The need for a roll call of honour and appropriate day to celebrate Mwl Nyerere


IN June this year, this country lost quite a remarkable figure – a person who designed and drew our national emblem as it is today and stands unaltered since independence 56 years ago.

This emblem on our national court of arms is inscribed with the words: UHURU NA UMOJA - translating for ‘Freedom & Unity’. When the news broke out that we have lost this man known by the nickname – ‘Ngosha’ – frankly – I did not know him before nor ever read about him anywhere!

What came to my mind was the national emblem itself, artistically dignified, which I have run into; across many important state bureaus. Images of Ngosha shown on local television networks a few days before his death showed him as a poor peasant-like figure, a humble old man.

He is gone now to belong to what I can sadly describe as a ‘tomb of the unknown soldiers’ as the adage goes for persons everywhere in the world who do great things but nobody recognises them even after they are gone!

It is this anomaly that has propelled me to pen this perspective with the intention of stimulating a national consciousness towards documenting such nationals in our country whose contribution in their lifetime has been or is currently beneficial to our country.

As I am writing, the list is emerging in my memory of great poets and philosophers of our country such as the late Shaaban Robert.

Around in this country and passing away at the dawn of our independence, Shaaban Robert is certainly a colossus historic figure - who fits immediately the honorary title of ‘Father of our National Language’ – Kiswahili.

Now, can you imagine a person capable of doing more than five books when this country was still under colonialism? Most of these books are still in the literary market today, serving as both textbooks and Kiswahili literature works everywhere Kiswahili is spoken.

I myself have dedicated some of the books, such as Maisha Yangu Baada ya Miaka Hamsini (My life and beyond Fifty) to one of my children: “Let this book especially the poem on page 6 be my last word and will to you…”

Now, how has this country acted to honour Shaaban Robert albeit posthumously? I personally believe that we need to honour Shaaban Robert in a ‘National Roll call of Honour’ which should be instituted as early as possible to honour him and other Tanzanians present and deceased.

Actually, should an idea materialise to have a national Kiswahili day, a day dedicated to honour and promote Kiswahili, that day should be named after Shaaban Robert. Happily, there is a school named in honour of Shaaban Robert in Dar es Salaam.

This was a very good initiative as it was an excellent initiative of a publishing house here, known as ‘Mkuki na Nyota Publishers’, which has re-published all books, by Shaaban Robert.

But my proposed ‘roll call of honour’ is not limited to two persons I have just mentioned. We have a number of them whose names I am sure will ring a bell with those reading this perspective.

They include remarkable musicians, artists and media people. They include the late Mbaraka Mwinyishekh (musician) Shakila, a lady musician remarkable in the brand of music here known as ‘taarab’.

Others are media people such as the late Paul Sozigwa who was remarkable as an after the news commentator, and Editor Costa Kumalija of the early ruling party newspapers here, The Nationalist & Uhuru which latter newspaper is still in place.

Only the other day, a local TV station featured a remarkable artist who is still around credited for designing the first postal stamps; used immediately after independence. He is Mr Mohamed Raza, currently running an art studio in Dar es Salaam.

These are just names that have come immediately to mind but for you, reading these lines, you certainly have people in a variety of roles and professions who are around unnoticed or pass away into the “tomb of the unknown soldiers” while they have made immense contribution to the Tanzanian society.

So this perspective, as clarified earlier is intended to stimulate national consciousness for the need to have a national ‘Roll Call of Honour’ to honour men and women in our midst who are seemingly simple and unassuming but have contributed immensely for the good of our country and beyond.

Just as the National Commission for Science & Technology houses a historical library for the founder President of our country, Mwalimu Nyerere, which is there and will be there for future generations to follow the life of the founder President of this country and Father of the Nation, those who have stood up in their respective roles and professions should also be documented in a Roll Call of Honor to be documented at a suitable institution.

Now, in conclusion to this perspective, as enticed in its heading above, what should be the appropriate day to remember Mwalimu Nyerere should be on his birth day or the day he died?

As of now, the date that has been earmarked to remember and celebrate the life of Mwalimu Nyerere is the day in which he passed away – October 14, 1999. Come October 14th every year, we have a public holiday here.

Going by our culture as Tanzanians, what do we normally do to mark the death of one of us? We say prayers to him/her; via our respective spiritual faiths, isn’t it? I have heard a number of people expressing concern on this decision to mark the day the Father of our Nation, Mwalimu Nyerere passed away as ‘Nyerere Day’.

Those expressing an alternative view say that this day should be earmarked as a “day of sorrow”. It can remain a public holiday but dedicated only to prayers. But the real day, in the view of a serious majority is the day he was born, that is every April 13.

For Mwalimu was born on April 13th 1922. Thus, his birthday would tally with the African culture of celebrating one’s birthday - and not the day one died.

Certainly, Mwalimu stands at the helm of the Roll Call of Honor in this country and his name should be prime to all those who would be honored by our country alive or posthumously in a Roll Call of Honour.

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