Friday, October 12, 2007

RTF: When The Prez Is Clueless

It is another Friday and another opportunity to go on random thoughts. So bear with me.

Among other things that was on the Internet this week, as far as Tanzania’s issues are concerned, was the interview Mr. JMK had with Financial Times.Well, I don’t know who came up with the “the devil is in details” saying, but trust me, key message could be hidden in obscure places. Just go with me to the following excerpt from that interview:

FT: There’s a sense from what you’re saying of this tremendous potential in Tanzania. You have great agricultural potential, mining potential, tourism potential, but it’s taking a long time to realize this potential. What do you think is holding Tanzania back?

JK: I don’t know. Of course this is precisely the question that I ask every day, what is it that we have not done? I think we have been leading the continent in terms of attracting mining investments in the mining sector. But we are still working (on attracting investment to other sectors). Maybe the message has not quite reached home.

I don’t want to scare you simply for the sake of it. But when the president has no clue (or pretends to have no clue) as to why Tanzania is just spinning her wheels on a somewhat stationary position, it is about time to run. To be precise, mguu kisogoni. That statement ought to send chills down someone’s spine.

On the other hand, I am convinced that the President really and honestly doesn’t know why Tanzania is still at the current developmental stage. You could regard me as insane for saying that; nevertheless, my argument is supported by the decisions and actions he has taken since coming into office. I know the guy got into the office and did some remarkable things that no other president in the Tanzanian history has ever done, but then went down the same path of ineffectiveness that his predecessors rode. In essence, the guy is working with what he knows. And I don’t think what is knows is good enough to take Tanzania to the Promised Land.

The president bragged about Tanzania being in the forefront in attracting foreign investment. That is well and good. Nevertheless, is it one thing to attract investors and it is another to manage investors and investment contracts in a way that is beneficial to the regular mwananchi. Let’s take mining industry for instance. If ThisDay’s story (or comparative analysis), which is contending that the booze industry has contributed more in tax shillings than the mining industry is true, then you don’t need to be a genius to figure out that what is plaguing Tanzania is nothing mysterious, but just lack of a culture that puts accountability in the front seat. Just sticking to the mining industry again, what does the president make of his minister’s controversial signing of a mining contract that led to striking out a contract clause that was more beneficial to the country?

As I pointed out earlier, the president is honestly clueless of why Tanzania is not making progress. That is because his operation and thinking mode is drawn from a general and political culture that nurtured him. In order for him to see the issues for what they really are, he would need to see the Tanzanian story from a different angle. Only then would he be able to institute a culture that is effective in realizing the desired goals.

See, when the president asks “what is it that we have not done?” he is missing the key question, which is what is it that he or presidents before him failed to do. He is the main man, so the blame and praise will always fall on him. It appears to me that he has not taken ownership of the country’s development story. From my point of vintage, the president needs to change is perspective and embark on a new mindset in order for him to get the right answers.

The challenge, however, is whether he is willing to change his own perspective. The difficulty is based on the fact that all of us get into a comfortable zone and it becomes harder for us to see life in a different way. At times, we even become defensive of our thinking, because our thinking defines who we are. Nevertheless, for Tanzania to make significant progress, a new way of thinking must be in place. That is because good policies alone without a culture that ensures effective implementation of those policies are just worthless. A very good practical example is the Azimio la Iringa. Despite its good intentions, the azimio never revolutionize agriculture in Tanzania. That is because there was never a culture to back up the policy. See my point?

Honestly, I get scared when someone charged with the responsibility to find answers waves their hands up in the air in desperation. That tells me that either the person has no clue of their responsibility or they are simply not qualified for the job. But the biggest message I get is that the president, and the majority of Tanzanians, believe Tanzania’s development process is different from any other nation. Well, that is true to some extent (due to political and cultural influences), but the truth is that there are certain development principles that are universal across the board.

The biggest question is whether Tanzanians have identified and diligently applied those universal principles. And to me identification of those principles is not that hard. We can just find a model country, borrow their script and gauge whether we have properly followed the script. The problem is, Mr. JMK gives the impression that we have no script. Had we had a script, it would have been easier to conduct an evaluation and pinpoint why we are not achieving our goals and who or what is impeding our development progress.

From what the president is saying, I gather that he has no evaluation mechanism in place. As such, he wakes up daily and start shooting in the dark. In his position, I expected the guy to understand both external and internal factors that are hindering Tanzania from getting anywhere. If not, seriously, how do you tweak your strategy and tactics to achieve your goals?

Are you still surprised that the poor guy can’t tell why Tanzania is not making any strides? I am not. Whether we like it or not, Tanzania has a very, very, very long way to go. Honestly, it is ought to be very scary when the guy in charge is clueless. And again, lets not attribute our problems to some weird white folks tactics. I strongly believe that we have serious issues internally.


Photo Credit: Mjengwa


wayne said...

first, I'm surprised you didn't get any reaction to this post - amazing.
2nd - I went and read the whole interview and the thing that struck me was JK's "dancing around the issues" each time the FT reporter asked anything that bordered on questionable action by either JK himself, or the government in general. The modus operandi of most people in his position is to simply deflect rather than address the issues head on. As you pointed out, either he really does not have a clue, or (more likely, in my opinion) will not address the issues in a public forum

Jaduong Metty said...

This is just my personal feeling/opinion - the prez is ineffective. Very, if I may add.

I really don't have to go into details how I came up with that conclusion, but you don't have to be a genius that internal affairs in Tanzania are just in chaos. That is a sure sign that the Prez is either clueless or powerless to run the show.

People hide their weaknesses, not their strength. I am sure if he had any spectacular plans in place, he would disclose those. Unfortunately, it appears Mr, JMK has nothing in the tank. And that should scare folks in Tanzania.

stephen said...

I read the interview and I myself was suprised by the statement. But then after thoroughly looking at issues now, I feel that who ever assumes leadership of the highest position in Tanzania has find a way to work with people who inefficient, visionless, non innovative, do not now how to administer, exercise authority, make just,precise and effective decisions and abuse authority for personal gain in the process hindering services, projects and the decison making process. These are the characteristics of the leadership structure he has to work with.

The man cannot do everything on his own he needs people who are willing to work with him to make his vision a reality. To ensure this he planned a retreat,( who has ever done that before?) I think a month long where he took every high profile administrator to inform them with what was at task and to make sure everyone was n the same path.

Sadly things still have not worked out. The manner in which the President and his Prime minister went about to prevent people from dying of hunger from the drought, address the energy crises and address the challenges of the education sector, are good examples of how he is very much able to tackle pressing issues at one time.

The man spends at minimum two weeks of every month in the regions making sure people on the ground do what they need to do, same goes for the PM. How then can he be ineffective?

Name any other president in africa that works as this one does.With the state and structure of the leadership he has to work with and the the very huge problems we face, he is doing his best. Give the guy a break!

Jaduong Metty said...

I totally agree with you that the prez can't do everything himself. However, the prez is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that his vision is carried out.

As much as you want to defend the president for the ineffectiveness of his subordinates, he can't get off the hook. That is because he appointed these suckers and by the virtue of not making any leadership changes, he is sending a message out that he is satisfied with their performance.

Leadership is not only about having a vision, but identifying key people who can help you achieve your goals. Tanzania has over 35 million people. Do you want to tell me that the only people capable of leadership are the Wassiras, Mungais, etc who have been in power for ions, but with nothing ingenious attributed to them?

At the end of the day, the president takes credit or disgrace for the performance of his juniors. Period.