Monday, January 26, 2009

In Search of One Person

Life is a journey and we meet hundreds, even thousands, and millions if you are the Pope or Obama, on the way. They help us understand who we are because the definition of our identity becomes clear when we interact with others.

So, too, our country. We know who we are when we interact with other countries or when we see what they are doing. The week January 18-24 was marvellous. We all admired Barrack Obama when he took oath of office of the President of the US on Jan. 20. For a moment, some Malawians wished they were Americans.

I did not. In fact, I have never desired to leave Malawi and work elsewhere. The streets of Washington can be interesting. I have walked on them. I have lived them. But Malawi is my home and remains priority.

Which is why we must not stop at admiring Americans. We must do for our country some of the things they have done for their country. Or, put clearly, some of the things our forefathers did for America. Those who were captured into slavery.

Why should we admire another country as if we do not have our own? I believe it takes one person to build a nation, not that he or she does the work on his or her own, but he or she inspires hundreds who work hard to develop their country. At a time we are so divided on political, regional, religious and tribal lines, Malawi is searching for one person, just one, to lead this country to a higher level the country deserves.

We need one person to rise above petty politics, triabalism, religious divisions, and all such vices, and talk about Malawi first. We need one person to come and speak of a new vision that will take Malawi out of poverty of the mind. We need one person to speak in new tones about the future of this country. We need one person to set Malawi on fire, the fire of self-awareness, hard work, honesty, and integrity. These are ideals missing in our society at national level. There are those who have these qualities but this is at individual levels and such individuals have not been able to recharge the country, to put Malawi on fire and move the country forward.

Instead, we look at Malawi not as a country of one history, but divided history. The Kamuzu era and its development; the Muluzi era and its development programmes; and the Bingu era with its roads and subsidised fertiliser. The result is that we say this belongs to Kamuzu, that to Muluzi and that one to Bingu.

No. Everything belongs to Malawi. We need someone to put Malawi first, to demonstrate that Malawi is more important than all of us.

This is how Bingu wa Mutharika started when he delivered his inaugural speech. But on the journey of his leadership, on the way, on the via, he met selfish politicians who taught him to castigate opposition leaders at rallies. He met leaders who have no sense of leadership. He made appointments based on religion, region and such unimportant qualification, forgetting that merit is the best.

On the way he has become like any other president. Yet he remains different and still has a chance to prove that he can set the country on fire, the fire of patriotism, to make all Malawians feel to be part of the country.

But what do the rest of us do to make such a person? Our leaders do what we allow them to do. If we demand leadership, we can get it. But we all over-praise our leaders as if they were gods and we make them believe they are miracles to Malawi even when they are failing.

I was writing this piece while listening to News and Reports on MBC Radio One and Minister of Local Government George Chaponda was on radio. He started by saying: "This is what Ngwazi Dr Bingu wa Mutharika wants to see." He was talking about tree planting. Is this really something only Mutharika wants to see? Why didn’t Chaponda say "this is what Malawians want". This means Chaponda is serving Mutharika not Malawi.

I am searching for one person who shall rise above petty politics and build Malawi as one country. I am searching for one person who shall speak like a Malawian to all Malawians. But I am also looking for Malawians who can be masters of politicians and demand from them what we deserve.

My plain view is that this search will be long but will come to an end, anyway. It may take years, perhaps decades, but the search shall yield results. I am hopeful for my country, that someday, someone will become a change agent. I long for that day.


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