“THE person standing before you is the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and I am a woman”.
This statement was received with loud cheers and applause, and some analysts say that the statement was the best part of the whole speech, because it might have carried a deeper meaning.
It was a very bright day, but at the same time a dark, unseen cloud hovered above the country, as the sixth president of the United Republic of Tanzania joined several other heads of state and mourners to bid farewell to her predecessor, John Pombe Magufuli.
Dressed in a black suit and a hijab which signifies her faith, Samia Suluhu Hassan assured all and sundry that she was up to the task of leading the nation after the demise of the tough John Magufuli. Soon after she announced the death of President Magufuli, at the back of the minds of many creeped a single question which to others might sound seditious…is the VP who was soon to become president up to the task?
Which might have been the reason why January Makamba, the Bumbuli Member of Parliament and someone who has worked with her in the vicepresident’s office called her “the most underrated politician in Tanzania”. “I have observed at close quarters her work ethic, decision- making and temperament.
She is a very capable leader,” he had said years before anyone knew she might become the president of Tanzania. Mama samia, as many love to call her, is a stalwart in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi CCM), who was named Magufuli’s running mate in the 2015 presidential campaign.
She is the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial. In most parts of the world, Tanzania included, women have been sidelined when it comes to top positions, be it socially or politically, which is why critics were quick to point to the fact that Tanzania is welcoming a female president for the first time in its political history.
“Gender shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not a person can be a great leader — a person’s leadership abilities should depend on their individual strengths and personality traits,” says a self-proclaimed political analyst, Samson Mwita.
He says that women make great leaders because they take the time to listen instead of reacting right away and appreciate people and their viewpoints, and that whether they are right or wrong, they hear them out and then make their decision.
“I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say,” the president said in a speech last year. Men and women tend to agree on the relative importance of the top tier of leadership traits.
Nearly equal shares of each say being honest, intelligent, organised and decisive are absolutely essential, although women place some what more importance on intelligence and honesty than do men. Prof Eliamani Sedoyeka, the Rector of the Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA) and an Associate Professor of Computer Science has faith in Mama Samia.
“You see, I have worked with Mama Samia before, and for those who don’t know her, they might think that she is very soft, thing is, she is a very tough woman, and Tanzanians will soon know about this,” he says. He says that it is ridiculous to believe that because she is a woman she might lack the strength of leading the nation, and gives the example of a pack of hunting lions.
“The male lion is known to be the king of the jungle, but when it comes to sustaining the pack, it is the lioness who does that, using great precision to hunt its prey and provide for the whole pride,” he says. Prof Sedoyeka says that from early childhood, a woman is raised with expectation that she will one day lead her family, although they say that a man is the head of the family, which is usually obvious from the word go.
He says that working closely with President Samia has shown him that she is a person who believes in obtaining results, and does not entertain excuses when it comes to implementing any project.
Prof Sedoyeka says that after the demise of Dr Magufuli, it was only natural to reflect on what would happen with the pace that the country had taken, saying that although Dr Magufuli displayed a tough stance against corruption, President Samia will also head in this direction.
“And that is why Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has its manifesto for every five years, which means President Samia has her work cut out for her because all she needs to do is follow the manifesto which is already in place,” he says.
The professor further says that women make great leaders, if nothing else, precisely because of what it has required of them to become leaders in the first place, saying that when the odds are against them to lead, and when so many obstacles stand in their way, a woman who has acquired a position of leadership will inevitably emerge stronger and more capable than they would otherwise.
“Women definitely have a lot more patience than men. Women don’t rush into things without thinking it through. They know that decisions are not to be made in haste and so they take a time to breathe it out, dig deeper before jumping to conclusions when it comes to business decisions. That is why I believe that President Samia will deliver,” says Elizabeth Mutua, a female activist.