I was not fortunate to meet the late ‘Lapwony’ Ocan but having read the anthology of tributes; The Life and Legacy of Lapwony Micheal Ocan as told by Family and Friends, I find that Lapwony Ocan was not only a father and family man. He was a gifted and generous person who understood his professional responsibilities and used them with such enthusiasm and passion to create, brand, rebrand and make the world a better and safe place for multitudes of people. Lapwony Ocan was, even at his lowest, a man who chose people over himself, took pride and intended his energy towards the progress of people other than just his himself and family. He was a preacher and a practitioner of the Christian faith, strict adherence to discipline, humility and charity.
Lapwony Ocan was a ladder, a ladder that many people used to climb to success, a ladder of knowledge and mentorship, and one with powerful thoughts, exhaustive knowledge and an object of symmetry; to those super talented, he still mentored them and to those struggling, he encouraged and pushed them – thus creating equity.
As a leader, teacher and Christian, he chose to live an accountable life to his subordinates and bosses but he didn’t like the asymmetrical nature of it. By this, he demanded for accountability in return and never tolerated mediocrity, laziness and failure, especially failure out of negligence and recklessness.
Also, for a long time, northern Uganda was a society torn apart by war, and that affected the society’s ways of life. They lived in squalid conditions and there were no ways to make a decent living for most of the people. The society was dehumanized, the people lived in fear abduction and terror by the rebels. They needed a leader. A leader that would, in that turbulent time of conflict, confusion, instability, deaths and fear, to restore hope and bring calm; and that is what Lapwony Ocan offered some of these to his community.
Yet for himself, because of his enduring and selfless wisdom, the first wave of the war that came did not spare him. The leader of the Holy Spirit Movement (HSM), priestess, Alice Lakwena specifically abducted him from Awere where he was head-teacher. She chose Lapwony Ocan to head the civilian wing of the movement. This came in twfolds; good because he was chosen due to his honesty, humility and great leadership qualities, however it was bad because he was forced to trade his freedom and responsibility as a teacher for them. After the Holy Spirit Movement was defeated, the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) rebel group emerged and their activities increased in northern Uganda. That second wave of rebellion against the new National Resistance Movement(NRM) government was very destructive. At the height of that conflict, more than 1.7 million people lived in Internally Displaced People’s Camps(IDPs). With the squalid conditions only a few people were able to make ends meet. Thus, a generation of Acoli people were born and raised under very difficult and pathetic conditions as a result of war. The quality and standards of education in the region dropped drastically. Doing business became nearly impossible. The society lost its riches, wealth and human capital. The people in this war torn region became dependent on aid from NGOs. During that time, the daring and spirited efforts of Lapwony Ocan and other like minded Acholi peace loving leaders and educationists’ sacrifices kept the bleeding and poorly performing and almost rundown education sector surviving. In fact, they risked their lives, Lapwony Ocan and others had to penetrate into very tough spaces in order to provide education to a society that was torn by constant havoc, breakdown in systems and the unending war between the government and the LRA rebels.
Worst of all, the war had far reaching consequences in that the society became broken. It almost lost its identity. To help this society to recover, embrace education, grow its economy and the available means of livelihoods, from a society that was dependant on aid, Lapwony Ocan played a great leadership role. He understood the society’s problems and positioned himself as an agent of change to rebuild the society, while encouraging others to do the same.
Lapwony Ocan was a man of the people, a nationalist and an empathetic leader whose altruistic attributes made him sacrifice for the people he loved very much. His legacy will live with us forever.