Zambia’s President: Taking Refuge in Excuses
By the submission of Taylor Alex, “Africa’s democratic development has (in recent times) been characterized by a growing number of peaceful transitions from incumbent to opposition political parties at the presidential level.”
It was seen as a new and lofty paradigm in sociopolitical parlance of Africa. But something unsavoury is destroying the taste — the cluelessness and utter lack of administrative tact by the opposition each time they had the rare opportunity to succeed the incumbent after lavish electoral grace.
They always come into power refusing to dispense themselves of opposition mentality.
For instance, in Nigeria, after 2015 election, it took a whole four years for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to come to terms with their novel position as a ruling party.
All their media outings during their first term on the saddle saw them adorn the opposition cloaks, speaking and fighting outgone government like uncouth rivals.
It pointed to a possibility that they had nothing to offer aside inordinate cravings for power. They all start their regimes with monotonous complaints of inheriting ’empty treasury’ and singing the tune of how ‘corrupt’ their predecessors were.
On August 12, 2021, while Nigerians mark the 32nd anniversary of the heroism of Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji, who, in 1989, died in active service to fatherland, in a football match in Lagos; history was repeated in the southern African country of Zambia when opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema defeated incumbent President Edgar Lungu (the same way Frederick Chiluba defeated the country’s pioneer President, Kenneth Kaunda in 1991). He was sworn-in three weeks back, on Tuesday, August 24, exactly, twelve days after the poll.
Shortly afterwards, he told newsmen on September 01, how ‘corrupt’ immediate past regime was and how they left souvenirs of ’empty purse.’
In a BBC interview, the new president described the treasury as “literally empty”. He added that the “hole is much bigger than we expected” and the debt situation had not been “fully disclosed” by the former government. “There’s a lot of damage, unfortunately,” Mr Hichilema said.
He added that his government would show “zero tolerance” towards corruption, and would get to the bottom of what he called the illicit movement of funds very soon. “I don’t want to pre-empt things but what we are picking [up] is horrifying,” the president said.
For the past two weeks, he has nothing but apportioning blames, and appointing another seeming habitual complainant, Situmbeko Musokotwane, an IMF consultant, as Finance minister, who upon resumption increased the fear in the people by saying there is nothing left in government coffers; and unless they perform some magics to the national budgets, it will be so beggarly a budget, for salary payments only.
In 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) against the predictions of bookmakers defeated incumbent President Jonathan in a landmark election, and spent his first tenure playing the blame games passing unnecessary bucks.
Nigerians were kept in prolonged drought of suspense for six months before he could constitute federal cabinet after his swearing-in.
Within that uneventful period of hollowness, his henchmen inundated public domain with unsolicited gyrations of how former President Jonathan’s stint was full of ‘corruption.’
The new regime is Zambia is emitting similar dissident light.
May be someone need to remind President Hakainde, that Zambians were not oblivious of the so-called ‘overwhelming’ corruption in former President Lungu’s government, and that was why they voted him out.
That Lungu’s government was marred by maladministration was an old story that need not be re-presented to an already wearied masses.
The new era he pledged to his people as premised in himself is here. The electorates are waiting for the fulfilment of those ‘extraordinary’ transformations he promised in the build-up to the presidential election.
May be Zambians should also learn from Nigeria’s experience in the past six years that ‘fighting corruption’ is not synonymous with good governance, and demand immediate pursuit of innovative leadrship. In today’s Africa, the mantra of “fight against corruption” has become a convenient instrument of dodging responsibility in government.
It unduly diverts government’s attention from provision of social amenities, democracy dividends and amelioration of poverty among the people.
Fighting corruption is not leadrship. In fact fighting corruption in this clime has been reduced to fighting perceived rivals and political enemies, not of the state, but of the president and his cronies. Zambians need reproducible leadership not vendetta regime.
He should stop deodorizing his inability to hit the ground running with unjustifiable appeals to the error of past regime.
If President Hakainde doesn’t take a break from attacking opponents whom Zambians had defeated at the polls, then his tenure will be no different than a plebeian one.
He should refrain from replaying a familiar sound bite of inheriting a ‘recessed’ economy.
It took a Lee Kuan Yew to transform Singapore from third world to first world country.
If he had come into power with a vindictive mindset and blurred political vision, he will inevitably fail like his predecessors.
When will our people learn that? When will they learn not to allow their bloated ego and selfish sentiments take the place of common good of the people in national leadership.
Another pointer he may not be any different from his predecessors is his penchant for granting interviews to foreign media organizations against the locals.
How could he improve Zambia’s economy if he cannot patronize made-in-Zambia products as simple as presidential interview? Certain things ought not be told of Africa in this JET age.
Finally, let him beware of the lure of power! Let the current situation of Guinea where another opposition leader Alpha Conde, wom election in 2010 and turned himself into a Captain Absolute, serve enough caveat to him.
Like Reuben Abati Ph.D captured it: “Alpha Conde spent his early career as a radical, progressive, opposition politician.”
“He challenged the government of Lansana Conte in 1993 and again in 1998. In 2010, Conde led the RPG to victory and was thus elected President of Guinea for a first term of five years.”
“He was re-elected for a second, final term of another 5 years in 2015. He promised to be Guinea’s Mandela. He was Guinea’s Caligula. In 2020, when he was supposed to step down from office, Conde chose to amend the Constitution to enable him extend his stay in office.”
Today, people like Conde who enthrone fascist government make coup d’etat fashionable to Khaki boys in Africa, and they had disgracefully overthrown him last week, on Sunday 05 September 2021. May this fate never befall Zambia; but let Hichilema, and other diaspora African leaders, who are beneficiaries of the people’s electoral largess take a cue.
May daylight spare us!
Ogechukwu writes from Abuja