PHOTO: President John Magufuli
It is quite unfortunate that circumstance, in as much as it is central in defining events, is quite quickly forgotten or easily overlooked when discussing the same events in hindsight in our society.
It is for this reason that my take on Magufuli's 100days chooses to draw focus on the circumstance presented given our unique political context and what this means in assessing his presidency.
Every President in this country has been propelled to the top by unique circumstances that are often informed by the type of president we want or need at the time. Understanding the circumstance helps us understand the person but more importantly understanding the person helps us understand the way they will deal with circumstances as they happen to change.
Mwalimu was a product of the independence movement to topple colonial rulers across the continent; where Mwinyi was a product of the social economic forces compelling us to transition from 'ujamaa' to whatever would come next and Mkapa was arguably the product of transformations merited by what seemed to be an ill-fated transition.
The circumstances around Kikwetes regime and that of Magufuli's are in many ways linked.
The past 15years (2000 - 2015) have been characterized primarily by a power struggle within the ruling party - CCM. Power struggles aren't foreign to the ruling party as one would expect. But quite unlike the power struggles of 15yrs before this (1985 - 2000), where Mwalimu's ideology and beliefs were being challenged; this new struggle was being fueled by the need to gain control over the treasure trove literally left untouched by Mwalimu Nyerere resulting from the reforms undertaken by Mkapa. This only served to disempower the people and empower the opposition.
As soon as Tanzania achieved inroads into our unique form of 'capitalism', it seems all gloves went off. In as much as Mwinyi's regime (1985 - 1995) tantalized our thirst for wealth as a people, it was really Mkapa's regime (1995 - 2005) that raised the stakes and made our latent economy worth fighting over.
From focusing on building a nation, we found ourselves focusing on how to use the wealth of this nation to build ourselves and our interest groups (famously dubbed mitandaos). Instead of nation before self, it was self before nation even if it meant sacrificing the nation itself it seemed at times.
It can be argued that since then there has been more focus on amassing wealth to gain access to and to defend ones hold on this illusive thing called power rather than actually developing the country.
The culmination of this power struggle was the epic standoff between the vying centers of power that saw Hon Edward Ngoyai Lowasa, Tanzania's most politically influential person after the then sitting President, part ways with CCM after failing to clinch the party's nomination propelling Magufuli to the fore in a surprise twist to one of the longest running power stand offs in the party's history.
During Magufuli's campaign last year, the biggest reservation amongst naysayers of CCM retaining power was his ability to withstand the temptations, if not, entrapments of the centers of power that had/have high-jacked the ruling party over the last decade and a half.
Over his first 100days Magufuli has succeeded, very much like he did during his campaign, to demonstrate that he can stand his own ground in the face of potential establishment resistance. Taking unilateral decisions on several issues, some of which put the ruling party and its cronies in bad shade, has been definitive of his type of presidency.
Failing to find significant fault in his first 100days in office as he successfully defused this main polling concern; pundits have been quick to throw daggers at his personality labeling him a dictator and questioning how sustainable his methods will be in a country that desires change but isn't always willing to swallow the bitter pill that comes before it. As if to say Magufuli was someone else before he assumed the office of President?
Circumstance may define events and pave the way for leaders to assume power but these leaders will almost always have qualities that outlive even the circumstance that brought them into power. Here, the adage of 'you can take the man out of the village but you cannot take the village out of the man' may hold some ground.
At most you see two aspects of a person when in power: 1) when they are on the offensive and 2) when on the defensive (as a result of confronting a threat). But at the end the person will retain certain qualities that are characteristic of who they are, irrespective of the changing circumstance.
Nyerere was forever the philosopher whether on the offensive or defensive. Mwinyi was forever the free spirit whether on the offensive or on the defensive. And as still waters run deep, Mkapa was forever cool whether on the offensive or on the defensive. Kikwete was forever the diplomat whether on the offensive or defensive. So likewise, Magufuli, I believe I s the expected pragmatist who inspired the 'hapa kazi tu' slogan whether on the offensive or on the defensive.
Success in leadership requires that you be clear in what you are doing given the circumstance and act even if you are not sure of the consequences resulting and that you are authentic and remain true to yourself enough to accept both your weaknesses and strengths.
Magufuli has been this type of leader.
Some of these people would rather him to be a philosopher Nyerere and offer some ideological framework that will solve Tanzania's problems or a free spirited Mwinyi and watch on in the hope that things will get better simply by the will of the people he appointed or a cool Mkapa and not let his emotions show in public or even a very diplomatic Kikwete and spring onto the next internal or regional conflict mediating peace. But a pragmatic Magufuli is what we voted for and he is doing exactly what he has done best for more than 20years of his political career. He is by all measures no less or more the person he was under the circumstances that propelled him to this top most position.
It is my belief that he will accept both his strengths and weaknesses and adapt them accordingly leveraging this interesting circumstance he finds himself in, where for the first time in many years the power struggle may actually have nation building and development at focus.
So has Magufuli changed? No, but our circumstance surely has!
So take it or leave it, that's Magavilla's Take!
BY: COSTANTINE MAGAVILLA-Dar es Salaam, Tanzania