THERE are two anniversaries in my life that I rate as most memorable, and are probably evenly matched. They are anchored on liberation from critical situations; Independence Day, December 9, 1961 is the first and Wedding Day, September 21, 1985, comes next.
The first, more fittingly captured by the Kiswahili word ‘Uhuru’, represented the dawn of a new era for the people of, initially Tanganyika, and subsequently, Tanzania. Liberation is what that dawn personified - liberation from colonial rule, and openings, thence, for the indigenous people to right the wrongs perpetrated by the colonizers and chart their own political, social and economic destiny.
The second one literally catapulted me from bachelorhood, thereby, liberating me (to lightheartedly quote iconic British musician Cliff Richard) from being “a bachelor boy till my dying day”. More significantly, marriage represents a social compass, whereas there’s a heavy dose of ‘compassless- ness’ in bachelorhood.
Mercifully, Tanzania is surviving, as is my marriage; and the obligation, therefore, of commemorating the occasions in annual cycles. Marriage is however a private affair, on which it would be imprudent of me to make much jazz.
I am now duly travelling backwards along memory lane, to re-live the joy and attendant events related to the auspicious, maiden Uhuru Day. Over the years, between then, when I was aged 7, and now, as a 64-year-old senior citizen, none of the several high-class parties I have attended comes close to the modest one that highlighted Uhuru Day in my home village.
Whenever subsequent December 9s approach, my heart literally dances with joy when I recall the highlights of the senior-most December 9. We, primary school pupils, proudly waved miniature flags of newly-independent Tanganyika as the school band led us to the village square, where giant-sized portraits of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who had been instrumental in propelling the country to Uhuru, were displayed at vantage points.
Moving speeches were delivered, focused on the colonizers ceasing to be overlords, and Mwalimu Nyerere and teammates of the Tanganyika government now poised to run the show, and wananchi playing their due roles in what was essentially a collaborative nation-building enterprise.
A tea-drinking, food eating, and lubisi- drinking party then followed. The immediate post-independence period was, put liberally, honeymoon-like. Whatever shortcomings there may have been on social and economic fronts, as well as in ‘Ujamaa’ (socialism) policies, the situation was fairly okay.
On the education sector front, public schools were generally well facilitated in terms of basics that included competent staff, books and laboratories. Life in boarding schools wasn’t ( was never meant to replicate) tourist hotel-like.
But, these factors, plus students in secondary schools, high schools, professional training institutes, and the then sole University of Dar es Salaam, having been above-average outputs of primary schools, meant that workplaces were staffed by a resourceful cadre, with patriotism chipped into the bargain.
Gradually, things, as Chinua Achebe may have put it, started falling apart. The schools started to crumble, facilities-wise, as well as performance-wise. Except for very few private schools, initially perceived as hide-outs for underperformers or the outright ‘kaput’ species, became hot cakes.
Things started going haywire in the public service, initially a honourable and sane sector, into which entrants were screened, salary scales matched academic and professional levels, promotions were transparent, adherence to regulations was scrupulous and dismissals for violators were few, as they were dreaded.
Then, as the private sector blossomed, it ‘snatched’ young, academic achievers and professionals from the public service, courtesy of better salaries, incentives, fringe benefits and so forth. They included patriotic-at-heart individuals who reasoned that patriotism wasn’t ‘edible’, but some of their compatriots stayed put, thanks to relative job security in the public service.
Then, a hydra headed-like monster crept in, comprising grand corruption, large-scale looting, embezzlement of public funds, deal-fixing, phantom projects, and so forth, which slowed down economic development and social welfare enhancement.
Enter Dr John Magufuli as President after the 2015 General Election, his first highly symbolic gesture, in my view, was to devote, on Uhuru Day, a cleanliness campaign in Dar es Salaam, which was replicated country-wide. It focused on domestic garbage, but symbolically, as the series of dramatic measures that followed have shown, it encompasses, concretely, the rot that had polluted many sectors of the country.
While a little beer would be draining down my throat as part of Uhuru Day commemoration on Saturday evening, I will be musing over (metaphorically) the garbage in the public and private sector, that the Fifth Phase government is flushing down the drain, for a freer, more sane and happier Tanzania.
IN PASSING Slow-but-sure youth ‘zombilizing’ and killing ‘viroba’ are largely gone, but they have apparently been replaced by slot machines at various recreational centres like bars, to which quite many of them have been enslaved.
I wouldn’t want to believe the authorities concerned lack the eyes to see, ears to hear, and capability to intervene.