Tanzania commemorates the death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere today amid proposals for special deliberation on how best to celebrate the statesman and keep his legacy alive.
Some political commentators, including former national leaders, say that the values and principles – leadership ethics, patriotism and humanity – that the founding father of the nation left behind are gradually fading away.
Seventeen years ago today, the country lost its founding leader, renowned Pan-Africanist, acknowledged world statesman, scholar and author in his own right, who died at St Thomas Hospital, London, in 1999.
Mwalimu Nyerere who spent 77 years of his life serving the needy, would have turned 94 this year. And in recognition of Nyerere’s contribution to democracy and humanity, the country declared October 14 a public holiday -Nyerere Day.
Political analysts and senior politicians, in different interviews with the ‘Daily News’ yesterday, said the late Mwalimu Nyerere will be remembered for his outstanding leadership, unity, peace and tranquility that Tanzanians enjoy even today. Renowned politician and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Pius Msekwa, said Tanzanians should always cherish Nyerere whom he described as “a man of humility and modesty.”
“In matters of governance, Mwalimu created and maintained national unity, based on genuine respect for human equality,” said Mr Msekwa, adding that for proper execution of government plans, national unity, peace and harmony are inevitable. Open University of Tanzania (OUT) Lecturer Emmanuel Mallya underscored the need to uphold the country’s peace and unity for all. “It is not enough to just remember Nyerere, we must cherish what he lived for.”
He accused politicians of ignoring the principles that Nyerere advocated, citing the shelving of the 1967 Arusha Declaration that sought to bridge the gap between the rich and poor under Ujamaa ideology as one example of the snubbed Nyerere values.
Mwalimu died at 77 and although he had voluntarily retired from formal politics in 1985, he remained active, expending most of his time for the sake of Tanzania, Africa and the world.
He too enjoyed discussions, arguments and debates, as those who used to be close with him attest. According to Senior Lecturer of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Benson Bana, the Arusha Declaration was a clear indication that Mwalimu wanted the country to prosper.
“As we mark 17 years without Nyerere, we should equally consider what he stood for and among them is leadership code of conduct,” said Dr Bana, adding that Mwalimu believed in self reliance, which President John Magufuli is currently propagating.
The don said the country can only rely on itself if people voluntarily fulfil their tax obligations and the government seals loopholes for tax evasion by traders. Another UDSM don, Richard Mbunda, mentioned critical things to consider as the nation commemorates Nyerere’s death – the philosophies of humanity and self reliance for development though large and textile industries.
“Mwalimu ensured that the country had domestic industries to avoid reliance on imports,” he said. He asked Tanzanians to rekindle the leadership code of ethics, accusing many leaders of putting their personal before the public interests, “Thanks, President Magufuli has managed to inculcate discipline in the public service and that is what the late Father of the Nation stood for.”
Speaking at a symposium to remember Nyerere yesterday, high level dignitaries comprising politicians and academicians, said Mwalimu worked hard to remove tribalism and foster unity, equality and patriotism.
Former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi described Nyerere as being more than a leader, a big brother, a friend and most of all, “He (Nyerere) changed the direction of my life.” “His were big shoes for me to fill…I learned a lot from him and tried my level best and here we are today.
We executed our duties but I am not sure if we still have the kind of integrity that Mwalimu had and I do not know if I should blame myself or the blame is ours all,” he said.
Mr Mwinyi decried the absence of integrity among leaders, leading to what Mwalimu stood firmly against -tribalism, religious differences and inhumanity. “We now see youth forming hooligan groups, like ‘panya’road, attacking and robbing innocent people.
Should we wait to see people seeking jobs in institutions headed by their tribe-mates to realise that we have reached a turning point,” he queried. Mr Mwinyi who also launched a book titled ‘Selective works of Mwalimu Nyerere’ as translated by Chinese academicians, described the symposium as the best opportunity to discuss where the country had gone wrong and the best to do to get back to the route that Nyerere had planned.
“Are these principles still relevant in these present times … they are because although the social, economic and political environment has changed, we still need the principled nation,” he said.
Dr Benson stressed on the need to instil patriotism in the nation’s youth, noting that Mwalimu, besides implanting patriotism, he also built nationalism among Tanzanians.
Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development (UONGOZI Institute), Prof Joseph Semboja, said the symposium aimed at bringing together the country’s personalities to discuss and find solutions to challenges facing the country.
Uongozi Institute, Chinese Embassy in Tanzania and Tanzania- China Friendship Promotion co-organised the symposium themed “Lessons for present and future leaders.”
This opinion article was published in the Daily News newspaper on 14 October, 2016.