It was sometime in the early 1980s when I found myself catching a flight from New York to Tokyo via Alaska.
It was an interesting flight in the sense that, due to time zone factors, you actually lose a whole day as far as the calendar of any type is concerned. But that is besides this narrative.
Once inside the plane, I believe it was Nippon Airlines, the Captain welcomed us as per flight protocols.
A few minutes into the flight the Captain came back and informed us that we would be flying for some hours to Anchorage in Alaska.
And before we reach there we would have the privilege of flying over and seeing Mount MacKinley, the highest in that part of the world at 20,310 feet above sea level. Everybody was elated and clapped accordingly.
And soon after, I believe after going through the list of passengers, he again came alive and announced that on that day the Captain and his crew were delighted to welcome aboard a passenger from Tanzania in Africa. Everyone was silent until he added that “Tanzania the land of Nyerere.”
There was a big applause and some type of European ululations in approval and recognition of Nyerere.
Several fellow passengers took the initiative to come to my seat - I was the only black or rather person of colour in there - and ask me questions about Mwalimu Nyerere.
They were delighted that Nyerere was a new brand of African leaders who were indeed selfless and fighting for the interests of their citizens. They abhorred primitive accumulation of wealth by leaders, mostly in Africa.
I was beyond myself and pleasantly and happily surprised. I even received gifts including some bottles of rare wine and some scotch whisky bottles. Thanks Nyerere!
Now that is nearly 40 years ago. But Nyerere, who passed on 20 years ago, is still acknowledged in the country, the continent and globally as one of the greatest leaders Africa has ever produced.
I first saw Nyerere when I was about 5-or-6 years old. I was stark naked with soap foam rolling down my black tiny body.
My mother was bathing me in preparation for Nyerere’s passing through our village in Njombe.
But Nyerere’s entourage arrived earlier than per programme. My mother abandoned me in the wash basin and ran to the road, which was near our house, to watch him pass by. Naturally I stood in my ‘body suit,’ joining in the grand reception of Mwalimu at my village.
I am sure Nyerere must have noticed this naked boy and thought he indeed had a long way to emancipate and developed the-then Tanganyika and it’s people.
But, I now know what Nyerere went on, among other decisions, to offer free education from primary school to university. And I can assure you that, without his free education programme, I would never have been where I am today!
It should be told that we actually were paid to study at the university. The government used to pay us what we called ‘boom’, which included living and outfit allowance as well as books money, at the university.
And know what, we used to organise rallies to remind the government that our boom was late. That was in the 1970s. Thanks, Nyerere.
As we mark 20 years of Tanzania without Nyerere, we should ask ourselves as to whether we indeed still uphold his ideals and goals. And if we do, we should promote the Nyerere Brand in Bongoland and globally.
Look at what the South Africans are doing with the Mandela Brand; or the Indians with the Gandhi Brand; the Americans, notwithstanding their killing them, the Kennedys Brand; the British with their Churchill Brand; the Zambians and the Kaunda Brand and the Malawians, notwithstanding the mediocrity of it all: the Banda Brand - to mention just a few.
As we mark Nyerere Day next Monday, we need to sit down and find ways to fulfil Nyerere’s ideals and goals - always taking into consideration the ever-changing and modern environment.
We should also sell ourselves globally so that when a Bongolander flies to Batumi on the Black Sea Coast, or to Katmandu in Asia, fellow passengers hail him as a true product and son or daughter of the Nyerere Brand... Cheers!