Over the years, I have developed a habit of going to quiet places and reflect in solitary. This has become very important to me as I critically think and evaluate my ideas. Over and over, I find myself reflecting about my country and her future direction. I reflect on development, leadership, and politics of my country. This is mostly influenced and informed by my experience as a political leader, exposure to different places in the world, and readings. I have come to value readings and its impact on my personal development is invaluable. Previously, I used to read books that relate to politics, economics, or history. This has now changed. I have started reading novels, fictions, and philosophical books. This mixture of reading has further developed my thinking and the scope of my regular reflection.
Last week, while I was in Malaysia, I had more time to reflect. It was not easy. My reflection was haunted by fear. This fear was irresistable. Most likely, the fear was set-off by a passage I read in Tom Blake’s book titled ‘Doctor M: Operation Malaysia-Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad’. The passage, is quoted from Plato’s Republic, and it goes like this:
‘….but accepts the responsibility of ruling because he or she cares deeply about the Republic and the people in the Republic and only takes the job for fear of being ruled by a lesser’.
This was almost a turning point for me. It triggered an urge in me. The urge of fear. It made vivid many fears that, I believe, were overlooked and disappeared back into the subconscious mind of mine. This pumping fear on my chest overcame and deleted all the optimism I have had about my country. Previously I used to see only a rosy picture of Tanzania’s future. The fear helped me to see the reality and realised that the rosy picture was only an imagination and a wish at best.
I kept on reflecting and now the focus was on the fear. I asked myself, why fear? What is this fear about? I came up with two answers – the two fears. These fears are not mutually exclusive. They relate to each other.
Fear # 1: I fear about the leadership in my country. Plato’s Republic rightly noted the ‘fear of being ruled by a lesser’. Looking into the pool of people who position themselves to lead us in the near future was heartbreaking and scary. Not because many people are less smart or underprepared to run our country, but enormous challenges facing the country now subjects us to a thourough critical thinking about the country and developmental leadership. I fear about getting a leader who will be ‘lesser’. Lesser with regards to enormous tasks and need for wisdom to lead this big beautiful Tanzania into a prosperous future. We are faced by many challenges that can easily reduce someone to a ‘lesser’ if not wise enough. King Solomon asked for ‘wisdom to lead the great nation’. He was wise to know that the ‘big nation’ can easily make him ‘lesser’. He was not stupid but he realised that being ‘lesser’ is easy amidst challenges. We will need leaders who are ready to sit down, analyse the reality, and work hard. Leaders who would put selfish motives away and think of the nation. Who will not be influenced by party politics but people’s interests. A leader with a developmental mindset. Are Tanzanians wise enough to not choose a lesser?
Fear # 2: In connection to fear #1, the biggest challenge is abundance of natural resources Tanzania. Resources are a blessing and it is right for people to celebrate as we are doing in Tanzania. There are hopes and politicians are doing a good job in underlining this hope. One Minister stated in the Parliament that “with the natural gas reserves Tanzania has, poverty will be history”. How I wish it was that simple! A plus and minus equation. Unfortunately the reality is opposite. There are chains of evidence that resources, due to many factors engraved within a ‘lesser’ leader, may lead to curse. This is evident in many countries of Africa that have been endowed with natural resources.
Larry Diamond and Jack Mosbacher observed that:
‘Oil booms poison the prospects for development in the poorcountries. The surge of easy money fuels inflation, fans waste and massive corruption, distorts exchange rate, undermines the compepetive of traditional export sectors such as agriculture, and preempts the growth of manufacturing.Moreover, as oil price flactuate on world markets,oil rich countries can saddenly become cash poor when booms goes bust (since poor countries rarely saves any of these revenue windfalls). Oil booms are also bad news for democracy and the rule of law. In fact, not a single developing country that derives the bulk of its export earnings from oil and gas is a democracy. Rather than fostering entrepreneurial middle class, oil wealth when controled by the governement, stifles by the emergency of an independent bussines class and swells the power of state Vs civil society.’
Similarly Paul Collier argued that:
‘…you would hope that the discovery of natural resources wealth would be a catalyst to prosperity, and sometimes it is. But these are the exceptions. Sometimes resource wealth has contributed to the conflict trap. But even if the country stays at peace it typically fails to grow; indeed, the surplus from natural resources exports significantly reduces growth. …over time, countries with large resource discoveries can end up poorer…’
In Nigeria when oil was discovered in 1970s, hoes were thrown away. Everyone looked up to oil revunues. Rents. Rents do not lead to poverty reduction. This is my fear for Tanzania. The discovery of gas and oil together with other natural resources leads us into neglecting agricultural sector even more. Agriculture is and for a long time will continue to be the backbone of our economy. Nevertheless, agricultural has been neglected. 2/3 of us, 45 millions, are engaged in agriculture, yet we do not link it with other growing sectors of the economy, such as mining, services, and now gas and oil. This is my fear. If we do not revisit our strategy and link agriculture to our natural resources, we will not only remain poor, but get poorer.
This will need a leader who will make the challenges lesser, so he/she can be bigger.
Do you have the same fear? If so, what does it motivate you to do?