anzanian President, John Magufuli, died a few weeks ago, and Africa is still reeling from his death. It is like waking up from a nightmare; many of us still cannot believe the cause of his death is natural. Here was a fellow who was full of life, carrying out his responsibilities with zest and passion, confronting superpowers in all their forms, only to be struck down by a bizarre illness that eventually swallowed him.
Although some may argue that this is a natural cause of death, such sudden heart attacks are not common for a guy who had a private physician at his disposal, unless there were underlying or chronic diseases that were not made public. Magufuli’s death will remain a mystery in today’s world, when people can be slain without leaving a trace of the murder weapon. Progressive African leaders have been assassinated before, and this one will be added to the list. Before him, there was Sylvanus Olympio, who died in 1963, Thomas Sankara, who died in 1987, Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Guinea-Bissau’s Amilcar Cabral, and a long list of others who are too many to mention here.
The goal of this article is to show how much of an influence Magufuli was able to make in just a few years in power. It is my modest opinion that if African leaders can emulate his methods, our long-awaited economic emancipation would be realized sooner rather than later. This was a man who entered politics with a clear vision of what he wanted to do. “Politics is the competition of ideas,” says Professor P.L.O. Lumumba.
In this scenario, ideas that can be implemented to help society progress could be adopted from the way the late Magufuli of Tanzania governed. Ideas are not static or permanent; they are subject to life’s whims and dynamics, which is why Tanzania’s late President Julius Nyerere famously said, “When you make mistakes, you can correct them.” An idea that is no longer relevant to society’s growth should not be promoted by anyone in a position of leadership. When you are in a position of leadership and are not guided by meaningful ideas, you will tend to wander in circles, and your failure will be revealed to the world in the near term.
This is a man who became President of Tanzania just a year after Nigerian octogenarian President, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in. But, five years later, what can we say about Nigeria’s predicament and Tanzania’s? During this time, Magufuli was able to transform his country’s economy from a low-income to a middle-income one, while Nigeria’s economy slipped into recession numerous times and eventually lost its position as Africa’s largest economy. As if that was not enough, Nigeria has strongly established itself as the world’s poorest country.
The distinction is obvious, but some of us will constantly defend our viewpoint by pointing out that Nigeria is not Tanzania and making reasons for why this is the case. I have said before that leadership that concentrates on excuses will never get anything done because it loses focus and gives faults rather than solutions. When you have a mandate devoid of excuses, you will find solutions to any problem, and the intriguing part is that the solutions will be home-grown. Consider how Magufuli was able to lift his country out of economic limbo only by implementing locally developed solutions.
He devised a regulation requiring all minerals mined on the land to be used as raw materials in the local industry. Raw materials can only be taken out of the country with the Presidency’s prior consent. To lend teeth to the rule, raw materials supplies destined for export were seized at the port of Dar Es Salaam, drawing worldwide attention. We will not be importing petroleum products into Nigeria if this law is enacted and rigorously implemented since we have the raw materials and capacity but lack the political will to carry it out. This achievement can be attained in less than two years if we wish to manage the NNPC primarily on merit; however, do we have the will to do so?
Why would you have crude oil pipeline sabotage when the refineries are located near where the oil is being drilled? Magufuli imposed a restriction on overseas travel for government officials and not only pledged, but also used the funds to restore the health system. He abolished ministerial tax benefits, but how do our government appointees act in Nigeria? With outrageous salaries, bonuses, and allowances, fleet of cars in garages, over excessive numbers of aides, all of these and more at taxpayers’ expense, how do you expect a productive government?
Some staunch supporter of President Buhari believes he is too old to be interested in money and has always lived modestly; nevertheless, as President of Nigeria since 2015, we have not seen such austerity in spending at the presidential level, which has emboldened the National Assembly leadership to follow in his footsteps. Consider the benefits to the country’s economy if the government decides to dramatically reduce its spending. Magufuli fined illicit miners 193 million Tanzanian shillings and impounded 250 containers at the port for undervaluing Tanzanian gold exports. The British-owned corporation was obliged to hand over 16 percent of its stock to Tanzania’s government.
Everyone in Nigeria is reliant on the oil money from Niger Delta, while aliens and greedy Nigerians work together to export valuable raw materials out of the nation, with government officials and security services turning a blind eye. Magufuli used these basic minerals to help Tanzania’s economy grow. We allow aliens and criminals to gain control of businesses in Nigeria, while the states are unable to pay workers the minimum wage. We have plenty of raw materials: gold, tin, copper, bauxite, silver, steel, and a plethora of others, all of which are ready to be exploited; yet, no one in government is interested as long as the allocation from Abuja keeps rolling in. The death rate in Nigeria is at its all-time high, such that had never been witnessed before in the nation, because the government has failed them, and security officials, on the other hand, have remained distant because someone somewhere had induced them (by way of bribe, order, threat, or otherwise) to not perform their duties properly.
Magufuli decreased the size of his cabinet from 30 to 19, yet the number is growing in Nigeria. He turned down a $10 billion loan from China since the terms were detrimental to his country’s development. We are insatiably pursuing Chinese financing in Nigeria, regardless of the conditions attached; we cannot build railways without Chinese funds. Magufuli was able to construct hydropower plants, modern-day railways, gold refinery plants, LNG plants, state-of-the-art bridges, wind farm projects, enlarged recreational park projects, implemented free education in public schools, and many other projects without taking out a single loan from foreign nations.
Magufuli called the bluffs of rich-powerful nations such as China and Britain, and all he did to take the country forward was block the drain pipes and tap into the country’s potentials. He stood alone and unafraid against the powers of darkness; he put his own life on the line for Tanzania; he prohibited all explicit and illicit videos from Tanzania’s online realm; and, despite all of this, he managed to make Tanzania a middle-income country.
Unfortunately, no African leader openly supported him while he was doing these things, presumably for fear of losing their loan arrangements and other so-called ‘benefits’. I sincerely hope that the African continent can produce more Magufulis so that we can compete with the greatest in the world in the not-too-distant future. Our political leadership needs to wake up. Professor Lumumba refers to it as the “magulification of Africa,” or the introduction of political hygiene into African administration.