Why Is President Magufuli Frustrated?

The other day, President Magufuli got humanized. He made a rare admission especially from someone considered to be way too bold to the point of being nicknamed “The Bulldozer.” Speaking on camera in front of a bunch of his appointees including the Inspector General Of Police (IGP), he confessed that some of the things he says are just out of frustrations. At that moment, his tension rose a few more percentage points.

The President was/is frustrated. He asked for forgiveness when sometimes he seems to be too off-color. He is carrying too heavy of a burden. Up until that day, he had made too many trips to the Dar-es-salaam Port. These are trips he shouldn’t be making. His subordinates are supposed to do their job. To make things worse, on each trip, he found new-fangled disarray. On each trip, he must be capable of being shocked.

Understandably, life is full of frustrations. Things don’t always turn out the way we envision them. There are twists and turns. It turns out even when you are a President; you can’t escape this long time known fact. The length of the entourage or a presidential motorcade doesn’t equal the ability to sleep like a baby. It might as well be a nightmare.

As I watched the video clip that circulated through Social Media channels, I could feel his pain. He feels responsible for many things that are going in the opposite direction. And boy, there are many. This particular time wasn’t the first time he expressed his frustrations. He once declared the job of a President is too much of a burden. He “regrets” asking to be the next Commander-In-Chief at first place.

So what is making the President frustrated? Is it just the constant political battering coming out of the opposition parties’ camp? Or is it the amount of poverty he witnesses as he travels across the country in fulfilling his presidential duties? Is it people who, no matter what he does, they will always count it a fluke or denounce his presidency a total disastrous disappointment?

As you can tell, the answers to above questions (and many more) could be as many as the sand in the bucket. All over sudden these unpleasant and unanswerable questions start flopping around like a bat that had mistakenly flown in through the living room window.

But since the Presidency is an institution or is supposed to be an institution and not a one-person show, there are three areas we can point fingers at; Power, Authority, and Accountability. Collectively these concepts can be summed up as ability or capacity to direct, give orders, make decisions, influence behaviors while being accountable and responsible.

Since President Magufuli came to power, I have taken a particular interest in analyzing his administration. I haven’t written much of it. I know. I listen more. I have tried to explain what is going right and what could be going wrong in President Magufuli’s administration.

When any given administration is getting the job done, we must cheer up the leader (and subordinates) and offer our sincere support to his vision and mission. When he/she wins, the whole country wins. He could be enjoying the rush of a Presidential motorcade speed in an air-conditioned luxury car. We, on the other hand, enjoy better roads, healthcare, improved quality of education for our children, etc.

The same way, it is also a citizenry duty to warn or show disagreement with specific policies, procedures or conduct that seems to be making callous administrative mistakes that can keep dragging down the country’s economic, political or social frameworks. Contrary to what other people suggest, I believe it’s an honorable duty to correct your leaders. It is the only substantial reality in a shifting world.

Essentially certain things are going right. Therefore his frustrations shouldn’t be used to alarm everyone that the nation is on the edge of collapse. For example, there’s a sense of discipline to some aspects of governance including cutting down what I call “lame corruption.” Ordinary citizens can now receive essential services without having to bribe everyone from the gatekeepers to the service rendering agents. Of course, the blame now is that there are limited resources to start with. There’s shortage of everything.

With time and consistency plus the right allocation of resources, the services will improve. However, it won’t be overnight. It’s a long process to change any system. As Thomas Edison once said, “restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.” I, therefore, understand the impatience in some of us including myself.

When lamenting about his frustrations, President Magufuli mentioned how he wants everyone to do their job. After all, his mantra is #HapaKaziTu. He doesn’t want to keep doing other people’s jobs while paying them. That can be frustrating.

The question then comes, why are people not doing their jobs? The answer is; his leadership style. Can we say his leadership philosophy? Probably.

Part of President’s responsibilities is to form what we call the central government. They include hiring and firing. They also include presidential appointments in various capacities and responsibilities. The ministers, deputies, ambassadors, secretaries, members of law enforcement authorities, tax collectors, advisors, etc. Given our standing constitution, there’s too much power and responsibilities allocated to one person.

In fulfilling his presidential duties, President Magufuli has given people (appointees) power, but he hasn’t fully empowered them. This is where his frustrations start to crawl. He remains (and likes to stay) the center of attention. He fathoms the fact that any buck stops with him. This could affect his overall personality and not necessarily a leadership glitch. It could, however, contribute to a certain extent to establish rigidity in some capacities.

When you continuously dismiss or overturns the decisions of your subordinates, you’re sending them an undercurrent message that they can’t make such decisions. Only you can. Many examples are coming out of his administration to prove this notion.

Some people in his administration have confided with me about the anxiety in public offices. To the outsider, the mentioned anxiety can be deemed to be “discipline.” I beg to differ. Anxiety and fear are part of occupational hazards.

Many of his subordinates (with few exceptions) carry big titles with assumed authorities. However, their titles are as empty as a dustbin in upper store racks. It’s like mathematics without numbers.

As the result of lack of full-fledged empowerment or quasi-authority, many of his subordinates prefer to do what they think will please him. They make headlines making statements that are not meant actually to change policies or procedures but just to create newspapers and social media buzz. Everything uttered seems like a carefully orchestrated maneuver to win the popularity contest.

For the subordinates to feel free to fully function, they need to have all the elements of leadership mentioned above; Power, Authority, and Accountability. Some of you may argue that right now these leaders are accountable than ever before. It could be true.

But it could also be true that they feel accountable only to the President and not the real target; the citizens. The case of the Dar-es-salaam Regional Commissioner is a good example. Do you think he feels accountable to the people of Mzizima?

Right now, most of his subordinates are afraid of the consequences, both political and personal. They have seen how some of their colleagues got fired for just uttering one wrong sentence. Should they volunteer to be next on the line? Common sense suggests otherwise. They have families to support. They need the job!  I saw how the Inspector General of Police (IGP) spoke in a shaky voice. Fear like the quick, hot touch of the devil shot through him. He was undoubtedly afraid that the next minutes could be his last. He’s lucky to have survived that moment.

Unfortunately, this lack of confidence on how to conduct government businesses translates into big part of his government. There are assumed discipline. Yes, people are on their desks. But can they make tough decisions without doubting themselves or facing the harsh reality? There’s now evaluation by relationship, not results. This is a dangerous situation. To get these kinds of people to act is like trying to push jello up a mountain.

Therefore, there’s a need to make sure that the designated leaders are fully empowered. If you are fearful of the rain, the last thing you want to do is to jump into the well. The decision-making processes must be standardized based on available best practices. Matters of governance such as laws, by-laws, procedures, etc. shouldn’t be based on one or two people’s intuition. It should base on existing and standing rules.

The roles and responsibilities must be defined. Right now, most of our “leaders” are always or permanently in self-protective habits. They suffer from performance anxiety. Some of them are creative with massive talents. They’re probably resourceful and energetic as a street dog. However, since they are in the limbo of trying to be perfectionists, they end up getting nothing serious done. The marching orders become what can I do to make him happy.

You can see how they talk or act when confronted by the President with even simple questions on how they’re performing their duties. It’s like they are fastened to the wall. Numb as if their feelings are paralyzed. Being respectful to our leaders is imperative. But it’s another thing to act like someone stricken by thunder at an open field.

To move the country forward, I am convinced that this must change. It’s not late. But time is not our friend. Otherwise, Mr.President will continue being frustrated for a long time. Adios.



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