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James Onen: From Just a Fatboy to a Radio Revolutionary, a Ugandan Joe Rogan



Two decades ago, a young Fatboy joined Sanyu FM to try his art at the booming radio station. Year on year, he went to build a loyal fanbase across different themes. The more contrarian he became, the more they fell in love with him. He was articulate, well-researched and knew how to keep his audience engaged. It was free thought at full throttle.

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He would go on to advance the ‘Men Going Their Own Way’ school in Uganda. Many men lined behind their humble Messiah to the promised land of MGTOW. The Fat Boy was redefining masculinity and breaking down walls of what a man should do.

As he approached forty, it looked clear that marriage was none of his plans. He would get Rukia as his one and only child, the most affected when he lost his job. So, when Sanyu announced salary cuts and James Onen allegedly led a sit-down strike, and before long, he was out of a job, many wondered what lay next for the two-time Decadenian.

It’s in these trying times that men get to rediscover themselves. Locked away in solitude in his Kiwatule Apartment, many kept guessing. They thought perhaps he would bounce back at Capital Fm. But that was only for strings of interviews concerning his binned career. He would come under attack for giving all his years to a radio station that didn’t mind throwing it all away without second thought.

Many figured that perhaps James Onen would start a podcast and grow that. It’s as though his life had been capped. For most Ugandans, life seems to end at 40. For James Onen, his just got started. It was a story of a man defying all rules of a third-world country. And so, he chose to jump right into the world of an online radio.

James Onen with Rukia in the good days

And what would be the name of the radio: Reckless Radio. Again, the critics would immediately come in, they poked holes in the name, poked holes in the fact that Ugandans can’t afford data. As per listening statistics, Reckless Radio has been averaging 18K listeners per day, with a bounce back of about 85 percent. The bounce could show that he’s already built a loyal following. But how far is he willing to go? Is this the long-awaited revolution?

There’s always a first to everything in life, and James Onen is that first. Given a choice between returning to his routine job at Sanyu and becoming an entrepreneur, Onen has chosen the latter. For now, most of his fans are joining in to build the story of a great Ugandan radio.

“It’s impressive that he developed the App, he designed the website, he’s done all that geeky stuff. I always thought he’s just another man masturbating every night, scratching his balls and just watching Japanese anime. But there’s more to James Onen. You don’t want to underrate him. He’s always ready to shock his critics,” a female fan on one of the Telegram groups commented. And his female listeners, perhaps in a bid to massage the man they claimed to hate, have pulled most of the weight. They’ve formed his PR department, they’ve closed out the bugs on the app. It’s like a tribe of reckless chaps doing amazing things.

Reckless Radio Bluetooth connectors

“It’s not so often that your listeners come together and work on making a platform even better. James Onen is influential. Many people have grown with him over the years. He’s just not another radio presenter. He’s one of their own, their family member. So they do all those things as though they’re doing them for a Brother or a father,” Joel a critic explains.

As they often say, it’s all about time. Will Fatboy’s grand gamble work out? Again, it’s only the reckless that move things, they change the world, they disrupt it, they challenge the norms. And in doing this, Fatboy has led a radio revolution in Uganda. As a Father of the revolution, we could as well crown him Uganda’s Joe Rogan. Maybe that too is an understatement, maybe there’s more to Taata Rukia than just being a Joe Rogan. In James Onen, the recklers, the reckless, the wrecks, whatever name we give his listeners, they have chosen to live and die with Taata Rukia. It was now or never… thankfully, the now won!

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