single ‘i’ reflects Bunyoro and double ‘ii’ is its cousin in Busoga, friends tease it off as an artifact of historical distortion of our cultural heritage. But many students have had a bitter piece of it; they have redone the cover page of their bound dissertations for this seemingly small error when I decline to sign. I also don’t sign when they omit a second ‘n’ in our first name. Our first name is Vincent! They look at me in astonishment; humbly turn away to go and meet costs for a single ‘i’.
I have received calls from government agencies inquiring on ministerial matters; my reply is usually simple, ‘I am not yet the PS, but still a humble academic with MUBS’. My double namesake may also have received misdirected calls. In management teaching, this simple story plots themes of life, values, priorities, concerns, interests and experiences that create patterns. A simple lesson is to discover what this means to myself and my double namesake, communities that we serve and peer to peer architecture where our names matter; what could be the consequences; is there any vulnerability?
Vincent Bagire is an Associate Professor of Management
and Deputy Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at MUBS,
Vincent Bagiire is the newly appointed PS, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.