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Long serving MP John Magufuli promises to exploit Tanzania's natural gas discoveries

By Rawlings Otieno | October 26th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

John Pombe Magufuli

When some critics suggested that he was unfit to run for president, Tanzania's Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) presidential candidate John Pombe Magufuli responded by publicly doing push-ups on a platform during one of his campaign rallies.

And it is understandable why he would result to such showmanship to tell off those doubting his presidential credentials. Since independence in 1964, Tanzania has been ruled by CCM and Dr Magufuli wouldn't want to go down in history as the one who broke the independence party's uninterrupted reign.

So face down, with clenched fists to support himself, Magufuli, 56, lifted himself up for a couple of push-ups, as thousands of supporters decked out in the ruling party's green and yellow colours counted and cheered him on.

The showmanship highlights how far the bespectacled, grey-haired politician, who is a leading contender for the top seat, would go to make a point.

As public works minister, Magufuli once rejected a newly-constructed road, courtesy of the Japanese Ggovernment, citing sub-standard work.

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Magufuli is described by Tanzania's media as the 'godfather' of statistics, with a photographic memory for figures.

Mathematics teacher

That was evident in 2010 during a CCM general assembly, when he was tasked by President Jakaya Kikwete to explain how the party and the government were doing in the area of road construction.

Magufuli responded with specifics, detailing the exact number of roads under construction, the roads completed and the location of the roads by region, village and district.

He served in former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi's administration, where he earned the nickname 'The Lion' for his dedication and ability to get the job done.

A former Mathematics teacher with a PhD in Chemistry, Magufuli, who has been a loyal member of CCM since 1977, was elected Member of Parliament for Biharamulo East (Chato) in 1995 and has served as Works minister since 2010.

During campaigns he cited his stint in government, saying he knows what is wrong with the system and how to fix it.

"I have been in government for long and I know where things went wrong. I know where we are coming from, where we are and where we are going. Some of the projects that have not been completed will be completed during my term as president," Magufuli told supporters.

Locally, besides the interest in Tanzania's election stemming from the fact that it is a neighbouring country, perceived links between the candidates and Kenyan politicians are adding to the excitement.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has brushed off the talk of closeness to Magufuli and insisted that both candidates are his friends.

Close ally

"I wish him well. I wish Tanzanians the best in their election. If my friend does not win of course then he will have to work with the winner. You need to know that even the candidate of the Opposition, Mr Lowassa, is also a friend of mine," Raila told The Standard.

 After Mr Kikwete took office, he moved Magufuli to the Lands and Human Settlement ministry in 2006.

Magufuli, a close ally of the country's former President Benjamin Mkapa, served as his Infrastructure minister.

Previously, he was deputy minister for Works, minister for Lands and Human Settlement and minister for Livestock and Fisheries.

He has however, received some flak for his decision to auction off State-owned houses to staff and the public.

Off the political arena, Magufuli has worked as a senior chemist for Nyanza Co-operative Union Limited and taught Chemistry and Mathematics at Sengerema Secondary School in Mwanza. He has has received numerous awards within and without Tanzania and also authored a number of books and journal articles.

Magufuli has promised to improve the pace of development. He has promised to end the country's power shortages and exploit Tanzania's natural gas discoveries. "My government will put emphasis on fighting corruption, job creation and industrialisation," he said.

John Pombe Magufuli Chama Cha Mapinduzi natural gas Tanzania elections
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