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Jakaya Kikwete: Why I stood by the late President John Pombe Magufuli to the end

WORLD
By Roselyne Obala | March 27th 2021
Retired Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and the late President John Pombe Magufuli. [Courtesy]

Retired Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete has come out to clear the air over claims that he held a strained relationship with the late president John Pombe Magufuli.

At the final send ceremony at Magufuli's Chato home, Kikwete dismissed such claims as unfounded peddled by naysayers out to dive a wage by portraying him as holding a grudge against the deceased.

President Kikwete questioned how he could have hatred against a friend whom he worked with in his government for ten years and took the flak on his behalf from the Chama Cha Mapenduzi (CCM) leadership when he backed his candidature for presidency in 2015.

“Oh JK hates JPM! Maybe someone else, not me. How do you hate someone you stood for and delivered beyond expectations?” he questioned.

“I handed him the election manifesto and he has delivered at the highest level,” Amidst claps from mourners including President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Kikwete inquired, “How would you hate such a person?”

He, therefore, expressed displeasure that some were speculating that the strong ties were severed as Magufuli ascended to power.

He said within the period of working closely with Magufuli he was convinced that he was destined for a higher office and had the qualifications for a presidency job.

“I JK, didn’t want JPM, me? Maybe somebody else. I have revealed and explained the difficulty I faced in presenting his name alongside four others, from a list of 37 who had declared interest in the top job to the party’s top organ,” said Kikwete.

He disclosed that he settled on Dr Magufuli, before adding the names for the other four and him being the only custodian of the secret list, he had a difficult time explaining why he and no other, deemed more qualified.

The former Head of State said when he first made the list public before the party’s registration and security committee for vetting and clearance, a heated debate ensued, everyone asking why some names were omitted and argued that the five were not equal to the task and lightweight.

“We argued but later agreed. Then we went to the Central Management committee, we stayed until the wee hours of the night but when we left, my worry was how to build a case on the choice of the five with JPM still at the top,” he disclosed.

He said he told the CCM members that now that he was set to retire, they must hand over power to the younger generation.

“I stood my grounds and especially when you are the president and the chairman of the party, you have some veto powers and we agreed. Then came National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, it kick-off with sharp divisions but calmed temperatures and we talked,” he revealed.

He went on, “We reached a consensus that we were not adding any name or removing any, then we took a vote. Three names passed with issues but will make it public when I release my memoir. There is a Swahili saying, ‘one who abuses doesn’t choose the insult’.”

He questioned again why anyone who thinks he hated Magufuli with all he went through to ensure he is the party’s pick for presidency.

 “I am happy that even when we went to the General Assembly, the list remained intact with JPM’s name at the top,” he affirmed.

Kikwete said in the world there are many angry people and some thrive in sowing the seed of discord.

In making reference to cleric clarion call for forgiveness, he said he has forgiven them.

“The cleric teaches us to forgive those who don’t know what they are doing and I forgive them,” he said.

He narrated his relationship with the deceased, who he referred to as “Jembe” (spade) who stirred his administration.

Kikwete who took his time to mourn his friend and former minister, illustrating their journey together both in public and private life.

“When he expressed interest to succeed me, through CCM party in 2015, I did not hesitate to front his name to the top party organ. We had 38 aspirants eying the seat but I was task to eliminate to five but I didn’t have any doubts with JPM’s candidature,” narrated Kikwete.

The former president who eulogized Magufuli as an honest, hardworking person, who never tolerated laziness, corruption and dishonesty, affirming what he stuck with him in his cabinet for ten years.

He said Magufuli was not only action-oriented but reliable and keen on details and that’s why he entrusted him with his legacy project to ensure the major roads in Tanzania were tarmacked and connected the regions.

“Magufuli was not just my minister, he was a trusted and reliable colleague. You can believe in someone but the person might not be reliable, with Magufuli he had both,” said Kikwete.

He continued, “He was my ‘spade’ and that why I appointed him to three ministries, Lands, Livestock and Roads. He dealt with lands cartels, reformed the livestock sector and delivered my legacy project on road infrastructure during my second term in office.”

In fact, he challenged President Suluhu that if her administration will manage to get the medicine to fight the lands cartels then it will be her legacy.

He said Magufuli did a fantastic job during his tenure and he was a gem in his work.

He said Magufuli gave him a parcel of land and he expanded and processed the title deed which was concluded just two months ago in Chato, and hoped that he would have built his residence there so that when he retired too, they would be neighbours.

He recounted what could have been their last meeting when Magufuli was on an official event in Dar es Salaam, where he was scheduled to hand him the new retired president residence but that didn’t come to be as it clashed with his diary.

“We were supposed to meet on March 2 to officially receive the retired president’s house built by his own administration but unfortunately, it didn’t take place. I wish we could have reversed the date a little,” he stated.

He went on, “We could have had our final picture together and the last meeting. We could have laughed and hugged as was our norm every time we met. The Lord has taken, he decided that it won’t happen and it didn’t,” said Kikwete.

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