When one of my friends saw the list of my books, he wrote to congratulate me “on writing so many books. For many have lived and died without even lettering a single article in the newspaper.” In responding, I told this friend that not all can write, though it’s important to. Reading the books or views by the retired Speaker, Mzee Pius Msekwa in a weekly column in the Daily News, has enriched me, and possibly many from far and wide as well. I must declare my interest to avoid conflict of interests.
Mzee Msekwa is one of my mentors and role model so to speak. This aside, I must admit that his contribution to the running of our country is superb. At his age, he would have decided to retire and enjoy his emoluments in his cozy home in Ukerewe or elsewhere. But to the contrary, being selfless, Mzee Msekwa has unconditionally decided to offer his expertise on governance as his contribution to his country and the current regime under president John Magufuli. I am sure the role he’s playing through his column is helpful to the current regime.
Looking at the issues Mzee Msekwa explores and tackles, if you like, I get many answers to the questions nobody could answer, especially retired leaders due to the fact that it is not easy to get them.
I understand that President Magufuli has unconditionally offered his precious time to meet with retired leaders to gain their expertise and wisdom. I try to imagine how will we be enriched if the retired stalwarts like Benjamin Mkapa, Jakaya Kikwete and others contributed weekly or as they deem fit as their time allows. When I consider Mzee Mkapa as an intellectual, orator and retired leader, his contribution will be constructively healthy.
When retired leaders write, they incredibly help the new generation to scoop from their rich experience and intellect in resolving the problems their countries face. The first and former Nigeria’s president Nnamdi Azikiwe used to write before and after becoming the head of state. In the home stretch, the late father of the nation, Julius Nyerere wrote extensively before and after his presidency. Mzee Nelson Mandela, the first South African indigene wrote a book before becoming president. Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) Amilcar Cabral (Cape Verde) Leopold Sedar Senghor (Senegal) Jomo Kenyatta, (Kenya), all first presidents too did whereas the Gambia’s first president, Sir Dawda Jawara wrote a 500-page tome in 2010 .
Former US President Barack Obama became the first sitting President to write a scholarly article. Due to the centrality of writing, the Independent (July 15, 2016) wrote that Obama wrote an article titled “United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps” that’s published by the American Medical Association (known as JAMA) on July 11. As a sitting president, Obama had paid spin-doctors and public relations officers who popularised his policies and views.
Yet, he wanted his views to go beyond politics and cover academia with the aim of helping future presidents on the matter. By setting this precedent, Obama didn’t only inspire other presidents but also politicians to write regardless they’re in power or not.
If this article were written by a professor in a field or just any academic, it would not have become a big deal for a famous newspaper like the Independent.
Another sitting president who’s recently started writing a weekly column is Zimbabwean Emerson Mnangagwa who writes in the Daily Mail. I recently got it from Mzee Msekwa himself that he is in the course of publishing two books on the history of Tanzania. I am sure; he’ll forgive me for divulging such personal information.
Drawing from his selfless and wisdom, I must note here. When I approached him asking him to write a foreword for my book Kudos to President Magufuli that was recently launched by the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, whom I hugely thank, he selflessly and unconditionally offered to do it within a single day. Why are the contributions of our retired leaders effectively key to the wellbeing of our country?
Firstly, it is an opportunity for them to show us what they see after retiring. Secondly, it is the opportunity that will help them to rectify all things they did or took wrongly, thus, the time for them to put records straight. Thirdly, by writing, apart from inspiring others to write and express their views on how things should be, they will be able to participate in running the country intellectually. Mzee Msekwa has done this competently and hugely. For example, Mzee Msekwa has written extensively on how to run Parliament as a retired speaker not to mention on the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
In a nutshell, we need our retired leaders to share their experiences and views through either writing articles or books. This way, it is hugely important for our retired leaders to emulate my friend Mzee Msekwa who’s never rolled over when it comes to writing.