There is a not too kind cartoonist somewhere in our country who recently portrayed President Samia Suluhu busy dismembering a truck with Magufuli painted all over it while in the background hangs a billboard reading, ‘‘Magufuli and I are One’’.
The cartoon is of a woman hard at work undoing the engine, throwing out the pistons, rings, nuts and bolts, all flung way behind her in furious gestures depicting haste and impatience with the useless motor parts.
It is of course a cartoonist’s commentary on the job President Samia is busy doing to replace her predecessor’s ‘policies,’— if one can even call them that —and actions just a couple of months since John Pombe Magufuli was claimed by a death many suspected of having been caused by Covid-19.
That a politician will say one thing while doing the opposite is no news, whatever it is they are fearing and/or hoping to achieve. Apparently for President Samia, it is prudent to carry on the narrative of being the continuator of the Magufuli legacy while tearing it into pieces.
That is what Magufuli himself did immediately he took over from his predecessor, and that is exactly what Jakaya Kikwete did in his turn when he replaced Benjamin Mkapa, and so on and so forth, right up to Ali Hassan Mwinyi when he replaced Julius Nyerere back in 1985.
The big difference between those others and the current one is that the former succeeded living individuals while she has stepped into the shoes of the only one who died in office. This may mean that she has protocols to observe, including not to seem like she is saying the departed president made monumental mistakes, even if that is exactly what she thinks.
So she is taking her first ginger steps walking on eggshells. Still, her very first removal was of Magufuli’s very last appointment, that of chief secretary, the very last official to be sworn in by Magufuli when the president was obviously sick.
Many people thought Bashiru Ally’s appointment was a big mistake when Magufuli ignored the rule that stipulates that this office has to be occupied by a senior civil servant, which Bashiru was clearly not; Samia seems to have agreed with that view as vice president, and now, as president, she had the chance to right that wrong in her very first move in Ikulu.
Now she has turned her gaze onto East Africa, executing two highly successful tours in Uganda and Kenya, doing more than just fence-mending with Kenya, in fact picking up shattered splinters of a jade vase run over by a bulldozer. The warmth of her reception in Nairobi spoke volumes, and there was no hiding the relief the Kenyans felt with the changing of guard in Tanzania.
And she has been doing it with consummate grace, poise and civility, exhibiting good upbringing and the mastery of the felicitous word when needed. Realising that she is the number one diplomat for her country, she has put her best foot forward, and the effect is wholesome.
Still she has to be wary of the legacy she has inherited. There is so much engrained coarseness instilled over the past five years that I do not see how it can be scraped away even with square kilometres of sandpaper covering all government floors and walls.
For five years, government language has been bellicose and uncouth, and it started looking like the rougher one’s tongue the better one’s prospects in government and CCM.
However, in the same way those used to barking orders did what they did because they thought they were pleasing their boss, I hope they will now change tack and try to emulate their new political boss with civil discourse and gentle suasion, distinguishing themselves from their peers through wit and oratory instead of barks, growls and snarls.
This said, President Samia will be well advised to take Covid-19 a little harder than she is doing now. A new variant of the virus is currently attacking us from India, as we continue to witness scenes reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy in India.
I have at the same time wondered why our president dons a face mask in Kampala and Nairobi but throws it away once back in Tanzania. It does not make sense.
Time is of the essence. We have already lost too many valuable lives to be pussyfooting around this disaster with the formation of committees and deliberating on how to go about it.
She should apply huge doses of tough love, discard the Magufuli stance on Covid-19 and tell her people to do the needful to keep the killer virus at bay.
When one looks at how open we are to anyone, or anything, coming out of India, and one watches the Biblical images shown on our screens, how can anyone harbour any doubts as to the devastation wrought by this disease, and what leeway do we have to play polite games with each other?
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]