Defiant Ndugai bows to pressure

07Jan 2022
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Defiant Ndugai bows to pressure

THE position of Speaker of the National Assembly is officially vacant following the resignation of veteran legislator Job Ndugai yesterday.

Beleaguered Kongwa constituency (Dodoma region) legislator, Job Yustino Ndugai, Speaker of Tanzania's National Assembly until his resignation yesterday.

A letter announcing Ndugai’s resignation was released to media outlets in the afternoon amid pilling pressure for him to do go from a range of fellow parliamentarians, signaling that he would face a vote of no confidence were he to cling to his office.

The matter germinated from remarks in a closed meeting whose video clip went viral last week, in which the Kongwa MP criticised President Samia Suluhu Hassan for the government’s borrowing spree, of late securing 1.3trn/- from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He raised fears that if the spate of borrowing is maintained for long, “the country could one day be auctioned,” drawing mixed reactions on his views, and prompting the Head of State to convene a high level public event at the State House to lay the accent on the debt, its sustainability and usefulness for development and welfare generally.

She also hinted at political machinations ahead of the 2025 polls and declared that she would shelve those with evident aspirations in that regard so that they prepare to meet her and those who support her at a future date.

MPs quickly swung on the president’s side and leveled clear intimations to the Speaker to ease himself from that position, as his moral authority after his controversial remarks, his contrite apology and public rebuke from the president made his position untenable, as he had lost the confidence needed for the task.

In strident remarks on Tuesday, President Samia said the criticism on debts “had nothing to do with caring about the country but 2025 general election fever.”

The president went ahead to hint that a reshuffle was on the way to enable her put up a team that can bring development to Tanzanians, saying the current one was being hampered by groupings with machinations ahead of 2025 polls.

Calls then inundated the media scene for the Speaker to step down, arguing that his criticism did not sit well with national development efforts, insisting that through the budget committee the Speaker was well aware of the IMF loan uses, just like others.

As of yesterday afternoon, social media was awash with calls for resignation from chairs of the CCM youth wing in Dar es Salaam, Njombe, Mbeya, Coast and other regions.

 CCM lawmakers including embattled Kawe MP Josephat Gwajima, Special Seats (Dodoma) Mariam Ditopile and other members of the party’s electoral congress demanded that Ndugai steps down.

Omega Thobias, a member of CCM Youth Wing national governing council said that the Speaker’s apology does not erase his ill intentions. “The apology came to appease people who were offended by his utterances. He should take responsibility by resigning because he has lost legitimacy to continue serving as Speaker of the National Assembly,” he said.

In his resignation letter, Ndugai said the decision was personal and voluntary “in consideration of the wider interests of the nation, the government and my party, CCM.”

 The letter was addressed to the Secretary General of CCM and copied to the Clerk of the National Assembly for further procedures of getting another Speaker.

“I take this opportunity to extend gratitude to my fellow MPs, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the government as a whole, my constituents in Kongwa and all Tanzanians for the cooperation extended to me during my tenure as Speaker of the National Assembly,” the letter concluded.

A range of observers saw in this humbling finale to his tenure in the post as sharply contrasting with the persona he has projected since he took the powerful position in 2015: a no-nonsense Speaker who was on record for telling some outspoken MPs to shut up or be denied an opportunity to speak in the House for the entire parliamentary session at issue.

“I can stop you from saying anything in this House for your entre remaining period and you have nowhere to go; no asking questions, no additions, no saying anything. What can you do to me?” he is on record to have sermonised an opposition MP.

“Play with something else, not Ndugai,” he scoffed as things went out of control in the hemicycle.

Ndugai was similarly on record supporting CCM agitation for removal of term limits for the benefit of fifth phase President John Magufuli, as the issue came up repeatedly during the final year of the legislature before the 2020 general election, and then took prominence after the polls.

“Keep that point and bring it back after the elections; I believe we will all come back…we’ll add him (Magufuli) more time whether he likes it or not,” he told then Nkasi MP Ally Kessy, a proponent of term extension who did not make it back to the House.