BABATUNDE LONIMI OLUWASEUN
The key word in this piece, magufulize, is obviously not recognized in the English language at the moment, but since language is dynamic, one can never tell if it would one day not be adopted. For the sake of those who do not know, the word was coined from the name of the current president of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli who has been nicknamed ‘’the bulldozer’’ because of his radical and no-nonsense approach to governance. John Magufuliis like most people who have occupied and those still occupying public office, especially the highest office in any country, the office of the president, prime minister, chancellor or head of state as the case may be, growing from humble background to becoming the first citizen of the country. Dr John Magufuli, the son of a peasant farmer was born on 29 October 1959, and attended the Mkwawa college of education in 1981 where he got a diploma in chemistry, mathematics and education. He attended the university of Dar es salaam where he earned his bachelor of science degree in education in 1988, majoring in chemistry and history. In the same school, he earned his masters and doctorate degrees in chemistry, in 1994 and 2009 respectively. He worked at the Nyanza Cooperative Union Limited as an industrial chemist from 1989 to 1995 when he was elected as member of parliament (MP) representing the Chato district, and was appointed deputy minister for works. He won re-election in 2000 and was promoted to full ministerial position. President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete moved Magufuli to the post of minister of lands and human settlement on 4 January 2006. He also served as minister of livestock and fisheries before returning as minister of works, a position he held until his election as president in October 2015.
On 12 July 2015, John Magufuli was nominated as his party’s, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate, and this angered a fellow party man, Edward Lowassa, who left the party and contested against Magufuli in the election held on October 25. John Magufuli was declared winner on October 29, his birthday. It is worthy of note that Magufuli was not the strongest nor favorite for his party’s nomination, he was more like a compromise candidate after divisive factional conflict, although his winning the election was not really in doubt because of his party which has been in dominance for long in Tanzania. He received 58% of the votes and was sworn in on 5 November 2015. In less than three years Magufuli has disturbed the status quo in Tanzania. He has waged war on corruption and wastage in government. In a very rare move, he canceled independence day celebrations because he sees it as only an unnecessary waste of government funds. In its place he declared that the day be spent by all on sanitation (an exercise he also took part in), this was in a bid to arrest the spread of cholera in the country. He said ‘’it is shameful that we are celebrating independence while people are dying of cholera’’. Magufuli also reduced by about 90% the budget that was meant for a state dinner that usually marked the opening of parliament and ordered the money saved to be spent on hospital beds and roadworks. He canceled foreign travels for officials and banned the purchase of first-class air tickets. Moreso he ordered that government meetings and workshops be held in government buildings rather than expensive hotels. If one reads the book, AUDACITY ON THE BOUND: A DIPLOMATIC ODYSSEY, an autobiography by retired Nigerian ambassador Olusola Sanu, one will see the unfortunate manner in which African states waste funds on unnecessary delegations of government officials embarking on foreign tours. In Magufuli’s government however, there will be no such wasteful tours, this he made known when he cut a delegation of 50 people set to tour commonwealth countries to just four. He warned the people he was going to appoint as ministers that he would not tolerate corrupt government officials and that they would have to work tirelessly alongside him to serve Tanzanians, one of his slogans is said to be ‘’all we do here is work’’. On 10 December 2015, president Magufuliannounced his cabinet, composed of 19 ministries, 11 fewer than the previous government, some ministries were merged to save money. President Magufuli was reported to have cut his salary from $15,000 to $4,000 a month. He reminds one of the great African, Thomas Sankara, former head of state of Burkina Faso. Shortly after being sworn-in, the president visited the Muhibilihospital unannounced and went through all the messy areas that would normally have been hidden from visiting officials, places where people were sleeping on the floor, with many equipment not working. Consequently, he fired the hospital director, all the hospital board members and ordered that the faulty equipment and machines be repaired within two weeks, else he would fire the newly appointed director. Apparently the doctors instead of asking the director to repair the faulty machines, were referring patients to their privately owned hospitals. Surprisingly the repairs took just three days. President Magufuli, in his quest towards eradicating corruption, has not spared anyone irrespective of their positions, their pockets or their political leaning. Even multinational companies who were seemingly untouchable have been touched by Magufuli’s resolve at changing things for the general good. And for this and other significant moves he has made since becoming president, some have said that he is not just a bulldozer, but a magician, because under his watch many things that were seen as probably impossible have happened in Tanzania.
It is worthy of note that aside the many good things Magufuli has done, some have condemned him for his harsh treatment and intimidation of oppositions and for some anti-democratic moves, principal among which is his seeming attack on media outlets. He has been reported to have told members of the press that their freedom is not unlimited. He is said to be displaying dictatorial tendencies and has been described by some as a threat to democracy in Tanzania. On a general note though, his good deeds seem to outweigh his relatively negative ones.
It is needless to say here that Nigeria and other African countries have lessons to learn from the bulldozer of Tanzania. President Buhari was expected to be a Magufuli, but he and his government have shown that expectations from man could lead to unexpected and grave disappointment. Both presidents were elected in 2015, Buhari in March and sworn-in in May, Magufuliin October and sworn-in in November. There was much expectation from president Buhari because Nigerians were just tired of the norm and wanted to change the story line, so they went for the old army general who had been sold to Nigerians as a saint. In less than three years, Nigeria has unfortunately become worse than it was in 2015 when Buhari came. The economy has been at its worse in many decades, ethnic and religious rivalry has gotten to another level, the terrorist boko-haram sect has remained, terrorism took another form in the herdsmen that have shed so much blood of innocent and helpless Nigerians, security agencies have been used to intimidate citizens instead of protect them, fuel scarcity has been worse even when its price is at an all-time high, governance has been turned to drama and comedy, corruption has become worse, even animals have taken up roles in the business of corruption. And in all of these, the government has never taken responsibility for anything, it has been about shifting blame to previous governments, especially the immediate past one of Goodluck Jonathan. Nigerians wanted to change the narrative in 2015, but now have something worse than what they intended to change. On the other hand, when Magufuli was elected in 2015, not much was expected of him since he represented the ruling dominant party, so it was like expecting things to run as they used to, but that has not been the case. President Magufuli has departed from the old way of doing things and has shown in Tanzania that Africans can do the right things, if there is the will in African leaders. President Magufuli is just an irony of his Nigerian counterpart. While Magufuli tries to fix Tanzania hospitals, Buhari and family fly abroad to treat even the most basic of ailments.
As another election year approaches, not a few Nigerians have made it known that president Buhari is unwanted and should even not run for re-election. As the poor masses have shown their disappointment, so have significant players in the Nigeria social political space. Former presidents Obasanjo and Babangida, pastor Tunde Bakare who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 elections, and many others have advised that our president leave the stage in 2019. Dr Obasanjo even said last week that it could spell disaster for Nigeria if Buhari remains in aso rock beyond 2019. We should note that it is the president’s right to seek re-election. However, any statesman and honest man having had a tenure like that of president Buhari, should not even think about re-election. What will he tell Nigerians during the campaigns? A president whose wife even came out to say she would not support if he seeks re-election unless he takes his government back from the greedy and selfish individuals who have hijacked government from him, unfortunately the president has not only been unable to take back his government, he now constantly seems helpless and most times displays ignorance of happenings around him. Just last week, our president said in Benue that he did not know and is surprised to be hearing it that the inspector general of police disobeyed his presidential order to relocate to Benue after the state was attacked by the terrorist herdsmen, leaving over seventy people dead. As at the time of writing this piece, nothing has been done to the disobedient IG of police. This same IG of police once said that the anti-grazing laws of states were responsible for the mindless attacks by herdsmen on helpless farmers, a very shameful statement from a man whose job it is to prevent and punish crime, he was there excusing crime and shamelessly justifying same. If one criticizes their wrong and ask them to do things differently, one is labelled a wailer, even Bob Marley must be wondering when he got so many people in his singing group, the wailers. But if demanding for sanity, integrity, honesty, empathy and responsibility from one’s government is tagged wailing, then it is good to wail, God please give us strength to wail even more until we get our dream Nigeria, that is a beauty and example for other countries to emulate.
Aside president Buhari who is most likely to be his party’s (APC) candidate if he decides to run, there are others who have indicated interest in running for the top job. Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, former governor Sule Lamido, Ekitistate governor Ayodele Fayose, musician Alabi Pasuma, motivational speaker Fela Durotoye and publisher of saharareporters, an online investigative journalism medium, Omoyele Sowore, among others have indicated interest. These people have their supporters and also those who do not buy them. Many people have lamented how we keep recycling rulers who played very significant roles in bringing the country to the sorry state it currently is, and some have also waved off the new comers, Fela Durotoye and co, saying they do not have what it requires to occupy the exalted office of president. You then wonder what Nigerians really want. You complain of recycling people who are culprits in the destruction of the country, but you also discourage new comers who are courageous enough to declare interest in the mission to rescue Nigeria. All I can say is that contradiction is thine name. As we move closer to the next general elections, it is hoped that a MAGUFULI will emerge and in the near future, we can all sigh and say yes we did it.
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