For Amb Iddi, leaders must have their people at heart

  • Says leadership is not employment, opportunities to amass wealth
  • Commends President Samia for an exemplary leadership

FIFTEEN years of representation–ten in the National Assembly and five in the House of Representatives–and still Kitope constituents in North Unguja region’s North B district wanted Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi to remain.

“I could have contested and won the house of representatives’ seat because my voters still wanted me,” says Ambassador Iddi, “But, I decided to rest and give chance to others.”

He believes his voters never tired of him because he had always been their servant. “Some people err by perceiving these (leadership) positions as employment and opportunities to amass wealth…ideally, leadership is a service to the people; leaders are duty-bound to serve people,” says former second vice-president in Zanzibar’s seventh-phase government.

The 81-year-old diplomat-cum politician was first elected Kitope Member of Parliament in 2005 and re-elected for the second term in 2010. After assuming the islands’ top office in 2010, former President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein nominated Ambassador Iddi to the House of Representatives and appointed him Second Vice-President.

During the five-year period, Ambassador Iddi served as Kitope Member of Parliament, nominated member of the House of Representatives and second vice-president.

Ambassador Iddi, who believes he was coerced into politics, advises present and future leaders to have their people at heart if they have to succeed in their careers. He condemns some greedy and selfish people who use public offices to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they lead.

“During my tenure, I did a lot for my constituents, sometimes using my own resources,” he says, citing the construction of 21 Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) branch offices in the constituency. Before him, Kitope constituency had no single branch office, “party activities were conducted under trees.”

He pities elected and appointed leaders who don’t last long in their positions but says they have themselves to blame, “A leader must have discipline; serve people professionally and efficiently to remain in office.”

Ambassador Iddi is thankful to God for what he describes as “completion of my service in the government and party safely,” with a clean file.

Speaking to Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) Limited’s editorial team, which he hosted for an exclusive interview at his Kama home in Unguja recently, Ambassador Iddi says: “I have a clean file; I was never warned during my employment in the government and politics; that is the happiest thing to me.”

The second vice-president under the first government of national unity (GNU) served his first term under First Vice-President, the late Seif Sharif Hamad but the second term came with the vacant first vice-president’s office as the opposition camp boycotted the rerun of the 2016 general elections, leading to single party government under CCM.

Yet, Ambassador Iddi sees no difference between the multiparty and single party legislative house “as long as members of the house are doing their work properly.”

He says members of the House of Representatives, irrespective of their political ideologies, have similar responsibilities–to advise and supervise the government. “It makes no difference, because all members represent and speak for their voters in the house,” he says.

Ambassador Iddi welcomes criticism but cautiously. “Criticisms are welcome because they help to correct wrongs, but they should be constructive, people have to criticize respectfully, they can have their messages heard without necessarily insulting or mocking leaders.”

He advises political parties to embrace reconciliation as an inevitable ingredient in the contemporary multiparty politics in the country, “Political parties should have a consensus for the best interest of the country…reconciliation is about each side gaining and losing; no single party should win everything.”

The retired leader commends the Union President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan for an exemplary leadership but advises her to remain firm and face the challenges due to her gender and background.

“President Samia will encounter opposition as any other leader, but more so because there are people who were not ready for a female president, let alone a Zanzibari and a Muslim,” says Ambassador Iddi.

Born in North Unguja region’s North B District at Mgambo Village on February 23, 1942, the trained teacher went to Kinyasini Primary School for his primary education before joining Beit el Ras Secondary School for secondary education.

“We had few schools and competition was stiff; I remember only three of us (from Kinyasini Primary) managed to make it to the next level,” he says.

After his Form Four national examinations, Ambassador Iddi passed to join Nkrumah College where he successfully trained in education at diploma level. He was then returned to his former primary school as a teacher before being assigned another responsibility to establish Nungwi Primary School in 1965.

Two years later, Ambassador Iddi was transferred from the teaching profession to foreign affairs and that was the beginning of his blossoming diplomatic career. He was posted to Cairo, Egypt in 1968 as foreign service officer as his first post in diplomatic mission.

During his over three decades of diplomatic duties, Ambassador Iddi has worked in various countries, with two phases in China. He first worked as Counsellor and head of Chancery in Tanzanian Embassy in China in 1976 through 1980 before returning as full Ambassador in 1993 through 1999.

He was also Ambassador in the Netherlands in 1983 through 1993. In Kenya, he served as deputy High Commissioner and Head of Chancery in 1984 through 1989.

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