By Sherrif Kaisi (Political Scientist)
I begin this write up with my argument that ‘ there is no empirical evidence in the literature of politics, nor is it there in the literature of leadership studies that age is one of the characteristics of good leadership or visionary leadership..’
I further ague that ‘if age is one of the characteristics of good and visionary leadership then by today Africa would have many developed nations, but the case is diametrically opposite.
Being old with a bunch of years does not warrant a person to be a good and visionary leader; so too being a youthful gigantic fellow does not qualify one to be a good and visionary leader! Leadership is far from age limit by all measurement. As just a matter of reminder to readers of this paper. I have laboured myself to mention some of the salient characteristics of a good and visionary leadership before I take another step of analysis in this issue. Below are 3 crucial characteristics of a good political leader.
1. A leader should be a man/woman with a vision and purpose: meaning where he/she would want to take the country to. To develop such faculty, one does not need to be young or very old enough.
2. A leader should be capable to make right decisions at the right time. This as well has nothing to do with age limit. Political history has no scientific evidence showing that certain age limit do well in decision making process.
3. Honest and integrity. This is one of the most challenging characteristics of a leader. To be honest is a mountain! It does not need training nor does it take one to learn from others. Henceforth, age is not a determining factor in this case. So too is integrity.
If we take our own case of Malawi, we find that Kamuzu Banda took over leadership mantle from the British while he was already an old man. But despite his age, and in fact age did not hinder him from doing what he did for Malawi. Yes, it is true that no man on earth will be good all times. But here we cite some of his big achievements at his age: If age was a limiting factor to leadership then today we wouldn’t have a Magnificent Kamuzu Barracks, Malawi Armed forces College, Chancellor College (the today University of Malawi) College of Medicine Campuses in Blantyre and Lilongwe (the today KUHes), Kamuzu College of Nursing, in in Lilongwe and Blantyre, Chayamba Building, The Reserve Bank of Malawi building in Lilongwe, Mzuzu University (old Mzuzu TTC) and so many Teachers Training Colleges in the country, Agricultural research stations, yes, the Natural resources College, Bunda College of Agriculture (today LUANAR), roads infrastructure mainly connecting Malawi from north to south; M1, M5 etc. many district government secondary schools, ilala Vessel on lake Malawi and many more develops he did in his life time. Most stupendously, Kamauzu had a clear vision for Malawi through his famous policy and economic slogan ‘CHUMA CHILIMTHAKA’
Our neighbour Tanzania experienced rapid economic growth during the readership of late Dr. John Phombe Mwangufuli who assumed power when his head was covered with grey hear as a sign of his age that he crossed the youthful age some time back. But he demonstrated that age is not a limitation nor is it an excuse to run away from changing things from worse to better.
So too, we have cases of young starts who turned things from bad to better in their countries. Africans still remember Thomas Sankara of Bukina Faso. I believe readers know that this country before was called Upper Volter, it is Thomas a youthful visionary leader in his early 30s changed it to Bukina Faso meaning Land of opportunity and indeed he changed things in few years of his leadership. Here too, age did not limit him from doing things for his country. As young as he was within three years of his leadership, education standards changed from worse to better in Bukina Faso, shortage of food was a story of the past in his government, most importantly he managed to CUT the throat of the vice which is killing many states in Africa and perhaps Malawi is leading now…I mean CORRUPTION. Thomas Sankara a youthful leader did wonders in his country despite being young!
If we ignore the tall man of Rwanda in this story then we are not doing justice to ourselves and perhaps even the West may laugh at us. Yes, they can do so because even them they fly Rwanda’s Flag today bearing witness that their leader is doing well for his country. General Paul Kagame is an example of two ages; he took over leadership in his youthful muscle and now is joining the old folks. Both his age experience did not stop him from demonstrating that he can change lives of his people in Kigali, Gisenye and all parts of Rwanda without discrimination.
We can go on and on citing examples of leaders who did well for their countries whose performance deferred the age limit.
Perhaps the last one should be Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika for our own sake. In his first tenure of office he did quite well despite the fact that he worked in a volatile political terrain then. Malawi witnessed a number of developments during his 1st term which we still appreciate up to today. Malawi bid farewell to severe hunger during his time because the country produced enough food for herself. So, again I argue that age is not a limit at all.
The above cited leadership scenarios of leaders mentioned therein should form the basis of our understanding that if we want to change Malawi the secret is not in age of leaders we chose. If we do so that’s where we miserably miss the secret of how best we can positively transform our country from poor economy to better.
At this juncture, without mincing words I would then wish to advise my fellow youth of Malawi that we need to change the approach we have taken. It’s a pop story that a new youth group calling themselves ‘Friends of Atupele Muluzi’ is on ground calling honourable and respectful young Muluzi to be on leadership race come 2025. I don’t have a problem with that. But my problem lays on the reason and argument which my fellow youth presented in their call as a justification as to why they want Atupele back. They are saying and I quote what the movement national coordinator Daniel Chirambo said “the country has for long time been led by old people that have not helped to develop….”
With all due respect to the views and line of reasoning by my fellow youth I stand to differ and challenge them to reorganize their argument if indeed they stand for Atupele’s political future for 2025?
If I were them, the line of argument was straight to say we need him because he possess good qualities of a leader that Malawi want. Then they should be able to outline such qualities thoroughly to the people whom they want to have their support. For example they should say…he is honest, capable to make rational decisions on crucial matters of State that could
change Malawi and so on and so forth. So too, those who are supporting the idea of voting for old folks should not take age as the characteristic of good and visionary leadership.
What Malawi want today, is not president with young age or a president with so many bunches of age NO! Malawi just need a VISIONARY and PATRIOTIC LEARSHIP to turn the misfortune of Malawians to fortunes of future generations by laying strong economic, political and social foundations.
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