This past week Tanzanians have been celebrating their president, Samia Suluhu, on her 62nd birthday. Happy birthday, Madam President!
It is obviously a joyous occasion for her personally and her family and friends, but it is also something to be noted by the country as a whole as it is an important milestone in the life of one in whom fate has vested the country’s future.
It also comes at the same time as Tanganyika just clocked 60 years last December, and Tanzania will get to the age of 58 in April.
For all of them (President Samia, Tanganyika and Tanzania), this is what is usually referred to as the middle age. It is generally a time when individuals, countries and nations get to a special time of self-awareness.
By this age one has put a few years between oneself and the turbulent years of youth and settled into a more tranquil mode of existence, during which one is cruising as if on a plateau in which calm, composure and serenity tend to guide one. It is the age of full-blown adulthood.
Societies can sometimes easily mistake this period in one’s life with growing wisdom, but even where such thinking could be shown to be erroneous on the basis of empirical evidence, it is still helpful to associate this age with mental and emotional calm hitherto given in short supply during the more energetic years of a more robust youth.
At the age attained by our president, (and by ourselves) we have the right and duty to carry out some introspection, both individual and collective.
We all have to ask ourselves if we think that what we are today justifies all the time we have spent practising life at the personal, societal and national levels, or if we may have accounts to settle, with ourselves and with posterity.
Six decades after we attained nationhood – I shall subsume the Zanzibar Revolution and the Union in that sweep – are we in a position to say that we are satisfied with the progress we have made in consolidating our country into a coherent and cohesive nation welded together with freedom, solidarity, empathy and love, getting closer by the day, and looking out for each other’s defence and prosperity, or are we just evolving as a collection of disparate humans, who, having been brought together as a colonial entity, we have continued to stagger along together with very little that binds us together spiritually as a nation?
Development and progress are for ever, and it shall not suffice to think that we can always remain at the starting blocks, or even worse, go into reverse gear, and still be normal.
It is okay for a person to be slow, but it is formally forbidden for a grownup to be seen in public sucking his thumb. Whatever system we decide for ourselves, we must be sure that whatever we do moves us on the path to progress and not in the opposite direction.
Now, what constitutes progress may be problematic, and different people and individuals may have different ways of conceiving progress, but at least they should be able to discuss their differing views of what they intend to do with themselves.
Nobody should think they have the monopoly of what would constitute progress for all.
One thing we will have to own up to is that we are badly governed, our governance systems are rickety and, over the past few years, (especially in the last five years) we have been especially terribly governed.
It has become so hopelessly without direction that I suspect some self-serving members of our society are trying to take advantage of the existing pockets of the vacuum thus created to insert themselves into the gaps they feel they can fill.
One such attempt was the attempt by the immediate past Speaker of parliament to smuggle into parliament 19 women who were not designated through a constitutional process.
The law of the land stipulates – very unwisely I must say – that no one can go to parliament unless they are sponsored by a registered political party, but these women are simply without a party. This illegality continues one year after the offence was first committed, but nobody seems to notice it.
Now, some smart alecks have seen another way of currying favour with the State operators around the great birthday girl in Ikulu. They are starting to get in the mood to consult with parts of their ethnic bases to see how they can confer a “chieftaincy” on the president, regardless of whether the chief’s stool is available or not.
After all, we all know that chieftaincy was outlawed in this country since the early 1960s, and though we are in the habit of pulling our legs mutually calling ourselves “chief” this and “chief” that, these are empty titles without any real effect.
Of course, a little innocent folklore will hurt no one, and it might help us to lighten the weighty matters facing us on a daily basis.
Still, we should be wary of individuals forcibly trying to write themselves back into relevance when the omens are not necessarily aligned.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]