Almost every one of us can point to a particular day and say on such and such a day, luck was on my side. However if it was a competition of sorts we would all probably come second to John Pombe Magufuli who was declared the fifth president of the United Republic of Tanzania on his 56th birthday (October 29).
The CCM presidential candidate emerged winner after garnering over 58 percent of the votes. He is expected to be sworn in on Thursday, November 5, 2015 as the president of Tanzania replacing President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete.
Magufuli managed to beat off stiff competition from Edward Lowassa who stood on the Chadema party ticket and was the joint candidate for four opposition political parties under the UKAWA umbrella.
Lowassa however contests the results but the declaration of Magufuli as the winner means he may have to find other things to do with his time since the pronouncement by the electoral commission is final according to Tanzanian law. Another controversy that still looms is the cancellation of the election results from the semi-autonomous Zanzibar.
Anyone who has been following Tanzanian politics for a while would not be so surprised because the usual talk of peaceful political engagement in Tanzania rarely includes the happenings in Zanzibar. More so this is the same place where one of the candidates declared himself winner as the counting was still going on.
Also for the first time in their history, Tanzanians will now have a woman Vice President in Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan. It is also important to note that the only female presidential candidate in the race, Ms Anna Elisha Mghwira of ACT Wazalendo emerged third overall and yet her party is relatively new on the scene.
There are lots of observations that one can make about the election in Tanzania but I will focus on just two owing to the space available to me. First of all, a voter turnout of close to 70 percent is quite impressive. Getting people to come out and vote is now one of the biggest electoral challenges in this region.
Some people refuse to take part in elections because the winner is obvious and others believe that no matter who is elected nothing much will change regarding their welfare so they prefer to continue with their daily hustles than get caught up in the ambitions of other people.
Then you have that other category of people who have invested their allegiances elsewhere. They are more concerned with whether the coach of ‘their’ team will be sacked before the next game because they are losing a lot of money each time they place their bets at the local sports betting outlet. I therefore commend Magufuli and Lowassa for managing to convince many Tanzanians, especially the young ones that their vote counts.
Secondly and more importantly the regional interest in the elections in Tanzania is proof that we are indeed one community. Outside Tanzania various electronic and print media outlets duly allocated time and space to the Tanzanian election. Some even sent teams to cover the election on the ground in an effort to keep us all informed of what was happening in the largest EAC member state. On Twitter Kenyans even bragged that they made #TanzaniaDecides to trend because they were following events keenly and tweeting away.
This regional interest shows that East Africans are aware that what happens in one country affects them as well.
This lesson has often been passed on in a bad way like in 2007/8 when Kenya erupted into violence and others had to suffer with fuel and other shortages or when Burundi held a messy election recently, compelling Rwanda and Tanzania to deal with thousands of refugees.
For Tanzania, I will echo the CCM campaign team spokesperson, January Makamba who tweeted, “This is not the time to gloat but for unity and service to the public. It is time to deliver on those promises we made to Tanzanians.” Magufuli is a renowned workhorse and many expect him to hit the ground running and help Tanzania to exploit its potential fully so the rest of the region can share in that prosperity.
Political attention will now move to Uganda where elections are set for February 2016 as well as Kenya and Rwanda (2017). Oh and I hope it is ok to assume that Bwana John Pombe Magufuli celebrated his birthday and election win with some…you know, alcohol.