Friday, May 15, 2015

If You don’t Have Integrity, You Have Nothing! : Lessons from Mwalimu Nyerere

            If You don’t Have Integrity, You Have Nothing! : Lessons from Mwalimu Nyerere

We must demand more from our leaders. How many African leaders today can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Nyerere, Mandela, and pass the integrity litmus test? Nyerere gave up a salary of 750 £ per year in March 1955 and refused a regular salary from TANU for a while.  Nyerere opened a small shop in Magomeni in order to supplement his income. As the leader of the largest independence party, Nyerere opted to depend on a party vehicle, friends, and a bevy of African tax drivers who were his supporters for transportation; he was in position to purchase  a car, but decided not to get one.  

Nyerere retired in 1985 and lived in a modest house in Msasani. He was not motivated by money, wealth, or material possession. As the report states: “Nyerere exhibits a higher moral standards in personal affairs than is usual among African nationalist leaders,” it adds, “It may be that this, allied to the fact that he is intellectually far above his associates…” No wonder colonial officials were forced to admit the fact that he was "intellectually far above his associates" and that he "exhibits a higher moral standards." He was incorruptible! The British colonial officials dealt with a multitude of Tanganyika leaders in the 1950s; they appear to view Nyerere as being incorruptible. 

Even in the heydays of TAA/TANU in the 1950s, there were important leaders whose integrity was brought into question. Questions were asked about leaders such as Thomas Plantan, Steven Mhando, and Dossa Aziz; the last two were questioned when TANU’s accounting books did not add up. 

There are many lessons we can draw from Mwalimu Nyerere.  One important lesson is that of integrity. A leader who is not corrupt before holding the most important office in government is unlikely to become corrupt after holding the high office.  A candidate who is corrupt before elections is likely to continue with grand scale corruption after being elected into office.  It is high time that Tanzanians speak with one voice in the 2015 elections.  Electing and supporting a corrupt leader is an indication that we are corrupt as a society; for, only a corrupt society can elect and support a corrupt candidate. There are many people who hold office; but not everyone has qualities that makes them a leader.  About five months shy of the 2015 elections in Tanzania: who will you vote into office? As we look to the future, it is important that to take a moment to reflect on the past: those we elect into office must pass the integrity litmus test. After all, if you don't have integrity, you have nothing!

© Azaria Mbughuni

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