Bibi Titi Walked So That Samia Could Run!

After reading up on the life and times of Bibi Titi Mohamed, I felt compelled to write an article linking the independence fighter to our first female president, Madam Samia Suluhu Hassan. Just like Bibi Titi before her, President Suluhu is a pioneering female politician who battles to shed the monicker of a female politician and be known simple as a politician who happens to be a woman. In a patriarchal society like ours in Tanzania, it may be difficult for some to view the president outside the box of her gender, and being the first female occupying a sit that had previously been held only by men, that may not be an easy task.

Before I continue with highlighting how Bibi Titi paved the way for female politicians let me also take time to acknowledge some female politicians of significance in Tanzania’s history. We have Lucy Lameck, who was the first female to hold a cabinet position. We have Julie Manning, first woman to graduate with a law degree and the second woman to hold a cabinet position. We have Getruda Mongela, who is was first President of the Pan-African Parliament. We have Anne Makinda, who was the first female Deputy Speaker of Parliament and then later first female Speaker of Parliament. We have Mariam Omar, who was the first ever woman to contest for the Zanzibar presidency. Other notable female politicians include the likes of Anna Abdallah, Amina Salim Ali, Hawa Ghasia, Elifuraha Marealle, Asha-Rose Migiro, Zakia Meghji, and the list goes on and on. And then finally we get to Samia Suluhu Hassan, first female Vice President and President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The reason however, that I link Bibi Titi and Samia Suluhu is because Samia Suluhu is the culmination of Bibi Tito’s wildest imagination. As the first head of TANU’s woman’s wing, Umoja wa Wanawake Tanzania or UWT, Bibi Titi was a staunch supporter of women’s rights. Having only attained a fourth grade education and married off at the tender young age of 15, she believed that women in Tanzania could be more and achieve great things if only they were educated and afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Although Bibi Titi never specifically described herself as a feminist but reading her history one could tell she had bigger dreams for the women who were to follow her generation.

And just like Bibi Titi, Samia Suluhu’s ascendance to high office might make a few a bit uneasy. Politics is about two things, authority and influence. What they cannot take away from her is her authority as Commander-in-Chief and head of state and government. But what they will try to take away from her is her influence by constantly undermining her authority in the most public of ways. You see, Bibi Titi didn’t have authority but she had influence that at that time could only be matched by two others, Mwalimu Nyerere and Mwalimu’s former friend turned foe Oscar Kambona. The minute Bibi Titi’s politics were more aligned with Oscar Kambona she immediately became a threat and she eventually faced the same charges as Kambona, that of treason.

I am in no way suggesting that there is any malice intended towards the president but common sense would have you believe that the death of a sitting president causes an unexpected change in the power dynamics. There are those who expected to be in power up until at least 2025 and there are those who undoubtedly were gearing up to contest for the presidency come 2025. All these elements will surely battle tooth and nail to ensure they maintain at least some influence and that can only be achieved by undermining that of the president. What the president needs to do is assert her authority over these elements both privately and publically.

For the President to cement her legacy she should by all legal and moral means avoid the fate of one Joyce Banda, the first female president of Malawi who also ascended to the presidency via the same means as Samia Suluhu’s but unfortunately failed to win her own election. It is very fortunate she met with Miss Band while in Malawi recently for a SADC Summit. It is my hope she took the time to learn from Miss Banda’s experience. Samia Suluhu’s legacy will in no doubt be strengthened by an election win in 2025. In these times I am reminded of the words of the great British playwright William Shakespeare who once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Greatness has been thrust upon Samia Suluhu and she owes it as a duty to the females who will come after her, and to all young politicians watching her, to grab the bull by the horn and carry the mantle without fear or hesitation.

For those of us who wish this country well, we wish the president all the best because her success is the success of the nation. We pray that God grants her the wisdom to wisely overcome any obstacles infront of her and we hope that her presidency prevails. Just like Bibi Titi before her, President Samia Suluhu has a date with destiny and her legacy which is still been written will live on in the annals of history. It is now in her powerful hands to determine what that legacy will be.

Thomas J. Kibwana.

Political Enthusiast

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