“I am ambitious, that’s why I am President. And I am ambitious to come back in 2021,” says Edgar Lungu.
Nobody should seek public office because of ambition or pleasure. And sometimes those who need or seek public office the most are inclined the least.
Niccolò Machiavelli warns: “He who is blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must fall with the greatest loss.”
And Edgar has publicly said that whoever tries to stand in his way will be “crushed like a tonne of bricks”. This is not an empty threat. Edgar has been very ruthless with those seen to be standing in his or threatening his hold on power. The story of how Edgar has used state agencies – the Zambia Revenue Authority, the police and the courts – to crush The Post is well-known. And before going for The Post, Edgar publicly said he was head of state and there’s no way he can fail to defeat The Post.
Edgar has also used state institutions – the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police – to crush Hakainde Hichilema. Again, Edgar doesn’t know how to conceal his intentions. A year ago, he had publicly said that he will sort out Hakainde if he refused to accept the election results. Edgar had declared himself winner long before the elections were held.
And today, Edgar is crushing those in the Patriotic Front he thinks are trying to stand in his way for 2021. The first victims of this are Chishimba Kambwili and Mwenya Musenge. This is scaring others in the Patriotic Front with intentions to challenge him. For Edgar, there are no breaks on the route to achieving his ambitions. He pursues his political ambitions without limitation and modesty.
In the run up to last year’s elections, Edgar used the police to ensure that the opposition did not have meaningful campaigns in some areas – Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern, Muchinga and Eastern provinces and northern parts of Central Province – he needed to win to remain in power. The police abused the public order Act to stop the opposition from mobilising public support. The police also tolerated the violence of Patriotic Front cadres Edgar had unleashed on the opposition and the independent news media outlets.
The police failed to stop Patriotic Front cadres from taking over some polling stations in Lusaka and other places when they realised that things were not going well for their candidates.
For Edgar, it is winning at any cost and by any way. He has no scruples. Edgar doesn’t see multiparty politics and elections as a competition to serve but as a battlefield. Edgar has confused politics and elections with war whose aim is to destroy, crush the other.
This is a recipe for tyranny. And tyranny knows no restraint of appetite.
Edgar’s ambition to “come back in 2021” will mean a continuation of the abuses of state institutions to “crush like a tonne of bricks” those trying to stand in his way. It will mean that he has to get, at any cost, a favourable decision from the Constitutional Court.
And as seen from the resolution he facilitated at the Patriotic Front central committee meeting he chaired declaring him the party’s preferred candidate for 2021, no one will be given a fair chance to challenge him. It’s not possible to challenge or oppose Edgar and remain in the Patriotic Front. Whoever tries to put up a meaningful challenge to Edgar, whether within or outside the Patriotic Front, will be crushed or frustrated in so many ways.
The problem with Edgar is that he wants everything to start and end with himself. He truly sees himself as the Alpha and Omega, the chosen one. If we cherish others, then both others and ourselves, both deeply and superficially, will be happy. When we cherish ourselves more than others, we produce various types of suffering, both for ourselves and for those around us.
Public office shouldn’t be seen as something personal or to be enjoyed. If you are benefiting more from holding public office than those you are elected to serve, you are no longer serving. The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or a party.
It is said that lofty posts make great men greater still, and small men much smaller. Public office is the last refuge of the scoundrel.