Ugandans are euphoric with the single story “#WhatWouldMagufuliDo”, which is trending on social media. Ugandan politicians and ordinary citizens alike want to be seen to be operating or buying into or promising to operate within the logic of the current president of Tanzania – His Excellency John Pombe Magufuli.
On social media, the trending single story of President Magufuli presents the President with messianic saintly tones. He is mostly depicted as a sort of Robin Hood. His presidential decrees which are seen as redirecting resources from the seemingly unethical greedy rich towards the poor are celebrated.
One such presidential decree, it is reported, cut the budget of the inauguration party of members of parliament from 250 million Tsh to only 15 million Tsh. Reportedly, by presidential decree, imported food items were cut out of the party budget and only local finger foods, juices, sodas, Tanzania’s Dodoma wine were served.
The savings of 235 million Tsh that resulted from this particular decree were reported utilised to purchase 300 beds, 300 mattresses and 1,695 bed sheets which have since been installed at Muhimbili national hospital.
President Magufuli, according to news reports, has decreed a cut down on international travel by government officials, instructing them to instead take more frequent trips to the rural areas of Tanzania. The decree has also set limits that if Tanzanian civil and public officials do travel abroad they must travel ordinary economy class and not first or business class.
Plenty stories in the news focus on how President Magufuli has decreed that a 54-year Tanzania tradition of commemorating its independence will not be done on 9th December 2015. And that instead the funds allocated for the commemoration will be used for a cleanup campaign, since there is a cholera outbreak in parts of Tanzania.
President Magufuli the saintly mover and shaker of things in Tanzania is the trending story of the moment. Ugandans on social media are full of adoration of President Magufuli. His social media profile has become larger than life itself.
His persona is now a trend with many justifying their choices – good or bad – as resulting from a reflection of #WhatWouldMagufuliDo. He is heralded as the kind of leader African nations need. He is considered totally awesome.
President Magufuli’s trending single story carries connotations that he should be emulated by other presidents of African nation-states – that is to say presidents of African nations should ‘efficiently’ and ‘effectively’ rule by presidential decree in favour of the poor. There seems, in fact, to be selective amnesia among Ugandans in particular and the global media, in general, on matters of African presidents ruling by decree in favour of the poor.
History clearly shows that President Magufuli is not the first leader of an African nation to espouse the ‘bulldozer’ mentality against the rich in favour of the poor. President Magufuli’s no nonsense results driven approach, which has earned him the nickname “Bulldozer”, has in the past been associated with other leaders of African nation-states.
Leaders, moreover, who eventually never leave up to ‘the messiah’ promised by the single story that heralded them in the media. Instead, in essence, it is the single story told of them that makes leaders tyrants, because they end up elevating the belief that they can simply rule by decree, and it is okay.