Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leadership: Is Nyerere The Ultimate Standard?

I don’t contribute much to this not because I have little to muse about. Life has just handed me a heavy dose of responsibilities. Sometimes, fighting against the tide ain’t the wisest thing to do. As such, I have just decided to go with the flow.

Maybe it is eccentric of me to see life through different lenses. I’m just trying to be like the rest of Bongolanders when it comes to upholding and cherishing Nyerere, but I struggle a little bit with the idea of holding the man as some kind of an idol.

Just read this article and tell me what you think.

Seriously, I think it is sickness to suggest that Nyerere’s ideas should be “…rubbed on by all—students, workers, farmers, politicians, academicians, journalists, business people, bureaucrats—everybody”.

I have no social science credentials to claim a deeper understanding of why most folks in Tanzania views Nyerere as a mythical figure, but I can make a guess – Nyerere succeeded in infecting (or rather blinded) Tanzanians’ minds with his ideals to the extent that some cannot view life without him! That is fixation. That is a psychological sickness!

I must give it to Nyerere. The dude did well. I mean, great leaders tend to have a great influence on their followers, regardless of whether such an influence is positive or negative. That is charisma that walking down some academic hallways would not provide. Great leader, truly, touches his or her generation greatly.

Despite Nyerere’s greatness, I would be bold enough to contend that such greatness was confined to an era. Besides, we don’t know how Nyerere could have performed in an era of free press, information overload and somewhat a “democratic” Tanzania. We really don’t know. I grew up in an era where there were only three major sources of information – Daily News, Uhuru and Radio Tanzania – all supporting and glorifying Nyerere’s ideals. I didn’t grow up in an era where the press and the society could express opposing views. We know what happened to Kambona when he opposed Nyerere, don’t we?

Let’s visit the Bible a little bit. In the book of Acts 13:36, it is written that “David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died…”. The key point there being “serving or influencing one’s own generation”. That’s what Tanzania needs. A leader who would come along and take the current Tanzanian generation to a higher level.

I seriously don’t want to be soaking all over in Nyerere’s ideals. I mean would you? I honestly think that folks who call for Nyerere’s glorification are missing the fact every generation must produce its own great leader, a leader who is bold enough to take the society to bold new world. For Tanzania, we both know that Benjamin William Mkapa wasn’t that leader. Likewise, we know that Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete has also proven himself to be a weakling. That, however, does not justify crying ourselves to sleep for Nyerere’s comeback.

My call, for all Bongolanders, is for the society to define where it wants to go and search for a leader that could take the country there. Societies grow and die out of ideas. I am yet to see any empirical evidence that the Tanzanian society was greater during Nyerere’s time compared to the present. That being the case, we need fresh ideas in 2009 that are great, not making a U-turn to 1961!

Seriously, you mean to tell me that a society of over 30 million human beings can’t find one good leader, to the extent of crying for a dead one?

I’m nostalgic of some things, but Nyerere ain’t one of them.
Photo credit:


Anonymous said...

Wow! You are once again making sense, I could not have agreed with you more. We need to move forward! Yes Nyerere was great, then what now! should we continue to cry over a spilled soup or go make another bowl? Move on Tz people! Move on!

Mbele said...

Hello, you talk about Nyerere's ideas or ideals, without being specific, without mentioning and analyzing any such idea or ideal.

Can you identify and discuss any position that Nyerere articulated, or any of his policies, so we can judge whether you have a point or not?

I know that Nyerere wrote, formulated and tried to implement policies on many issues, such as political philosophy, rural development, self-reliance, foreign policy, liberation, education and culture and it would be helpful to hear you address some such specific area.

I don't know anyone who says or believes that Nyerere is the ultimate standard on anything. Maybe I am out of touch with reality.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anony 9:26AM
I couldn't agree more with you. I hope had more time to share my thoughts here, but I will try...

@Professor Mbele
It is true that I didn't provide any specifics as to which Nyerere's ideas/ideals we are talking about. Nevertheless, as my reflection was inspired by the Daily News article, I think it is safe to confine my reflection to that article. I would just quote one line from the article: "While it is accepted that successive presidents will have different approaches to governance, there is no justification to deviate from Mwalimu’s vision on such pertinent issues as social equity, sanctity of public office, rule of law, self-sufficiency and Pan-Africanism "

Do you now see why I struggle with the idea of Nyerere's ideas as the ultimate standard for leadership? Aren't those convinctions the thrust of Ujamaa policy? If so, don't we all agree that Nyerere's "dream" tanked?

Furthermore,on Nyerere the person, the columnist wrote this: "He held fast to his convictions but was a keen listener to other people’s ideas and dissenting views". I can agree to the holding fast to his convinction part, but listener to other people's ideas and dissenting views? Try Kambona as a dissenting voice and you can tell how it all ended.

The bottom line is this - the thrust of my reflection was whether Nyerere could be viewed as the ultimate standard for leadership in Tanzania as the Daily News columnist tried to put it. And if so, I'm struggling to find very good reasons for it, because we are in a different era. Not only that, we don't know if Nyerere, as a leader, could have done well in the current Tanzania's socioeconomic environment.

Mbele said...

Hello Jaduong

Your comments exemplify very well the prevailing state of discourses on Nyerere among Tanzanians. Rather than reading Nyerere directly, they depend on second-hand sources, hearsay and their own imagination.

You say that we all agree that Nyerere's dream about Ujamaa "tanked. The truth is that many people around the world still believe that dream. Only recently, for example, Nobel Laurent Wole Soyika visited Dar es Salaam, where he defended Nyerere's dream.

Hearsay has become, for Tanzanians, the way to learn about Nyerere. People don't read his writings. I regularly hear Tanzanians saying, for example, that Nyerere conceded that Ujamaa had failed. The truth is that Nyerere never said such a thing. However, even among supposedly educated Tanzanians, the belief is widespread that Nyerere made such an admission. I challenge anyone to mention a speech by Nyerere, an interview, or a paper he wrote, in which he said that Ujamaa had failed.

Tanzanians regularly mention Kambona to back up their claim that Nyerere was intolerant of dissenting views. Again, people just make the claims, without evidence. They never present the specific ideas Kambona supposedly articulated which Nyerere opposed.

In the meantime, despite the absence of such evidence, regarding Kambona's thoughts and vision, the rumour continues, that Nyerere was intolerant of criticism.

I was at the University of Dar es Salaam from 1973, and a number of times Nyerere came there to debate with professors and students. We used to criticize him as an utopian socialist and we particularly scorned his view of class-less traditional African societies and his disdain for the notion of class struggle.

Numerous papers and books were published by people at the University of Dar es Salaam which were highly critical of Nyerere's ideas. Nyerere did not stop them. You can read those books, such as Issa Shivji's "Silent Class Struggle." You can read the various other publications, such as the "Maji Maji" journal.

Nyerere was an intellectual. As such, respected thinkers. He was also a teacher; he had no patience with intellectual laziness. The people who complained that Nyerere was muzzling them are probably still around. How come they are not writing their ideas so we can read them? Are they still afraid of Nyerere? I believe the problem with these people was, and remains, intellectual laziness.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are entitled to your views, but I think you are such an amateur lackluster. You are a Sarah Palin of politics. When you make comparison, you should at least try to make comparisons.
Compare Nyerere leadership to our subsequent leaders is unfair, because none of them have an intellectual ability or leadership skills that can even compare to Nyerere. It is one thing to be given a country that is peacefully and coherent in its ways, it is entirely another thing to build that country out of chaos, and to add sustain it for awhile.

Simply because he disagreed with Kambona, does not make him a bad leader. He actually disagreed with so many other people. A leasder need a conviction of his or party ideas and need to see them through. Obama disagreeing with Mccain doesn't make him a bad leader. Nyerere was a leader suitable at his time, and that's what the country needed then.

Yes, now that we have matured democratically and economically, we need a different sort of a leader, yet none of the recent guys have managed to be such good leaders.

Jaduong Metty said...

@Prof Mbele
For what Nyerere means to the Tanzanian experience, I regard every discussion about Nyerere as the discussion about Tanzania itself – and that is always my pleasure.

Comparing Dr. Shivji and Kambona to make an argument about Nyerere’s tolerance of opposing views is simply comparing apples to oranges. And that is because Dr. Shivji was/is just an academician, while Kambona shared the “boiler room” with Nyerere. Kambona was in a position to make policy decisions, while on the other hand Dr. Shivji wrote/writes about policy positions. Do you see the contrast?

That contrast is huge because the discourse about Nyerere (in this case versus Kambona as a good example of Nyerere’s intolerance of opposing views) isn’t about writing and the review on policy books, but about actual policy enactment. It would be very naïve of us to assume that Nyerere wasn’t smart enough to gauge who was more dangerous to his political agenda between Dr. Shivji and Kambona.

Please go the following link for the account of what transpired between Nyerere and Kambona:

Well, I might have bought into some conspiracy theory (which I would hate to do), but I have never heard anyone dispute the above account.

But all of the above stuff is just on the peripheral. The core question was whether we are justified to regard Nyerere as the ultimate standard for leadership in Tanzania. I tried to make an argument that he is not. I am waiting to hear your thoughts on that specific argument.

@Anonymous 4:19PM
Sorry you got sidetracked by the “side dishes” of the argument. I didn’t say that Nyerere was a bad leader. As a matter of fact I pointed out that he was a great leader, because he was able to greatly influence his generation.

The Kambona example, for instance, was just used to punch some holes on arguments put forward to paint Nyerere as a “saint” of leadership.

The core question – as you pointed out – is whether we can view Nyerere as the ultimate standards for leaders in Tanzania. I am glad that we both agree that he is not, because each Tanzanian generation has to produce its on great leader.

Just to put the record straight – I didn’t compare BWM and JMK to Nyerere. I just said I don’t consider the two to be great – because they have not greatly influenced their generation. To compare the two to Nyerere would have been making Nyerere a yardstick of leadership. Isn’t that what I argued against?

Anonymous said...

Well Put!

Anonymous said...

This man deserve credits for what he brought to the table. Reading your ideas open my eyes a bit, but look what these new generation has done so far. Many of Tanzanian still working on the the same old ideas, inspite of the goodness the computer world bring. Viongozi wengi care more about their pockets,mwalimu gave back to the poor most of his belonging,I'll prove it up on request. My hero. AMANI, UMOJA, not so sure about MENDELEO. OK blogger bring goodies to the table. Wabongo wengi kizungu kinatupa shida kuandika, chemsha bongo dogo, mcheki nanilii,zeutamu imefungwa why no be the next one,just kidding.

Anonymous said...

We all know that great person always stick in our minds for ever. How many other presidents after Nyerere passed in history of TZ,more than one for sure, but many of us talk more about Nyerere, the reason is because this is our hero as one dude jot above. Nyerere will always be my HERO. Ndiyo mzee ya watanzania has change, only because the world let people speak their mind more than before. No one is 100%, but I give Mwalimu 80%, Mwinyi 60%, and honestly the rate is going down because of democracy that make us see the failure side of our leaders.