There are of course times when occasions demand that a tradition go, but man, the stubborn beast that rules the planet, will tenaciously cling to it and hope to weather the threatening period somehow and still maintain the practice in question.
Not that Reporter at Large did not know of this clash, but when the wandering newshound went to White Sands Hotel in Dar es Salaam on Friday of 19 April this year, he bumped into a momentous gathering of leaders of religious groups of this country. Just a glance at the seated delegates some of whom had traversed the country from east to west, south to north and vice versa, left no doubt that humanity within the flamboyant hall was indeed a pious gathering.
Heads covered with white caps and necks displaying white collars, were symbols that members of Christian denominations and those of Islamic sects were assembled for a serious dialogue to iron out a couple of sticky points between them for common peace.
The success of their dialogue would be a stronger assurance to the nation that blood of the believers would always remain in their veins as they worship anywhere they will without a glance over their shoulders. But this gathering also drew the attention of the government, which sent one of its senior executives, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Mr Ramadhani Khijjah to the arena of religious exchange ideas. With Mr Khijjah was a powerful team.
A population census means much more to the bigger community of the nation than a tradition does to an ethnic society, which is merely a segment of the country. And so when the two meet, one has to give. That loser in such an encounter, is the tradition. The forthcoming August population census has obviously, like its predecessors, found itself against some stubborn traditions, some religious, others merely secular.
Mr Khijjah, a CEO of a chief stakeholder in the whole population census exercise therefore must have taken advantage of the pious gathering to pave the way for that significant national exercise by either looking for how to skip a hostile people’s custom or to circumvent a religious thorny issue. Reporter at Large sat and waited, all ears.
“The government uses a statistics of a census to make a policy, to make public administrative decisions with regard to realistic needs and other basis such as age, gender and otherwise,” Mr Kijjah told the meeting. Whatever it might be that the government was planning, I waited with curiosity to hear.
And given the way the delegates attentively listened to the PS, I knew the religious leaders whose ages traversed all age groups from twenties through seventies, were anxiously waiting to hear what really was in store for their folks. Christian leaders may have known, read, even heard from other stakeholders of the exercise that it would be carried out on a Sunday. Now they wanted and waited to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
“Why should a census be carried out on our worship day?” a leader of the sheep of Jesus of Nazareth asked. What Mr Kijjah said in his answer, showed that apparently many people had misunderstood the real time for the exercise. “All the people who spent the night to the morning of that Sunday at that particular home will be counted,” the PS said.
“That means, in the morning after you have seen a census enumerator and answered their questions, you will be ready to go to church for your prayer.” That appeared to have solved one sticky question. However, a bigger and even stickier one remained. And since everybody, both believers and heathens would both be counted, the matter was one that would rock hard the family boat with the man at the helm.
Mr Kijjah explained well that what indeed the census entailed was counted everybody who spent the night of 26 April at a household. “That means if you, the man, have several wives, must know where to be on that big night and will obviously be counted in that house of the wife in whose house you spent the night,” he explained.
The trick of the choice was exposed in the explosion of a laughter that erupted in the hall from the members. Implicitly, it meant if the wives lived in different homesteads, the husband must choose where to spend the crucial night and it turned out to be a demonstration of love for the most loved one. That obviously won’t be an easy decision to make, religious or not.
Tradition dictates that all women in a marriage must be treated equally. Spending a night in the house of one wife on such an important night, goes without saying that the woman is the most loved one of them all, an event that could precipitate a grandmother of all wars.
That implicitly pushed some polygamists to a wall, suggesting they devise a means to avoid the whole “white man’s scheme to count their wives and children” to learn their potency and device a means to check their fertility. Such a thought, however, ran diametrically opposite to what a population census means. Mr Kijjah reassured the religious leaders that communities need development. Development means planning. Planning without relevant statistics is blind sailing, a foolhardy adventure.
“You just get the message of the importance of the census to all followers of your faith so that they can cooperate closely with the census enumerators on that night to be counted and counted once only,” said Mr Kijjah. No doubt the move was a right one by the government because, for a doubting Thomas, a word from the cleric – leader in the faith - is enough reassurance.