|Wishing all aspirants to the Zambian presidency the best.|
Having good intentions is not a sufficient credential to become president. After all, it is often said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. To understand politics it may be necessary to at least try to psychoanalyse the human desire for higher office or leadership and the voter’s mind that seeks salvation through the ballot by observing what an aspirant might regard as difficult questions. Why would you reading this or anyone for that matter want to be president?
No sensible person who truly understands the challenges of this job would want it. For anyone to stand up and say they want this job, they must either have delusions of grandeur, that innocuous penchant for prestige and wanting to be “the boss” or “the toast of the town”. A person may not have fully understood the magnitude of this position, is likely to have misunderstood the purpose of this role, or is unable to see how, in rising to this position, the entanglements of patronage, owing favours and limited resources will be obstacles to the majority of developmental objectives in mind. A person may have romanticised the relationship between the limitations of political power and what is truly achievable or have a misplaced psychological messianic or martyrdom complex that makes them desire to sacrifice themselves for a role and purpose they themselves may not fully grasp.
It is likely a leader will only begin to come to grips with this quandary after their first few years in office when they realise that despite all the good intentions, everything they have changed and achieved they are denigrated, despised, opposed at every turn and met with general ingratitude from a fickle and ungrateful public or rabid opposition. This means that the reality is that three quarters or more of the people who offer themselves as presidential candidates “need to be delusional” to desire this role and its limelight. Why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of pain? The beauty or folly of democracy is that being delusional does not preclude a candidate from filing in their intention to run. No single person, even the best credentialed, has the answers to a nation’s problems such as poverty, how to deal with scumbags, unemployment, bad roads, inadequate education, low salaries, slow growth, lack of peace, meagre understanding, conflict and so on. Sometimes the delusions widen into the belief that they themselves don’t need to have the answers, when in office they will simply magically make everything o.k. by being “nice” people. If this is not an option they will find someone, the best brains in the business, a well-educated professional or accomplished person “out there” who will provide the answers, when the truth is nobody living has perfect answers to a nation’s problems in an environment where everything is open for debate. The candidate is highly unlikely to solve the problems he or she proposes to transform from good to bad hence the need for self-delusion to convince themselves they can take on this task.
Finding, choosing and voting for a genuine president is also a difficult task. It has to be difficult. Men and women presidents have been known to ruin countries or transform them into magnificent hubs of industry or leave them the way they found them. Success and failure to manage a country is due to the fact that the best person for the job is the man or woman who truly understands what a president must sacrifice and achieve for his or her people. A president who understands the magnitude of the responsibility of this role must by default reject it, as a child that touches something hot would quickly withdraw the hand; otherwise it is doubtful they can do this job or that they are the right person. Jesus demonstrates that he understood the magnitude of the sacrifice it would take to be called Messiah or King. He does not see the glory alone, but more importantly acknowledges the personal suffering required to be a leader at this level. In so doing he rejects the role. (Luke:22 42) saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." This is the mark of a true leader. First and foremost he or she must understand the magnitude of the task at hand. If this is not the case the wrong person may be elected into office, for instance a leader who eventually becomes crippled by “egonomics”, that is, a leader willing to impoverish a country and see its economy deteriorate simply because their ego is too big to see the faults in their chosen path or ideas; a leader who places his or her preferences and needs before that of the people and therefore choses conflict over peace; a leader who clings to power at any cost to the detriment of the people; a leader who tailors a constitution to personal selfish ambition rather than public good; a leader who fails to deliver on election promises, like a new and just constitution, not because these promises are now outdated, but for fear they may weaken their chances of re-election; a leader who becomes so cocooned in the trappings of power and a presidency that he or she forgets the discomforts and sufferings of the common person. A president who understands his or her role needs to be prepared for personal sacrifice, to lose popularity, to lose an election, to lose wealth, to lose health, to lose….if this sacrifice is just. This is an important disposition. It is a well-known fact that economies today must be run with a business approach and ideal that is tempered, restrained or “controlled” by human rights and public social responsibility. A nation must be productive, it must be commercial, but it must also have a soul and heart through which the gains of commerce are shared with humanity. Jesus taught about loving your neighbour and sharing, but he also gave many sound and hard-core teachings that it is imperative to manage resources, commerce and productivity effectively. Similarly a president cannot simply want to see the end of poverty without a sound strategy for this objective neither can he or she bankrupt the government to soothe human suffering, he or she must provide the strategy by which justice, commerce and productivity will end human suffering and economic demise. A president who, through debate, interview and public discussion, cannot clearly demonstrate and articulate he or she understands what it entails to soundly transform a country through strategy in productivity and commerce should not be voted into power by voters as this kind of person likely wants the job of president, but doesn't know why they want it.
The voter on the other hand hears what he or she wants to hear and makes a decision on whom they best believe will deliver undeliverables. Countries, in terms of governance are in an ongoing state of delusion. Marx may have got it wrong, it is not religion that is the opium of the people, the reality is that the delusion is very much a persona of society in its quest for a perfect form of governance without exercising the correct or precise tools by which to test the competence of a presidential aspirant.
Delusional voters are easily swayed by swanky adverts on radio and television that are inherently meaningless when it comes to the criterion by which a presidential candidate is selected. Zambia is very much in its infancy concerning the methodology by which the electorate selects leaders. The electorate has few if any credible tools for determining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats each presidential aspirant poses to them and their country. This is a weakness the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) must begin to address as one of its most pertinent and important functions. It cannot see its role as simply hosting elections, building awareness and policing electoral rules while politicking takes place without substance as it does in a banana republic. If the ECZ continues to fail to provide the public with the platform for thoroughly and credibly assessing the competence of presidential aspirants, it is letting Zambia down. It must also develop the methodology by which presidential hopefuls are put on the public stage and assessed as the means by which the public diligently examines potential leaders. Slogans, rallies, adverts and lofty speeches are good for publicity and drumming up support but the electorate must be careful to separate reality from delusion when they make their choice. The only means to do this is for presidential candidates to engage in live televised debates on national matters. How eloquent are they? How do they speak? Have they taken the time to learn about or inform themselves about economics, commerce, business, justice, public health, natural resources, law, governance, politics and so on that are pertinent to the country? At what level is their intellect? How do they react when asked a question they cannot answer or when aggressively pushed into a corner about their ideas? This is like a national job interview that voters must insist on in Zambia. Fine, we enjoy the feistiness of competition, but where is the substance? Presidential aspirants must be seen to take each other on directly in debate. How do they react and perform under pressure? They must be asked both easy and difficult questions on a stage that allows the public to assess the depth of their knowledge, their levels of tolerance, their level of maturity, the reasoning ability, ideas and temperament of a presidential aspirant need to be churned to the surface for the public to see the quality of a candidate. The nation must see and hear who they are electing on radio and television on the battleground of debate, interaction and strong interviews. Interviews are important, but having the candidates subjected to open debate as well as tough question and answer sessions where they are grilled by questions from a moderator and the public is even more important.
The man or woman who seeks to be president must first and foremost accept that we live in an imperfect world and its imperfections will either prevent you, as president, from bringing about any meaningful change, and by some stroke of luck should you succeed in bringing about positive change these imperfections will somehow seek to unravel it. Only having acknowledged this internally does a man or woman in the developed or developing world become ready to be a genuine presidential candidate because they understand the enemy of true leadership is an imperfect world; something no mortal leader has the power to reverse or change. The first steps out of the mists of delusion is a sound methodology by which the traits of leadership are tested on the public stage for the electorate to adequately decide which leader has sufficiently prepared themselves for the role of head of state.