In the run-up to the controversial 2005 constitutional amendment that saw presidential term limits plucked out of the supreme law of the land, the reasons for his reluctance to leave were wrapped up in a single argument: Uganda needed someone with a vision to lead it.
Although the first time he said this to former BBC journalist Robin White in an exclusive interview in 2003 he left open the question of who that person was, he also did not expressly deny that he would run for office again.
Many Ugandans, by then pretty much unwilling to believe that he would not change the constitution and stay, took it as confirmation that he would.
After the constitution was amended, it became crystal clear that he would be his newly registered political party’s flag bearer.
Presumably he and members of the party had looked around and decided that no one else fitted the bill.
And so, he agreed to do Ugandans a favour and stay put to ensure that no visionless upstart took over and diverted the country from the course on which he had set it.
Nearly a decade later, he has trotted out another reason why he is still in power: Staying around for a long time has provided him with endless opportunities for learning.
So much so that he now fancies himself as “an expert on governance.”
He was in Kenya on a short visit when he revealed this.
Predictably, among Uganda’s chattering classes, it has become the subject of much discussion.
In some circles, the anger it caused was so palpable one could touch it.
A young political activist belonging to one of the political parties that would like to unseat him but don’t seem to have figured out how to approach the task successfully, was literally smouldering with anger when he told me: “That speech shows you how much contempt Museveni feels for the people of this country”.
He, like all Ugandans who have not been sleepwalking through the president’s long reign, recalls that soon after he seized power, Museveni couldn’t stop talking of the evils of longevity in office.
At the time, the lean, ascetic, and relatively young man in his modest Kaunda suits routinely heaped scorn on African leaders for misconduct, including buying presidential jets while the people they led walked about without shoes; sitting on imported furniture while ignoring what he saw at the time as an equally good variety made by local artisans; and drinking their tea and wine in imported cups and glasses rather than locally made plastic mugs.
He couldn’t understand why anyone would be happy leading a country that did not manufacture even things as mundane as safety pins.
Nor was he impressed by African governments that exported their products to Western countries instead of bartering them among themselves, with each giving away what it produced but did not need in exchange for what it needed but did not produce.
I agree with Museveni!
Well, I count myself among Ugandans who would agree with Museveni that his reign has been one long lesson in what is realistic and unrealistic, reasonable and unreasonable, as well as what is possible and what is not.
I am not going to go into the boast about his expertise in governance.
There are three types of it, none of which he cited as the one in which he has expertise: Good governance, good-enough governance, and bad or poor governance.
I am sure Ugandans and Uganda watchers can spend days arguing over this. I leave it to them.
So why do I agree with Museveni?
Well, over the years, as he has traversed the world visiting fellow heads of state, he must have discovered that jua kali furniture of the type made by local Ugandan artisans is not exactly presidential.
Which is why the government has spent colossal sums on the imported variety for his palaces.
There can be no presidential palace he visited and was served drinks in plastic mugs.
That is why he must have abandoned the idea of filling his cupboards with them and gone for top-notch porcelain.
And why would he have bought a jet for himself if he had not learnt that a president who works hard for his people, whether they wear shoes or not, and makes enemies in the process, deserves a personal jet for comfort and to guarantee his own security?
As for not manufacturing safety pins, I am sure by now he knows why Uganda imports things as mundane as wooden toothpicks from China and why he has done nothing to stop it.
Ask him why he abandoned barter trade with Cuba and he could give you a whole lecture about the practicalities of taking that route.
Perhaps I should end with a question some Ugandans love to pose these days: Ffe tufunira wa (what’s in it for us)?
*Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based researcher and writer on politics and public affairs.