President John Magufuli: The meaning of African Madness

It is not strange, recently, to hear the newly elected President of Tanzania President John Magufuli defend his sanity in public. What is strange, however, is that most of those the president wants to convince of his sound mental state seem not to believe him, despite his desperate effort to set the record straight. That would mean more unwelcome explanations “ and perhaps more “strange behaviours“ to come.

“I  am Neither Mad nor a Dictator.“

You hear President Magufuli still trying to convince his doubters, seven months after taking over as the president of Tanzania? Could it be that the Tanzanians have committed a blunder electing a madman as their President? It becomes worrisome, having in mind that most people believe strongly that Tanzanians are too critical and politically conscious to make such a huge mistake. Why then is the president busy trying to prove his sanity?

Sanity? Oh yes, you know what it means in Africa to accuse one of madness. Africa is not the West,  where there is a clear borderline between “psychology“ and “psychiatry.” Nor is Africa a place where even dogs, cats, and other animals enjoy full psychological evaluations and “treatment.“ Aha, you now understand when Oga Napoleon of the Animal farm insists that “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others?” You haven`t heard of the Seven Commandments of Animalism, have you? There are dogs and there are dogs. Likewise, there is madness; and there is madness. Before you accuse me of talking philosophical, bear in mind that it is definitely clear that Oyibo – muzungu animals enjoy more (animal or human, if you like) rights than those from the third world countries. So for those who think identity is single and static, think twice! Not all animals are the same. Therefore, next time you see an animal psychologist from the west riding a big jeep car or living in a posh neighbourhood, you don`t go around believing they are living flamboyantly, having made a juju with the head of their close family member. No, they have neither gone to Africa for the Albino concoctions. They are just rich animal behaviour specialists, enjoying the fruit of their work. It is, therefore, nothing abnormal for one to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist in the West. If animals do, why not humans? Likewise, the word “madness“ has totally different connotations in the West than in Africa. That is in the West. For the Muzungus! Madness carries a different meaning (and often a  very negative stigma) in Africa than in the West.

Back to Africa and the African realities. You now understand President Magufuli`s predicaments “ and the weight of the “madness“ accusation against him. In Africa, calling one a mad person is a serious accusation with a lot of implications “socially, psychologically, politically and even genetically.  If at this point you still don`t appreciate President Magufuli`s worries, you simply cannot understand why he sacked inactive and corrupt hospital officials, the alleged drunken minister. Nor can you even appreciate his attempt to bring sanity to his country, Tanzania. Sanity? How can an insane person bring sanity to sane people or country? You aren`t being ironic, are you? Some people advised him to first send his kaput head to a garage for repairs before trying to repair others.` Seriously. And logical “ if “ and only if – Mr President is indeed mad.

Those who know President Magufuli would tell you he is not the type that takes things lightly. Nor is he the breed that leaves a problem unsolved. Humm, could this be another symptom of his “madness“? Whatever! Worried about the madness perception, the President headed to Biharamulo where he did his primary school. While many thought his trip was one of his impromptu visits to schools and establishments to control the activities of officials (a typical “abnormal“ behaviour from a senior government official in a “normal“ country), President Magufuli had a different agenda.

“Tell me honestly, was there any sign of madness or abnormality in me while I was a pupil here.“ The President questioned the new headmaster of the Chato Primary School. After checking all the records for forty days and forty nights, the sweating headmaster came back to the visibly worried President.

“John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, all I can say is that you were a different pupil.“ The headmaster told the President, who looked at him with much sceptism.

“A different pupil?“ “Different?“ A difference amongst many? Sadly, the word “different“ even triggered more worries and inquisitions. Does this “difference“ give credence to the “madness“ accusation against me? He wondered. Deep inside him, he knew the exact difference in him. He knew his views of the world, his country ““ and their problems. Could that be the source of his “madness?“ As a scientist turned politician, President Magufuli does not believe in speculations or accept speculative conclusions. He is obsessed by facts. So expecting John Magufuli to visit a native doctor to solve his “problem“ is like expecting Oga Mobutu Sese Seko to swear he had never stolen any cent from the State treasury. Off, President Magufuli went to a psychiatric hospital. I bet this is indeed how social expectations and responsibilities can drive one to madness!

Why would an obviously seemingly dedicated politician who has ushered in a new style of leadership and much hope in the face of uncertainties,  decide to rather visit a psychiatrist to evaluate his mental state? Despite his efforts to clean up the wasteful government bureaucracies and eradicate unacceptable level of corruption in the society, it is still worrisome that some believe he is mad. Perhaps, often in a society, the opinion of the majority seems to be the right and adopted opinion. But does this belief always hold water? Probably, this is the source of President`s predicament. In a society where some powerful elements think the President is mental; many easily believe that there might indeed be some elements of truth in that line of thought. Pardon the president for visiting the State psychiatrist. Wouldn`t you?

“Like I told you some weeks ago, there is nothing wrong with you, psychiatrically.“ Professor Emeritus Ntumbuka repeated the same message he told the President four times since he had persistently insisted that he must examine his state of mind ““ again and again.

“But despite all my attempts to prove them wrong with my sanity, and my patriotic acts, they still believe that I am mental. Could it be you are wrong, professor? I love my country and I am ready to do all it takes to bring sanity to it. I need your help, my dear Professor. President Magufuli lamented sadly.

Professor Ntumbuka looked steadily at the ground as if his mind was elsewhere. He had never encountered such a difficult case in his 35-year career as a psychiatrist. After more than four different examinations, the results were still the same. He is not the type that would tell his patients only what they want to hear. Otherwise, he would have done the same with President Magufuli.

“It is not true that the opinion of the majority is always the right opinion. Perhaps the most common, but not always right. Moreover, the meaning of every word is contextually determined. In the house of madmen, madness becomes the most common slogan. Expect the sane intruder to be labelled insane or a deviant. I don`t expect an answer from you now. Go back, think well and come back and let me know whether those “Wazee” – senior citizens – who say you are mad have skeletons in their cupboards. How much do they have the interest of their country in their hearts?“

Like a child who has just passed his exams, President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli`s face grimed with happiness. Could it be he has found the full meaning of  – or a cure to – his madness? Or it’s therapy? “Do I still need a therapy“? He asked himself. Perhaps his is African madness, which can only be cured in an African way – by an African. Yes, the kind of madness not common in Africa. A mental state possessed by only a few Africans. A much-needed insanity for presumably sane Africans.

 

 

The above story is a parody.  It is entirely fictitious;  therefore, none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.

 

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