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CCM candidate Magufuli: A man of sharp contrasts

SOME coincidences  are truly fascinating, springing to mind being letters “J” and “K” in relation to three out of five of Tanzania’s presidents so far

In descending order, they relate to the opening letters of the first, third and fifth presidents – Julius (Kambarage Nyerere), Jakaya (Mrisho Kikwete) and John (Pombe Magufuli).

It is also fascinating that, coincidentally, ‘M’ is the ”opener” of the surnames of two ex-State leaders Mwinyi and Mkapa and incumbent  Magufuli.

I recall that, one of the most memorable photographs on the Tanzanian political landscape was the one featuring three  retired ex-presidents and incumbent Magufuli in a very relaxed mood, apparently exchanging jokes about their suits.

It was taken shortly after Dr Magufuli was installed as President in Dodoma, after emerging victorious in the 2015 General Election. 

It is a source of huge pride for them and their compatriots,  for smooth power transition is a rare political commodity, so to speak.

Thereafter, the quartet has attended a couple of events together, including, lately, the foundation stone laying function for the State House complex at Chamwino in Dodoma.

This contrasts sharply with what obtains in some parts of Africa and beyond, where power hunger and resultant struggles beget chaos.

Our serving and retired leadership deserves huge kudos for making Tanzania a shining example of smooth transitions, and long-term national cohesion and stability.

Now that the tempo for the General Election scheduled for October this year had begun to pick up, my memory, and certainly that of  many other people, travels back to the 2015 season.

Back then, Dr Magufuli, who picked nomination forms for the scheduled polls from the CCM headquarters in Dodoma recently,  was, by and large, initially a low-keyed CCM presidential aspirant.

The form-picking event contrasted sharply with the highly dramatized fanfare that characterized the ones featuring some of those whose hearts and minds were cast on State House at Magogoni in Dar es Salaam -  the seat of power.

In the process to which had been assigned the name  race, which mainly relates to the world of athletics, Dr Magufuli was ranged against some  real and perceived heavyweights, and whose chances of emerging victor were thus considered slim.

He did though, thanks to a thorough CCM screening process anchored in big measure on an aspirant’s attributes that include  a  high level of the patriotic spirit, moral uprightness and thoroughness in service delivery in whatever capacity one was serving.

During the ministerial phase of his career until then, Dr Magufuli had distinguished himself as a no-nonsense, results-demanding administrator.

Slow-movers and graft-driven public servants under his charge were duly sanctioned and from which  arose nicknames that include  bulldozer, “jembe” (hoe) and “pilipili” (pepper).

As the election campaigns picked tempo, Candidate Magufuli struck a chord amongst many wananchi because, whereas his exploits were until then pronounced mainly by his ministerial performance,  he was now highlighting measures he would take as president, and ultimate decision-maker,  if they granted him the mandate through  their votes.

The electorate was impressed because, firstly,  they perceived him as someone who wasn’t a cheat and didn’t  seek the top office as an agency through which to enrich himself as prefect of a high spenders’ club, or engage in demi-god dramas.

And secondly,  the sterling ministerial-level performance  was a foundation upon which he, in partnership with teammates in the Fifth Phase government would elevate Tanzania to higher social and economic levels.

It came to pass that,  upon ascending to the  top seat, Dr Magufuli didn’t turn out to be a proverbial preacher of water but a drinker of wine as defines quite many aspirants for eminent posts.

From Day One of his presidency, he manifested  a phenomenal level of seriousness on righting the wrongs  within the public service  system (actually clearing the rot), ranging from one biro pen  being overpriced at 10,000/= to fraudulent multi-million shilling deals in the mining sector, and dirty tricks like the ghost workers’ phenomenon in-between.

At his earliest post-election speech, Dr Magufuli declared that he had assigned unto himself, the role of pricking boils (kutumbua majipu).

This has been borne out by sacking inept  appointees and setting in motion, moves like sealing loopholes of tax evasion, the ghost workers’ phenomenon and fraudulent senior public servants engaging in extravagant expenditure  of public funds, plus high-scale embezzlement of  public funds.

The public has also been fascinated  by the spur-of-the moment  president’s  mobile  phone calls to senior officials to seek information or clarifications on various issues.

This implies that every holder of a key public office must have information on one’s fingertips; or else face the music, as periodic “downloading” of under-performers shows.

He neither engages in diplomatic niceties nor mincing words, one of the latest manifestations being urging his appointees to be content with their current posts, instead of eyeing parliamentary seats as stepping stones to ministerial slots.

But JPM is not an exclusively discipline-enforcing leader. He blends that trait with humaneness and a religious dose, conscious that he is presiding over fellow creatures who are amenable to  committing sins and mistakes, and who, therefore deserve forgiveness where and when situations  so demand.

During a public  rally at the climax of a tour of  Njombe Region last year,  he sacked a senior police officer over ineptness in taming the killings of children by human beats and ordered him to leave the venue.

Shortly thereafter, though,  after enlisting a clergyman to conduct prayers, the Head of State pronounced an amnesty for the sacked man who, naturally, was certainly hugely surprised and relieved !

The president slotted  the religious dimension onto the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic by urging his compatriots to seek God’s intervention, for which he has earned  much praise at home and far beyond. 

During the 2015 polls campaigns,  he featured in musical groups as a drummer, and made push-ups publicly.

As president, he has engaged in such gestures as  chatting and  sharing roast groundnuts  and tea with some  members of the public at simple locations. 

I recall a photograph depicting him during a ferry trip to Kigamboni from the Kivukoni end in Dar es Salaam, exchanging a greeting with a young man seated next to him, fist-touching style.

At the president’s invitation during a tour of Iringa Region in April last year, a comedian, Baraka Magufuli,  thrilled the audience during a roadside stop-over, by mimicking the Head of State voice-wise and dress-wise.

Benevolence is another of Dr Magufuli’s attributes, manifested by gestures like pardoning prisoners,  giving cash to needy individuals at stop-overs during trips, as well as issuing directives to State officials to sort out complaints raised by ordinary wananchi over unfair play like dispossession of pieces of land.

The achievements of the Fifth Phase Government are all-too-familiar and earning worldwide accolades -  attributes upon which a power monger would have capitalized to become an eternal ruler.

Dr Magufuli has rejected overtures for constitutional amendments for creating openings for him to over-shoot  the current two five-year terms !

In spite of all those attributes, and others that haven’t been outlined, there’s no letup on the part of mischievous critics bent on mudslinging the president and the government over which he presides.

Those who may crudely be branded “eaters” of public cash and resources, plus beneficiaries of the crumbs, have no cause to like the person they brand a spoiler,  of course, who, therefore, they don’t tire of character-assassinating.

Yet records that loudly speak for themselves can’t be undone. It is on these that the electorate  will base their verdicts on CCM Candidate John Pombe Magufuli in the October-scheduled presidential election.


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