From loaded legacy
John Pombe Magufuli had been Tanzania’s president for five years and some five months when he died over a week ago in the East African country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
In politics, the period might seem too little for one to make a mark on their country’s socio-economic progress. Magufuli deconstructed this view and swiftly moved in to drive his nation on the path to prosperity.
He has left behind a legacy which might be too difficult for his successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, to sustain and his admirers beyond Tanzanian borders to break.
From the very day Magufuli was sworn in as president, he showed in no uncertain terms that he was up for business; he made it very clear that he would take a strong stand against corruption and the laissez-faire approach towards work by public servants.
He had vowed to cleanse the public sector and he was doing it.
Above all, he was constantly exploring ways of improving the economy of Tanzania, which had previously been riddled with corruption and other money-related crimes which he was adamant must be uprooted for the nation to progress economically.
He was nicknamed ‘bulldozer’ because of his no-nonsense approach to theft of public resources. He once indicated it was “better to take poison than steal public money”.
That is why, despite that like everyone else, he had his own weaknesses, he was persistently praised for turning around Tanzania’s fortunes to the point that he managed to move his nation’s economy to the league of middle income territories.
Today, in his death, Africa continues to venerate him through eulogies flowing from all over, just like they did on Monday at the fallen president’s state funeral in capital Dodoma.
His admirers have been flooding the streets wherever the casket bearing his remains has passed through, some even throwing their garments on the tarmac as a sign of respect for a man who looked within for solutions to his country’s problems.
African leaders who took turns to rave about Magufuli’s legacy must be reminded that beyond such verbal veneration, their people want change for the better.
The continent remains the poorest despite that it has all the resources, starting from material to human, to steer economies forward.
We are still stuck with the misconception that home-grown solutions are not adequate. We still look to the West and the East when we want to initiate massive development projects. We are strangely failing to tap from our own resources with which we can build our nations.
Our leaders are failing to do what Magufuli did. Perhaps, in his death, he will inspire them to go a step further in taking their nations to prosperity.
Corruption, one of the undoubted largest cancers in national development, is what Magufuli vehemently fought to eradicate. The aftermath was improved systems where many projects were accomplished in time and within set budget.
Magufuli knew where the problem in his country lied and he went after it.
It would be preposterous to imagine that other African leaders presiding over failing economies and deteriorating living standards of their people do not know where the problem lies.
It is often misdirected diagnoses or their absence which have stagnated most African countries to where they are now.
For President Lazarus Chakwera, there obviously is a challenge to do things better. He delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral of the fallen Tanzanian leader, with whom he had already started pursuing more improved diplomatic relations.
That eulogy is being discussed in various local and international forums and it is attracting more attention to Malawi. With some communication experts suggesting the tribute should be preserved, just like Magufuli’s legacy, Chakwera has to up his game not to disappoint his global admirers.
Magufuli brought onto the continent a new and quite advanced way of doing things. He changed conventional ways of how presidents should think, speak and act.
He went down with full force on everyone who acted parallel to his agenda of transforming his nation. That is the approach African countries, including Malawi, need.
Of course, there were elements in his leadership style which his critics persistently damned. Yet, for those willing to emulate his style of putting his country first, there are several lessons to learn.