Thursday, October 14, 2010

"He's in the process of his coronation."

Happy Nyerere Day. This year's theme is leadership. Convenient. To digress a little, I think it is excellent that our elections are usually held after Nyerere Day. It provides a built-in opportunity to shine the light of comparison on our contemporary leaders, which I suspect annoys them no end. From an aspirational point of view, Mwalimu makes an excellent benchmark for any truly ambitious politician to compete with. One word: Legacy.

I seem to have lost my excitement about the coming elections. I am not sure why, but I know it'll be back on the 31st. In the meantime I am trying not to voodoo-curse the campaign trucks that meander around Mikocheni everyday polluting my soundspace. I used to hear kids playing on the street, now it's all vuvuzelas and invitations to last-minute rallies.

"He's in the process of his coronation" is the answer I got a couple of nights ago when I asked a friend about the progress of an upcoming politician whose first election campaign has, arguably, been the biggest debutante ball of the season. Pithy, funny, sadly true. The young prince in question is hardly the only candidate standing unopposed in these elections.

At present it seems that only CCM has the requisite number of warm bodies to cover our vast land with candy-dates wrapped in green and gold packaging. It doesn't matter how many helicopters, rallies or policy quips the opposition throws at people living in the rural areas, numbers are their Achilles heel. Except for Zanzibar, which exists in it's own political bubble and has no desire to explain itself to Mainlanders, Foreigners and Other Aliens. So sure, CCM has reason to feel complacent...but not entitled.

The second consequence is more entertaining if a little sinister. Our fledgeling competitive electoral democracy is riddled with one-horse races. A number of CCM candidates are languishing for want of a worthy adversary. And that's a damn shame. Aside from disappointed bloodlust - the competitive bit is what makes democracy interesting- I don't think this situation is necessarily healthy for the candidates or for the electorate. Someone running unopposed will likely suffer from an acute inflation of the ego. Case in point:
"I am very happy to go through unopposed...but this does not mean that opposition parties had no candidates for the seat...this demonstrates the respect that opposition parties have for me and my leadership that has allowed me to continue leading Simanjiro constituency"- Chrisopher Ole Sendeka (CCM-Simanjiro).

This no-opposition business has been a major factor in our Bigmanism disease: the over-worship of patriarchs in power and the excessively fawning submission that accompanies it. Hopefully 2015's electorate will have a more varied buffet of candidates to graze from, even in Simanjiro.

Speaking of legacy, Mwalimu would never turn down a presidential debate. Quite the opposite: he would relish the opportunity to crush his opposition with his nimble wit and oratory skills and then bury their tattered remains with gentle derision. My Lady of the Serene Smiles doesn't think we've had a 'real' president in power since he retired, basing a large part of this opinion on his fantastic extemporaneous speeches. I don't agree, but she does have a point about the power of a master communicator.


  1. Amina! "Nyerere would never turn down a presidential debate". Nail. Head. On. The.

    I heard a credible rumour that invitations for the inauguration of JK part II have already been sent to African Heads of State.

  2. @Anonymous: Well, you know how it is with the president's club. Gotta synchronize the schedules and double-check alliances, defuse grudges and draft up the seating charts ;)


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