Obituary - Yona’s Candle Burns Out, His Legend Lives On

Obituary - Yona’s Candle Burns Out, His Legend Lives On

BY INNOCENT NDAWULA

TENTATIVE PROGRAMME FOR YONA LAST FUNERAL RITES

August 8: Cricketers vigil at Sideline Sports Bar, Lugogo

August 9: Vigil at Machame Gardens, Naguru Vale road

August 10: Church Service at All Saints Cathedral 9am

August 10: Vigil in Mbale (in the evening).

August 11: Burial at Mafudu, Sironko District (midday)

The Late Yona Wapakhabulo Namawa reminds us more about what Abraham Lincoln said; “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

The more one got to know him, the easier it was to conclude that here is man who loved and lived his life to the fullest. He loved life and it equally did in the same vein.

In the cricket fraternity, Yona is a legend that will live on in our memories. He was a son to Speaker of Parliament the late James Wapakhabulo.

The late Yona attending an event

He died on Monday evening (August 6, 2018) and his coup de grâce is related to a bacterial infection (called infective endocarditis) that got to his heart before spreading to his lungs.

In my line of duty, I have never seen someone so professional in their work. He went about his life seamlessly; whether on the oval, tennis court or in his daily life routine.

Cricket is a ‘Gentleman’s Game’ and it teaches one to be so.

Always in his corner, Yona never played for the gallery. As a success-hungry person, he preferred to focus on personal goals and only said a word when his opinion was sought.

As an all-rounder cricketer whose skills were honed while studying in Australia (his father was working as an attorney in Papua New Guinea), Yona wore his heart on his sleeves and left nothing in his tank every time he stepped on the oval.

He would move from bowling to keeping wickets; or vice-versa when his team fielded first and then he would bat, more often than not, long innings as he rescued his side from either a spot of bother or into total domination.

Yona with his former colleagues at WMA

Battle Hardened

The same way he would express himself when compelled to say something – brutally honest. He minced no words and many misunderstood him for being a ‘bully’.

But it is such a character that helped him pile on the records especially when he played for Uganda, from 1988 -96, and for traditional local clubs Wanderers and Tornado.

In many ways Yona was battle hardened. Fearless on the pitch and a truly fierce competitor, Yona’s technique is still talked about as one of the best. He tucked under his belt the record of Ugandan cricket’s highest score. That was in 1992. Yona crafted a double century 212 for Wanderers in the National Cricket League.

Off the oval, he had grown into his own man.

Yona with his former colleagues at WMA

A consummate corporate communications guru, Yona had over the years built a formidable team at WMC Africa managing the growth of several big brands including MultiChoice Uganda (DStv), Stanbic Bank, British Council and British Airways among others.

A great guy all-round, Yona loved to hangout and his banter was priceless – it left those in his company in fits of laughter.

Loss Of A Brother 

We mourn the loss of a friend and a brother and as we publicly see off an honorable gentleman there is a scheduled vigil on Thursday (August 9) at Machame Health Club in Naguru, a funeral service at All Saints Cathedral on Friday August 10 (9am) and burial will take place at Mafudu Village in Sironko District on August 11 at Midday.

For his wife and three children, Yona’s innings stays incomplete.

The fans will hopefully cheer themselves hoarse after the next delivery he cuts hard for a boundary in heaven. Because that is Yona’s heart belongs amongst legends who lived life in a different dimension and yet gave many people a sense of belonging in this materialistic world.

Rest in Peace, Master Blaster Yona. You live long in our hearts and minds...you’re a true sporting icon in Uganda!

WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT YONA

Paulo Nsibuka Luswata (Former Uganda Captain)

He was my vice-captain when we won the East and Central Africa Cricket Council in 1991 and technically very astute. He could tell a batsman’s weaknesses from how he held a bat or from the stance and set an impeccable field. Outside he was very perceptive about a very wide host of fields and I even consulted him on matters finance even if it was my field and not his. He was a master strategist that always preferred to work behind the scenes, kingmaker de extraordinaire.

Tshaka Mayanja (Reggae Artiste & Producer)  

I’m kinda numb right now. I don’t think I would have been so deep into Reggae Music if Yona hadn’t introduced me to his cricket coach ‘Rasta Elder’ Tony Moody in London. He had back pains but seems it was a clot that led to his death.

Hussein Bogere (Cricket Afficionado)

That Yona is responsible for a surge in repair expenses for some of those buildings outside The Oval. And some vehicles on Jinja road. Bhoy, could he whack that ball!

Sam Walusimbi (Ugandan Sports Legend)  

Yona was a very talented young man. His batting was out of this world, only comparable to Roger Mukasa (current Cricket Cranes captain) in this generation. He was a bet for a century any day when he batted especially for Wanderers. He also bowled a bit but it was his batting that really stood out.

Godfrey Kivumbi Ddungu (King’s College Budo Old Boy)  

I remember Yona walking past Africa House. Sometimes at break and sometimes at lunch. He always seemed to be walking from the dining hall side to the cricket pitch side. The memory sticks because he was always had a cricket ball in his hands. He would idly throw that ball back and forth from his left to his right hand as he walked. The ball never seemed to settle in either hand for even a few seconds.

Elvis Senono (Sports Journalist)

Man is responsible for my interest in cricket. My elder brother (Amos Lubowa) used to comeback home with tales of the man’s prowess with the bat. I just had to follow the game when I joined Kibuli High School from where William Kibuukamusoke gave us equipment and taught us the basics.

Old Boy From Budo

Yona joined King’s College Budo in 1987. He was my classmate, and housemate. He was assigned to Ghana House but was hardly ever there. We were in different streams, me in A, and him, in C. He was in Budo up to his S4 in 1988. He then joined Makerere College School, where his star really shone. In Budo, the sudden cultural shock, was a little disorienting, and he many times found himself in seemingly awkward situations due to his ignorance of how things were done in this part of the world. I'm almost certain he was very glad to leave straitjacket Budo, for the more liberal Makerere College School. A friendly guy he was, though he always kept only a small circle around him. May his soul rest in peace.

Dr Patrick Ibembe (President, Mwiri Old Boys Association)

I first met Yona when his family had returned from exile in Papua New Guinea. We met at Lugogo Cricket Oval.  I watched Yona play that holiday and went back to Mwiri and told my friends Budo had ‘finished us’. I remember the whole of my team at the Schools Cricket Week of 1987 struggling to pronounce the name ‘Wapakhabulo’. As luck would have it Yona was bowled out cheaply twice in two critical matches.  Mwiri won. Skipper was Henry Okecho (former national skipper, coach & now UCA Development Officer). Assistant skipper was Justine Ligyalingi (now with ICC).

Team included other juniors like me (Ibembe), Richard Mwami (former UCA Chairman), Martin Makumbi, John Lubia (former Uganda captain) and Robert Ndiko (commander) among others. We built cohesion even amidst competition with Budo. Yona like many Mwirians continued with cricket at national and international level....Appreciation of cricket is one of our shared values (Mwiri/ Budo). His brother Lumumba Wapakhabulo was part of the Mwiri team ‘invincibles’ that led to the monumental unbeaten run in Schools Week from 1993 -2001. His demise leaves a deep void in the Old Budonian family. 

Joseph Mwambala (Former Uganda all-rounder)

We all know how voracious William Kibuukamusoke (Kabuki) used to be when Tornado was playing Wanderers; but at one game in Entebbe Yona exhibited class; to the extent that he hit Kabuki's in-swinger on the off stump for a six on the leg side. Even Kabuki applauded the shot.

James Ssekandi (Former PRO Uganda Super League)

The news of his death is still eating me up. I was with him even last Wednesday. I knew him when I joined Uganda Super League (soccer) as a Media Liaison because he was managing SuperSport events. He was a great man, very principled and professional.