The rapper Emmanuel Elibariki (known as Nay wa Mitego) has been arrested–and swiftly released–for criticising Tanzanian President Magufuli in his song Wapo.
The song was controversial because it criticises the government and the president.
In the past, President Magufuli has been described as a model for African leaders and has been congratulated internationally for setting the pace for pragmatic leadership in Africa. For more than four months after his inauguration, social media fantasied about his style of leadership. There was a trending twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo that sought to challenge African leadership by showing how the Tanzanian president would cope with everyday situations.
It was just the matter of time before this was tested.
The arrest of the rapper has raised several concerns about the president’s respect for freedom of speech, his tolerance for diverse views and his ability to work with those who disagree with him. In fact, a week before the arrest, he warned the media about criticising him.
Nay wa Mitego’s song Wapo proved to be too controversial for the government. It contains the lyric that everyone seems to be asking: ‘Is there still freedom of speech in this country?’
His arrest seems to suggest the answer no.
But then the rapper was released one day later. So maybe the answer’s yes?
In case anyone was confused, President Magufuli invited Nay wa Mitego in for a discussion.
‘This song, the president likes it very much and he asks that Nay wa Mitego be released and continue his activities,’ the newly-appointed Minister for Information, Sports and Culture Dr Harison Mwakyembe said after the meeting. ‘But there is a need to improve the song by adding those guilty of tax fraud and drug users.’
But–whatever the advice–any aspiring authoritarian leader needs to remember this: banning a song often leads to more publicity. Various Tanzanian celebrities have been tweeting about the arrest as well as international commentators.
For Magufuli to ban and then lift the ban on playing Wapo by Tanzanian radio and television stations is needless. He should be able to embrace diverse opinions. It speaks to authoritarianism. It speaks to poor management of his government. And it speaks to his need for a better public relations department.
Wapo is a good feedback for President Magifuli. You cannot be everywhere and be a ‘one-man hero’. You need to build strong and innovative institutions to make them work. You cannot always be right. So giving feedback to the government should not be a crime.
An excerpt from the song (which is good advice for any leader):
A wise leader is open to advice
He/she takes on ideas puts pride aside
Sorry your excellency do you know Bashite?
This is a new boil from Kolomije!
Got me laughing….
To burst into people’s offices, hey! So that’s someone’s job?
No problem my children let’s get to work
Bicycle-taxis; work; tuktuks; work
And restraining people is now also work?