- Published on Saturday, 18 August 2012 02:44
- Written by MBONEKO MUNYAGA
- Hits: 1928
EVEN when on stage, performing vigorously and electrifying the audience with her rare talent, Fatuma binti Baraka was admittedly, a highly worrisome case to a caring soul. There was an element in what she did of serious risk to her health given her advanced age.
She claims to be over one hundred years old and even if she is not, she is pretty close to that mark. Now she is sick and has been confined to her bed for the last 30 days or so. Reports say she has almost no one to care for her.
Indeed, no one has ever cared for her anyway as she literally lives in a shack despite her fame and kind of national "trophy" status. Tanzania could have many other elderly entertainers but they are hardly known both at the national and international arenas.
But Fatuma binti Baraka a.k.a Bi Kidude is an instant hit and celebrity. She has not only earned fame for herself as a "centenarian" entertainer and musician but for Tanzania as well. Indeed, very few countries in the world have such high calibre performers of her age. That she is now sick in bed without care or help, shames this country beyond the galaxies for what a heartless nation we are.
One would have expected that for all her work, which I believe has helped quite a number of hands to pocket millions of shillings, Bi Kidude wouldn't be a destitute. But there she is, sick, penniless and without care.
It appears that even before she packs her luggage to the next life, she is no longer remembered even by a single soul of her mountain of fans who cheered and ululated when she performed, a centenarian barring nothing to quench the revelling thirsty of those much younger than her.
On the other hand, she is not an isolated case. This country hardly knows how to care for its elderly, be they civil servants or the hundreds of grandmas in villages who toil unto death to produce the export commodities that bring in the foreign currency that buys the SUVs for the fortunate few in society.
However, Bi Kidude tops the list of sorrowful cases as she more than anyone else now exemplifies and exposes the heartless exploitation of weaker members of society the law does not seem to protect. If we had a caring system, Bi Kidude would have been a rich person and not just the winner of prestigious and globally acclaimed music awards that added nothing to her wellbeing and welfare.
Also, there is a sad reflection of our own character in Bi Kidude's plight. We are a nation blind to the value of heroes. It is the same unfortunate streak of spirit that made us to send flag bearing "tourists" to the just ended Olympics in London rather than competitors in the prestigious global Games for which our last and only Gold and Silver Medals were 32 years ago in Moscow.
But whether we like it or not, Bi Kidude is a legend and legends never die. If we throw her away for molasses, others will unearth her for the forever nectar she is. It is the same story like the Tingatinga art and painting, which is uniquely Tanzanian and now benefits the Americans through Disneyland cartoons. Woe to a nation that never protects its nationals against exploitation and injustice.
Rejection of heroes is what tends to make the ideas of the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere also to be relegated to the past in policy options and priorities. A friend told me recently how he met with Chinese professors in China who were all full of admiration for Mwalimu Nyerere.
Without a pinch of hypocrisy, he said, the professors told him that for them, Nyerere was greater than Mao Zedong. According to the professors, true, Mao led the Chinese, a third of humanity on earth, to reclaim their freedom and dignity but Nyerere led the world into a totally new direction and realm of global dominance.
Future global dominance, the professors went on, will not depend on military or economic Superpower but brainpower. And, when history is finally written, the honour for pioneer of that new global realignment will certainly go to none other than Nyerere, the professors concluded.
Their reason: Quite out of proportion to its economic and military power, Nyerere managed to make Tanzania a global Brainpower, which saw Africa decolonized in his lifetime, largely through his single handed efforts. The military and economic Superpowers can have their heroes and icons even as far as the liberation of Africa is concerned but a section of Brainpower out there, knows their hero.
It is a pity that Bi Kidude is sick in bed and helpless. And, we will probably hear the most moving eulogies from VIPs when she finally goes the way of her ancestors. But the question will be: Where were they when she wreathed in pain? Nevertheless, leaders may forget her but will those whose hour she lifted also forget and desert her in her own hour of need?