Those watching the campaign rallies as broadcast by TV networks in place are most certainly overwhelmed by the magnitude of people the competing parties in the polity are able to attract. Clearly, the next vote is poised to be the most closely fought to date in the country’s multi-party debut.
What is spoken by presidential aspirants and others vying for parliamentary seats may not sound civil to some ears, but this is all what competitive politics is all about. This is amplified by what is happening in democracies elsewhere such as in the United States where we hear alleged misdeeds by some aspirants being uttered by opponents in the race. But a comparative overview between a developing country like ours and those in the West is intemperate.
Ours is a young democracy and a fragile country like any other in Africa. We have a long way to go to appreciate the characteristics of competitive politics – with its bottom line where one’s hand is expected to be extended to the winner in a congratulatory handshake after the polls results have been announced.
This is precisely the culture that Tanzanians must learn to emulate and indeed a culture the Tanzanian media should move to inculcate in both the polity and overall population. Another factor is the pillars of what has made this nation tick over the last half a century.
Our national pillar is grounded in the motto of FREEDOM AND UNITY that we are one people in spite of being a hundred plus tribes and a diversity of religions. Already in the runup to the vote this time around, whispers are abound that some of those vying for elective office are essentially factional or are organized from the zones of their origin in this country and some use religion as their benchmark to win the vote.
As pointed out in this column before, the major opposition group of political parties running under an umbrella for a new Constitution – UKAWA – what this group essentially represents is factional. They want to resurrect Tanganyika which is Mainland Tanzania of the very distant and forgotten past and have in place three governments the Zanzibar Government, the Tanganyika Government and a Union government in the middle.
One does not need a degree in political science to build the argument that this will essentially mean the death of Tanzania — where majority of the people of this country have been born in. In this event, a tribally fractious Tanganyika will emerge. As the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Nyerere once explained, no entity, whether Tanganyika or Zanzibar will survive as a national entity once the United Republic of Tanzania, with its two-tier government as we have known and lived all along, is destroyed.
If I have brought in one group of the competing political parties in the vote is just to bring to the fore one of the salient features of the rather difficult situation Tanzanian voters face this time around. But suffice is to settle to the fact that Tanzanians are intelligent people. They will be able to sift on their own on what is what and who is who in the race.
The bottom line here is the need to safeguard peace in the run-up to the polls and after the polls. This is crucial and most important. Here then is the role of the media, both the electronic and print media in enlightening the people on the cost of losing peace. Apart from its well-acknowledged role of Journalism as the “first draft of history”, the role of the media, which is to inform and educate, assumes a more critical posture given the country’s political landscape today.
Tanzania’s biggest prize and outstanding fame is its peace and stability as compared to most countries in Africa and the Third World. But this is bound to go up in flames once there is a conflict in the run-up to the polls or after the polls results have been announced.
It is therefore easy to understand why most people are nervous at the outcome of the forthcoming vote much as all looks well when looking at the relatively peaceful campaign rallies.
It is, therefore, extremely important for media men and women in this country and others in the civil society to play up the imperative to accept the outcome of the vote with that well-known political culture of accepting the outcome of the vote gracefully.
Conceding defeat and extending a congratulatory handshake to the winner is actually the sign of greatness of a given individual in the race. This is what we saw in Nigeria the other day, when the loser of recent elections conceded defeat and congratulated the winner.
If this will happen, it will provide a sigh of relief to all Tanzanians who have hitherto enjoyed peace unparalleled elsewhere in Africa. In the event of loss of peace, Tanzanians should think again on what will happen to them.
As evidence of this, let them look at the on-going story being broadcast by global TV networks on those “desperate journeys” by people from war-torn countries in the Middle East escaping to Europe, not knowing what will befall them on arrival! God forbid.