I never quite got to understand how an economics teacher veered into a spirited discussion on watchmen. But then Mr Okello, who was without doubt the sharpest spark on that college teaching staff, had a penchant for the unexpected.
“Listen, young men. In 10 years flat, you will be millionaires,” he began. As it turned out, he was wrong on that score because all that the young men in that class have acquired 10 years on are potbellies and bald heads and not millions in the bank.
“I would be very disappointed if, in your pursuit of millions, you delegate your primary responsibility of protecting your wife and children to the watchman. If you extend your search for millions and office to the midnight pub, you will only have yourself to blame if he assumes your other responsibilities in your home that are not on his job description!”
I recall we all roared with laughter, the little fools that we were. But now, with the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom that comes with age, I am inclined to believe that the man had a point. You simply never mess around with watchmen, you never know where and how deep they sting.
In Rwanda, the watchman is that poor sod that opens the gate for you and heartily waves you into your home. He might even help you carry the evening’s shopping up the stairs to your front door.
Ever polite and aware of his place, he never steps beyond the door. Yet it is possible that he knows your house and bedroom intimately, courtesy of the housemaid, the woman of the house or, God forbid, the angel named after your revered mother.
But having saluted you, he retreats back to his lonely post by the gate. Brave man that he is, and armed with nothing but a stick, he braves the chill and the rains to protect you, his master.
At no more than frw 20,000 a month, he ensures your second hand car is safe, and that no one breaks into your house to steal your flat screen set or break your neck. Well, that theory works pretty well until the gangsters strike.
Then, he does the most reasonable thing, which is to scream bloody murder and scale the nearest wall and leg it into the darkness beyond.
But again, that only works if the gangsters connive to appear when he isn’t fast asleep, which is a rare occurrence, indeed.
Either way, the police, when they arrive, label him a prime suspect, forgetting that he would be totally crazy to lay his life on the line for the miserable frw 20,000 that you pay him in instalments.
And daft the man is not since on that frw 20,000, it might alarm you to learn that he has educated two kids up to university level, a feat that many alcoholics who earn a tidy sum monthly find near impossible to execute.
As for the watchman at your workplace, never forget that when the pampered lot of you is retrenched because the company is broke, only the watchman is left untouched. Someone has to watch over the debris before the receivers come, you know.