He invited me. The talk had been long and we had shot into the hours of the Sunday morning. My roommate, Justus, is not one of those people that stay out for long. Usually by 2100 hours, he is back indoors. But that is not the case with Saturdays. As dusk walks in, he is at the hostel putting a few things together for what he tells me is called Prime Time. So I asked him about this event that takes place at Makerere University swimming pool every Saturday of the semester and he told me about it.
This particular session that must have affected him took place on Valentines’ day. Being a Saturday, I was exhausted and wanted no more conversation but sleep. He was not ready to buy my excuse. He told me of what had transpired at the poolside during Prime Time. He told me of couples that shared their stories; how they met there and how their friendship matured into marriage. He kept mentioning Uncle Bob, the guy who has seen all the students at campus, come and go, get married yet he is still ‘waiting on the Lord,’ I’m told.
Justus’ talk and tale went on through the course of the week and I made it a point to pass by the poolside for Prime Time the Saturday next. And this would be like my third time there. My first time attending this event was in 2014, when I read on a manila chat laid on the ground in front of the pillars at the Faculty of Arts. The theme, Sex at the pool, caught my attention. The story was however different when I got to the pool. The second time, it was about Dying for a Partner and the responses were very captivating. I remember one young man saying, “I would ask her to first die, then I take off.” One thing about Prime Time that you cannot take away is the fun. Laughter is one of the main dishes of this weekly buffet. The chefs always make it a point to spice up the event with this inviting dish. And the audiences always seem well prepared to receive the laughter.
My interest at this event though, was first struck by the tweet beam. During the course of the event, the prime timers, like the audience is called, keep tweeting details of the event and it is very captivating. It is one of the reasons I would consider going back again and again. Like any other routine event, Prime Time has its culture. The audiences refer to themselves as prime timers. The few times I have been there, I haven’t seen a difference in setting, which is not a big deal to the audiences. It is always the black curtains at the southern end of the pool that acts as the platform just like the way theatre was arranged in the ancient Greek. The prime timers sit on the staircases of the swimming pool as they look southwards to the goings-on. There are personalities whose names shall always be said a number of times. At least I know in that place, there is a gentleman called Ojangole alias OJ. He is so pivotal in the running of the event that at least his name is mentioned once in every ten minutes. The other person is Bob alias Uncle Bob, the comedian. He happens to be the official host of the evening event. The audiences always seem to be expecting a lot of entertainment from these people, on top of the day’s emcees.
Prime Time has been running since 1999. The program was introduced by Pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the famous names at Makerere University at least about religious leaders. His work here is not different from the stories around his name. From as far as 1999, this man-of-God, like many introduce themselves, dedicated himself towards providing clean entertainment that would not lure students into sexual indulge. In fact the essence of prime time is to promote abstinence and, of recent; a platform against homosexuality.
Fifteen years later, the numbers continue to grow. When you come twenty minutes late, you’re assured of standing throughout the show because all the sitting area is covered. Prime Time continues making a positive impact on the lives of the youth at Makerere University. When you find them fighting to enter, you may mistake the crowd for a wrong motive. But they are fighting to get a seat where their souls will be nourished and entertained for the coming three hours. Saturdays are different for any student who attends Prime Time. No wonder my roommate always comes back with a smile on his face, eager to share the highlights of the event even when not called for.