Peter Mutharika
Malawi President Mutharika

Those that are aspiring to take over the leadership of this country from Peter Mutharika in 2019 cannot and should not pin their hopes simply on proclaiming the fact that Mutharika is old. Peter Mutharika’s problem is not that he is old, frail, weak and tired- however true any of these factors may be.

There is a very solemn matter that is not getting as much attention as it should in this country. An equivalent of 100 tankers of fuel disappeared from ESCOM. Can you imagine 100 tankers? The sum of 1.6 billion Kwacha is being thrown around deliberately. It is abstract and designed to stop people from wondering how such a great amount of fuel can disappear and try to fathom out the identity of this very clever thief (or thieves) that can successfully hide 100 tankers worth of fuel.

As a matter of fact, the issue is very simple. It is not really fuel that has been stolen. Not literally. It is money that was supposed to buy that amount of fuel that has somehow been pilfered and can now only be found in the bank accounts of some big fish at that parastatal, or very influential people somewhere at Capital Hill.

Where exactly the money has ended is not even the most pertinent question. I suggest don’t scratch your head in efforts to figure out the answer to that one. The real question is this: Is Peter Mutharika, the president of this Republic and the minister responsible for parastatal organizations, aware of the theft? If he is, what has he done to address the situation? Why has no one been fired from ESCOM? Is there any investigation being conducted into the issue; or like MACRA, is this just another looting that people will speak about briefly while the the pillaging continues?

If you are using common sense, you must be thinking that perhaps president Peter Mutharika, the exalted Chief Executive of this republic, is probably just too old to care about such things. After all, this is the song whose solo performance was well executed by former First Lady Callista Mutharika, and to which the whole nation has now joined with voices stentorian.

The reason why Mutharika must retire and opt for a well-deserved rest, peace and quiet as a former president, so the chorus goes, is that his advanced years just obviously point to the fact that he is too tired and perhaps too frail to be tussling with the stressful responsibilities of leading a nation.

I respectfully disagree. My Uncommon Sense perspective of the issue reveals that the real problem for Mutharika is not really age but a failure of leadership. Period.

It is foolish to think that with Mutharika’s decimal track-record in Malawian politics, our best argument for asking people not to endorse him for a second term should be simply that he is old. No. We must call a spade a spade. The problem is failure to manage his assistants, his cronies, his party, his cabinet, the government, and the country.

As a matter of fact, it is equally foolish for anyone to suggest that the only basis for voting for a different leader than Mutharika in 2019 should be age- or youthfulness as some call it.

Mutharika’s failures could equally manifest in the next leader if we are not careful as a voting public. Following the fact that we were misled by Mutharika’s apparent academic prowess and were led to believe that academic professorship could automatically translate to political leadership ability, it is our collective responsibility to learn from our mistakes and instill in the next  potential leader of this country the need to understand the difference between academic success and success in political leadership; the difference between success in commerce and in the business world, and leading a political organization and managing a country.

I need to say this clearly. It is foolish to think that simply because a person succeeded in a certain sphere of human pursuit such as commerce or academia, then that person will succeed as a political leader.

The qualities and abilities required for a political leader are not necessarily the same as those required for one to lecture university students, publish articles in journals and earn academic professorships. Neither are the skills and abilities required for successful political leadership the same as those required in managing a business or a commercial organization. This is especially true when the leader or potential leader has not had any formal training in politics. While in the commercial world, for example, one is often promoted to the role of senior manager or chief executive through the hierarchical system and therefore learns most of the aspects of the business as he rises to senior positions, in politics, the factors that propel one to becoming a leader of a political organization vary widely- from being a son of a former party strongman, to being simply in the right place at the right time without any real politically qualifying attributes at all.

 

It follows then that more often than not, an individual may find themselves leading a political movement without actually being fully aware of the all the aspects of what it entails and how best to succeed as a political leader.

 

It is for this reason that advisors are so crucial in politics. Equally crucial are the individuals a politician chooses as his advisors – how he creates an environment where those advisors can properly guide and assist him to achieve the desired end result, that of running the country satisfactorily and making it prosperous.

Ben Phiri
Ben Phiri

Have you not ever wondered why it is mainly in politics where you have these positions of advisors, and that advisors do not generally exist in the commercial world?  I have tried to look into the lives and the work of many successful chief executives of corporations, and I have not really found a track record of them having a panel of advisors that helped them make their decisions to increase profits for their companies. The reason is very simple. In the commercial world, advisors are not really important. What the CEO learns from working in various positions, added to their academic qualifications, is often enough to make them a good manager. Similarly, there are no advisors for lecturers and university professors.

When one comes to politics with the commercial world mentality, however, one is destined to fail. Advisors – good, intelligent and solid advisors that are not scared to tell it like it is – are necessary in politics because it is hardly ever the case that a leader can have all the information and knowledge required to lead a state and make decisions that improve the wellbeing of individuals at every level. Advisors are necessary because they help build a consensus within the political establishment and make sure that the leader is well-informed and has an opportunity to assess every angle of an issue, especially areas that are his week and blind spots.

Now I ask you again: Do you really think the reason Peter Mutharika is failing to sanction whoever is responsible for the theft of billions at ESCOM and failing to take measures to stop the rampant corruption at MACRA and other government departments is simply because he is old? Do you not think that perhaps taking advice from fake PhDs, valets, drivers, and others who are either too scared to tell him the truth or too focused of accumulation of personal worth to care about the country is the real problem?

I ask you again: Do you really think we should vote for a leader simply because of their age?

No. My kind I humble suggestion is that we immediately wise up and demand from our aspiring leaders the ability and skills necessary to identify the right people to work with them as they lead!

Leading a nation is a huge responsibility. It should never be allowed to rest on the shoulders of one person, and neither should one person have the over-inflated ego to think that they can manage alone.  Collective wisdom is key, bit only the right kind of wisdom.

The bottom line is this: a leader that will make a difference must demonstrate that he is prepared to set his ego aside and seek out the best minds Malawi has to offer to advise and help him lead this nation.

If you vote for less, you will have only yourselves to blame.

Allan Ntata
Z Allan Ntata

Allan Ntata’s Column can be read every Sunday on the Maravi Post

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