Because we are all wired differently, human beings don't typically agree on all things. Though the judgment of whether what we say is meaningful could be agreed upon by all human beings. That standard is called common sense. Sometimes, I come across articles and thoughts from my fellow human beings and I can't just help but wonder, what was this fellow human thinking? Is this all he or she can see? What about the other side of the coin?
I recently came across this article written by a fellow Tanzanian, Simon Mkina. In a nutshell, the guy was bemoaning the departure of Mwalimu Nyerere. You can definitely feast on the article yourself, lest you accuse of me making stuff up.
One of the things I hate is being stuck in the past. That is not to say that I undermine and belittle the past. I am far from doing that, because there are cases where the past is actually better than the present or even the future. My contention is that we must have a very compelling reason to long for the past. We can't just be nostalgic of the past just for the sake of it. My humble opinion is this – Mr. Mkina's article is a typical example of being stuck in the past.
On the other hand, I can't blame the guy that much. That is because most folks in Tanzania tremble at the very mention of the name Nyerere. We all can't deny the fact that Nyerere's name is very much connected to the Tanzanian history. Honestly, at times it seems like Nyerere is the Tanzanian history. And that is why it becomes difficult for people to differentiate between Nyerere the person, Nyerere the former president and Nyerere the ideals.
Obviously, Mr. Mkina's article demonstrated the failure to dissect those three Nyerere personas.
As I pointed out, it is Simon's prerogative to articulate life as he sees it. That includes his cry for Nyerere. However, my assessment is that this article is overly glorifying Nyerere. This article also prompts to question whether Tanzanians have really come to grips with the fact that Nyerere was just as human as we are, and that the ideals he preached were not new. King Solomon, who lived ions before Nyerere, had already alluded to the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. We just go over the same concepts, though in different forms or times. So Nyerere didn't invent anything new.
I wonder also, whether Tanzanians have come to terms with the fact that Nyerere lost his influence, not after his death, but even before his death. How many times did Nyerere speak against the boys he left in power while still alive? That definitely is a sure sign that the man lost his influence long before he died. Therefore, such a line as "If you (Nyerere) would emerge now, tears would roll down your cheeks over fate of your people" is missing the timing of when Nyerere became less of a factor in the Tanzanian experience.
What breaks my heart is the fact most Tanzanians don't realize that leadership is not endowed on just an elite group of people or a chosen few. The Tanzania of today has just a larger pool of potential great leaders as it was in the early 1950s. That potential could not be realized if we keep on gluing ourselves to Nyerere. That is because is hanging on to Nyerere we miss the fact that there will be no other Nyerere. Also, we miss the fact that Nyerere was fitting his time.
Even more, gluing ourselves to Nyerere is an insult to those folks who, in the present Tanzania, are boldly standing up for the Tanzanian people. Furthermore, it undermines the contribution and greatness of those wonderful folks at Haki Elimu, or even some opposition leaders such as Zitto Kabwe and Dr. Wilboard Slaa. Even worse, gluing ourselves to Nyerere gives an opportunity to outdated folks (like John Malecela and Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru) who cling to Nyerere's rhetoric to fool the regular folks who have no clue of changing times.
And speaking of changing times, with all these new the global forces, how do we know how Nyerere would have fared? As we don't know that, I wouldn't cry for Nyerere in 2008. It is disastrous when leaders go past their times. Just look down under in Zimbabwe and you can understand my point. What we are doing with clinging to Nyerere is creating a fear that Tanzanian without Nyerere is impossible. The effect of that is silencing those with a new vision for Tanzania, just like Nyerere had his.
Every society gets a great leader who influences his generation. The question, therefore, is not what Nyerere did for his generation, but rather who will influence (positively) our current and future generation. As a pointed out earlier, I am not bashing the past, but I think it is stupid to drive your car through a rear view mirror.
And who says a great leader, other than Nyerere, can't arise out of the 35 million folks in Tanzania?
Photo Credit: www.africanpath.com