AS he celebrated his 72nd birthday on Friday, former president Jakaya Kikwete recalled lows and highs in his path to presidency which he served for ten years.
Kikwete who headed the fourth phase administration between 2005 and 2015, disclosed his journey to the country’s top office on Friday during an interview with Clouds Media Group held at his residence at Msoga village, Coast region.
Kikwete said he developed an interest to become president after he was dropped during CCM’s nomination in the 1995 election that saw the late Benjamin Mkapa taking over the seat left by his predecessor Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
According to him, he had no interest to vie for presidency in the 1995 elections, but he was convinced by various government leaders, including the then President Mwinyi and Defence Minister Abdulrahman Kinana as well as Mr Samuel Sitta, Edward Lowassa and Rostam Aziz.
Before the multiparty system, there was no system that required CCM members who are interested in the presidential seat to take the nomination forms; instead the whole nomination process was done by the party itself.
“I was then the minister for Finance, busy in my office preparing a budget speech, somewhere in the evening I received a call that I was needed by President Mwinyi,” he recalled.
He said upon arrival, the then President Mwinyi sought to know from him (Kikwete) when he was going to take nomination forms since he was among the party cadres who were seen as potential candidates for the seat.
But he refused, telling the president that he wasn’t interested in holding the presidential office by then. And he never thought of it.
“He tried to convince me but I didn’t take it seriously, later on, Mr Kinana (who was the Defence Minister) came to my office with the same topic, I refused again, but he asked me to consider it seriously,” explained Dr Kikwete.
Even though he kept refusing to take the form by that time, there were some more efforts that convinced him to grab the forms as one morning when he was at his home, he received three visitors, the late Mr Sitta, Rostam Aziz and Edward Lowassa.
The three politicians had the same agenda, to convince him to rethink his decision and take the nomination form since they considered him capable of the seat.
“I maintained my stand that I wasn’t interested in that, instead I told them they should let Lowassa, who was ready for the seat, take the forms, however, they insisted that I should take the forms as well,” he said.
Finally, he accepted to take the forms since there was a prior arrangement that would facilitate the whole process, including collecting 250 signatures from ten mainland regions including two of Zanzibar, a process that took only three days.
“During the internal nomination process, I emerged the winner in the first round of votes but couldn’t get 50 per cent of the voters, as a result, it was decided to go for the second round. This is when Benjamin Mkapa won the primaries polls,” said Dr Kikwete.
After the election, that’s when Dr Kikwete started thinking of the possibility of becoming the president, given his major steps in the 1995 CCM polls.
“That is when I started making plans and agendas that I will have to work on if I succeeded in the 2005 election,” he said, noting that he’s glad that under his administration, the government managed to do a lot of things for national development.
He previously held various key positions as Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Minister for Finance and Minister for Energy and Minerals from 1994 to 2005.