By Sunny Ikhioya
JOHN Magufuli, president of Tanzania died a few weeks ago and it is taking the whole of Africa a long time to come to grips with his death. It is like a bad dream; many of us are yet to come to terms that he died of natural causes. Here was a man who was full of life, executing his duties with zeal and passion, taking on the super powers in all ramifications, suddenly going down with a strange illness that finally consumed him.
The establishment people among us will say that this is natural, but for a man that had his private physician at his beck and call, such sudden heart attacks are not normal, unless there were inherent or prevailing ailments which were not made known to the public. In this day and age, when peopled can be killed without trace of the murder weapon, the death of Magufuli will remain a mystery. We have seen the elimination of progressive African leaders in the past and this one will rank as one of them. Before now there were Sylvanus Olympio 1963, Thomas Sankara 1987, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau and many others too numerous to mention here.
The purpose of this piece is to highlight the impact Magufuli was able to make within a few years in power. It is my humble opinion that if African leaders can replicate his methodology, it will not be long before our long-expected economic liberation will be accomplished. This was a man who went into government with clear-cut ideas about what to do. According to Professor P.L.O. Lumumba, “politics is the competition of ideas”.
In this case, ideas that can be put into practice to move society forward. Ideas are not static or permanent, they are subject to vagaries and dynamics of life; that is why the late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania said: “When you make mistakes, you can correct them”; an idea that is no longer relevant to the growth of society, should not be encouraged by anyone in position of leadership. When you are in position of leadership and you are not governed by relevant ideas, you tend to go round in circles and in the short run, your failure will be exposed to the world.
This is a man who came to power as President of Tanzania, barely a year after our own Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as Nigerian president. But five years after, what can we say about our situation in Nigeria and what can we tell about Tanzania? In this period, Magufuli was able to bring his country’s economy from the bottom to a middle income economy, while that of Nigeria went into recession several times and indeed, lost its position as the biggest economy in Africa. Not only that, Nigeria was able to firmly establish itself as the country with the highest number of poor people in the world.
The difference is very clear, but some of us will always come out to defend this position with the fact that Nigeria is not Tanzania and begin to give excuses on why this is so. I have pointed out several times in this column that a leadership that focuses on excuses will never get things done, because it loses direction and offers faults instead of solutions. When you have a mandate deprived of excuses, you will come up with solutions, no matter the situation and the interesting thing about this is that, the solutions will be local. Let us, for example, note how Magufuli moved his nation from economic doldrums just by applying home- grown solutions.
He came up with a policy that makes it compulsory for all minerals extracted in the land to be used as raw materials in local manufacturing. Raw materials can only be taken out of the country on the express permission of the Predidency. And, to give bite to this law, raw materials billed for export were impounded at the port of Dar es Salaam and the whole world took notice. If this law is enacted in Nigeria and faithfully applied, there is no way we would be importing petroleum products into this country because we have the raw materials and the capacity, but lack the political will to execute such policy. If we want to run the NNPC mainly on the basis of merit, this position can be accomplished in less than two years; but do we have the will?
When you site the refineries at the point of drilling the oil, why would you have crude oil pipeline sabotage? Magufuli banned foreign trips for his government officials and used the proposed money to rehabilitate the health sector. He abolished tax exemptions for ministers; but, here in Nigeria, how do our government appointees behave? With over bloated numbers of aides, fleet of cars in garages, all at government expenses, how do you expect government to be productive?
People say that President Buhari is not after wealth, that he has always lived frugally; but, as President of Nigeria since 2015, we have not seen such display of frugality in spending at the presidential level, and this had emboldened the National Assembly leadership to toe in his steps. Imagine if government decides to cut drastically on its spending, what benefit that will bring to the country’s economy? Magufuli fined illegal miners to the tune of 193 million Tanzanian shillings for under-valuing Tanzania gold export and seized 250 containers at the port. The British- owned company was forced to give away 16 percent shares of the company to the government of Tanzania.
In Nigeria, everyone is depending on Niger Delta oil, while foreign elements and greedy Nigerians collaborate to export valuable raw materials out of the country, with government officials and security agencies looking the other way. These raw materials are what Magufuli used to build the Tanzania economy. In Nigeria, we allow foreigners and bandits to take control of the business; meanwhile, the states are unable to pay the minimum wage for workers. We have raw materials in abundance: gold, tin, copper, bauxite, silver, steel and so many more, waiting to be tapped; but no one in government is interested, as long as the Abuja allocation is guaranteed. In Nigeria, people are killing themselves, while security officials remain aloof.
Magufuli reduced his cabinet size from 30 to 19; in Nigeria the figure is increasing. He rejected a $10 billion loan from China because the conditions attached to it are inimical to the progress of his country. In Nigeria we are insatiably going after the Chinese loans, no matter the conditions attached to them; we cannot build railways without Chinese loans. Magufuli was able to build railways, hydro power stations, LNG plants, bridges, wind farm projects, gold refinery plant, expanded park projects, executed free education for public schools, and many more, without collecting any foreign loan.
He called the bluffs of super powers, Britain and China; all he did to move the country forward was to block the drain pipes and tapped on the potentials in the country. He stood alone and fearless against the forces of darkness; he sacrificed self for Tanzania; he banned all illicit and explicit videos from Tanzania online space; and despite all of these, he made his Tanzania a middle income country.
Unfortunately, while he was doing these things, no African leader openly supported him; I guess for fear of losing on their loan deals and others. I really wish that the African continent can have more Magufulis, so that in no distant time, we will be able to contest with the best in the world. Our leadership must wake up. Professor Lumumba calls it the “magulification of Africa”; that is, to bring political hygiene into governance in Africa.
Ikhioya wrote via www.southsouthecho.com