On March 16, 2022, I received a call from one of my friends who wanted to confirm if the following day would be a public holiday, Magufuli Day.
His son told him that on March 17, the day the fifth-phase President John Magufuli died, they wouldn’t be going to school, something the father doubted.
Nothing of the holiday was there on that day. Still, President Samia Suluhu Hassan was in Chato, Magufuli’s hometown, gracing the man’s one-year death anniversary, whose legacy remains highly contested.
All public and private businesses continued as usual, and thus school was on the routine.
Magufuli Day could be a captivating thing to think about. For example, from 2016 to 2020, it seems like we went for a ride, waiting for a single man to say and show us the way.
Magufuli, whose leadership approach was christened Magufulification by his admirers, is not a man that can be easily forgotten.
READ MORE: On Lionising and Demonising Magufuli
How can one forget a man under whose administration it was common to hear stories of unknown assailants abducting innocent people, especially those perceived to be critical of the administration, only never to be found?
It is difficult to forget a man whose rule led a lawfare against almost everyone that dissented.
How can one forget a man who imposed fear on his immediate subordinates, all public servants, politicians from his party and a few individuals from the opposition parties?
Even worse, it reached a point even the common wananchi could not freely and independently air out their views on a thing or two. Intimidation to press and digital space was a rule of each and every day.
We can remember how one man created a bunch of fearful and hypocritical public servants who, without any personal initiative, would quickly go around regurgitating whatever the man said even though they never believed in them.
Praises that these men levelled to their fellow man surpassed what a mortal person needed.
A couple of sponsored praise teams were all over the place, intimidating everyone perceived to be critical of Magufuli’s administration or a potential political threat.
Countless state-sponsored press conferences and printed tabloids would shamelessly defame anyone tirelessly.
READ MORE: What is Magufuli’s Legacy on Conservation?
It was as if the media council and the TCRA were on a honeymoon with those from the praise teams, who later were branded as chawa, which means louse in Kiswahili
The same regulatory authorities, who were firm and sensitive to other individuals and media outlets, wouldn’t dare to put on check the chawa who were for Bulldozer Magufuli. It was the worst form of double standards.
We should never forget a man who exposed our travesty as a people. Magufuli, for better or worse, represented us, the people he claimed to be leading.
He represented most of us who clamour for democracy at the national level but lead our households with an iron fist. And I won’t reiterate here how yearning for a dictator most of us were pre-2015.
But, no, we don’t need to have a holiday in Magufuli’s remembrance. What should we remember him for? The man was able to elevate himself and not the institutional structures.
Even those structures he was seen to create had all the features representing him, not the nation!
I was once told that during the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere regime, in one encounter, a journalist told the founding leader that his critics described him as a dictator.
On his rather humorous remark, Nyerere replied: “I don’t know what they will say when they see a real one.”
Mwalimu was right. We were yet to see the real dictator!
But it will be unfair if we won’t appreciate anything from the late Magufuli. He could be what people call a blessing in disguise. Yes, Magufuli was a blessing in his own way.
He consistently reminded us of the importance of solid, independent check-and-balance institutions. He loudly reminded us of the need to have instruments for holding a Head of State accountable.
Maybe no other than Magufuli reminded us of the immediate need for a New Constitution!
Denis Konga is a historian and political analyst based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He’s available at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further clarification.