Overkill is the word. Over the top. OTT. It speaks to a situation where one does much more than one needs to do to achieve what one wants to achieve, in love as in war.
It evokes scenarios of the magnate who offers his goldmine for the hand in marriage of a famed beauty whose father only wants a pair of oxen to till the land, or of an army that pulverises a whole village to flush out a rebel in hiding. It conjures up the spectacle of a hammer being used to kill a fly.
It’s what has been happening in this country over the past few weeks as a whole platoon of CCM members have been going round the country seeking out fellow party members to sponsor them, hoping to become the ruling party’s candidate in the presidential election slated for October this year.
The platoon includes more than a couple who are considered jokers, riders on a merry go-round sanctioned by the general why-not-me atmosphere generated by the cheapening of the office of the president, the perception that one doesn’t need anything special to do the job, because presidents, over time, have proved to be ordinary mortals.
More than the rumour mill suggests that actually no less than two individuals in the fray are certified mental cases with dossiers at the local psychiatric hospital.
Others, less extreme than that, are being seen as people of the future making themselves known today for a more serious essay later.
But some are very serious indeed, and could have been recognised as worthy contenders for any national office on another day.
They include a former judicial officer, who is probably the only person I know who has been, more or less simultaneously, chief justice, army general, church organ player and (now) politician, having been a noted basketball ace on the way here.
The field also includes a former national spy chief-turned-diplomat-academic, a former deputy secretary-general of the UN and a former Speaker of the National Assembly, and a plethora of sitting ministers, which makes you wonder who is running the country right now.
It’s a colourful crowd, no doubt, and one that could have had Tanzanians scratching their heads pondering the diverse qualities on offer. But the show has already been stolen by one of them who seems to have run away with the trophy before the race has even been flagged off.
Edward Lowassa wants to be president, and he has gathered such steam in his quest as to look unstoppable. He has collected sponsors and supporters countrywide on a scale that all his rivals put together cannot equal: Where the requirement was a mere four hundred or so signatures to allow him to file the requisite forms, he has handed in about a million, making the party requirement look silly.
Party bigwigs from different eras of the country’s history have been unabashed in their public support for this candidate. Social media platforms are flooded with his portraits and “Friends of Lowassa” messages. Attempts have been made to clear his name regarding the independent energy contract scandal over which he resigned as premier eight years ago.
There have been statements to the effect that founding father Julius Nyerere never opposed him in a past attempt to become president, and that is a lie. As though it mattered. It doesn’t matter now whether or not Nyerere opposed him in the past; he cannot oppose him now, and the man is rocking and rolling.
Lowassa is on a catch-me-if you-can lap that has left everyone agape.
Now the process of sifting through the candidacies gets underway, as party structures decide whom to axe and whom to bless, this to be done in two weeks or so.
Most of the crowd will be flushed down the drain quite easily, but when it comes to the frontrunner, Lowassa, their work will be cut out for them.
How many of those who oppose Lowassa within CCM can withstand the steamroller that the man has unleashed on his way to Ikulu?
Watch this space.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]