Friday, August 7, 2015

APM-Ntata Empty ‘Talk’: Helpful or Harmful?

The office of the president may not have a job description. True. That be true as it may, it is certainly every citizen’s expectation that whosoever is president will act in a manner reasonably expected of a president; and, sad to add that picking fights is sure not one such expectation.

The above may somewhat be too much of an expectation given the fact that the president is human too—he has feelings capable of being hurt. That is the reason why, at the risk of courting criticism, the president’s move in suing one Allan Ntata may not be entirely unpresidential.
Mutharika is said to be picking fights with Ntata

That being said, however, it is now almost obvious that the president has had his feelings hurt so much so that he has left government business to fate. This becomes clear when, only a few days after the Ntata-Nyasatimes legal suit, government released a press statement to the effect that Allan Ntata is one tried and tested fellow. It is at this point that we now ask, “Is this APM-Ntata empty talk helpful or harmful?”.

The quick answer will be it is. Yes, this empty talk is both helpful and harmful. However, caution has to be sounded here that the empty talk is more harmful than it is helpful.

The APM-Ntata talk is helpful in that now every avid follower of current affairs knows how much hurt certain ‘talks’ can cause to people a million times powerful than ourselves. Or, for lack of a better expression, the hurt Ntata has caused president Arthur Peter Mutharika through his ‘empty’ writings is one best captured by the old adage “a pen is mightier than a sword.”
Ntata is believed to be dragging president into a fight.

Also, the APM-Ntata empty talks may be a helpful as it wards off other would-be Ntatas. To this end, the ‘talks’ are a veritable warning the Ntatas in the writing business to watch their writings for fear of stepping on the president’s sensitivities. Wacky as this reason sounds, it still remains a reason, so ‘newsmongers watchout!’

The above being said, of special concern is the harm the APM-Ntata empty talk brings. Firstly, it is harmful for the simple reason that it has proved capable of derailing the president’s attention from the more serious issues—Kwacha depreciation, drug shortage, dwindling education standards, salary delays and all that. President Mutharika seems to see it all normal to pick a fight with Ntata dedicating his time to outclassing a guy that looks after himself and perhaps a couple other relatives forgetting that he, being the president of this poor nation, has the hopes of the fourteen million souls heaped upon him. Alas!

Additionally, his picking fights with Ntata is to Ntata’s advantage as it is Ntata who gets the limelight—he is seen as a biggie who speaks and the president responds. Mind you, APM is the president. And so a public figure. The thing is: a public figure is a public picture; whoever sees it comments about it. Public as he is, one is free to graffiti him the way they would have loved him rule the nation just as people graffiti a picture to make it look the way they would have loved it look. The point being driven home here is that the president is essentially a public poster of a nation. This implies that as long as the Peter Mutharika remains president, the Ntatas and the nonentities like this author will always take pride in dragging the president into a fight once in a while.
Furthermore, the APM-Ntata fights have the dangerous potential of gagging the media. This is bad for a nascent democracy like Malawi. We are, as a nation, too young to tolerate such a fight. The media will effectively be unnecessarily forced to censor what they publish especially if the stories likely touch on the president’s sensitivities.

Here it is, this piece this serves as a plea to the president to focus on the big picture which is proving relevant leadership that responds positively to the fears and aspirations of the nation. The plea here is that the president should modestly contain his anger, honorably deflate the insults, and confidently deal with critics. Otherwise getting involved in every empty talk makes the president lose sight of the big picture, and that is not healthy for our nation.

Reaching this far, it is hoped that the point is made; the point being that the president should see the big picture and leave us—the people that make a name by ‘naming’ those with names—to our writing and talking business. So don’t give us the platform Mr President, keep your eyes, your attention, and your focus on the bigger picture.

In the long run, it is hoped that the foregoing has made it clear that, whatever the intents of the people involved, the APM-Ntata empty talk is more harmful than is helpful.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Stop Talking and Just Do: That’s the Best Way, Sir!

Peter Mutharika: What is the best way?
The past week has not been a silly season politics-wise; the usually silent Malawi President, Peter Mutharika, aimed some punches at people criticizing his government. Seemingly unsure of where he gets it wrong, the president asked these critics to tell him the “best way”.

The president, in his characteristic I-know-much-what-can-you-tell-me tone, asked his critics to tell him what exactly is wrong with community colleges, malata and cement programme, industrialization, implementation of public sector reforms and all that jazz.

But what exactly is the “best way”? Is there any ‘best way’ anywhere? It appears not. However, certain ways are arguably more or most reasonable. And it is the reasonableness of the ways that make them best; not something inherent in the ways.

Similarly, in areas of policy implementation as is true in politics generally, the reasonable way which is the best way is a predisposition to do—action, in simple terms. That’s it, action is the best way.

Quite frankly, that the president is visionary on community colleges is well-settled; that his malata and cement programme deserves a pat on his back is widely-acknowledged; that his industrialization initiative is a big plus on his government is without question; and that his drive for public sector reforms is commendable goes without saying. The above, still, as brilliant as they are, matter less to any well-meaning citizen. The heart of it all is that what matters here is not the policies themselves but the action—or implementation if you like—which should, as far closely as possible, follow the road cleared by these grand policies.

Reaching here, the president can perhaps take an honest stock of himself and his government entourage and see whether or not his policies are implemented in the same grand way they were fashioned before asking for answers from his critics about where he goes wrong.

It is hoped that this stock-taking can help him re-gain his touch with the populace. See, how often have cronyism, favoritism, corruption, and inaction been blamed by these critics to be the regrettable dents on these good policies? Many times. What has the president done? Very little. What has changed? Least.

If he could please do justice to the Malawi nation; next time this or that critic says something is wrong with policy A or implementation of policy B: he should listen attentively, gather the courage to accept the free advice, and then take action. It surely helps very little, if at all it does, to blabber squeaks of underappreciation in the name of taking critics to task. The only, yes only, way to take these critics to task is to walk the policy talk and not to wander away from it and still expect smiles from Malawians. 

The agitation for approval, now taking a peal on him, will yield nothing without something; action first and approval will naturally follow. The point being driven home here is that there is every need to stop talking and take action. “Why?”, you may ask. Because the talking was already done, the policy document is the talk—the talking is the policy. So the president can’t keep talking. Now it’s time for action. It’s time for implementation. Or better still, it is time for the policy walk.

Take America for example. America is not great because it is a land of lofty dreamers but because it is a land where dream-implementers live. For the record, Malawi is happy to have a lofty dreamer president. It is noteworthy that Malawi will be happiest to see its president implement the lofty dreams.

For Malawi, the dream is the establishment of community colleges that offer relevant programmes; yes, the dream is malata and cement programme that benefits all Malawians without regard to their political affiliations; the dream is civil servants getting salaries good enough to afford a standard life; the dream is creation of industries that create jobs for all and not for family and friends. And that is the kind of walk Malawi wants the grand policy talk to take. When all that meat is absent from the policies as it is the case now, the policy becomes a skeleton to be used as a ghost for corruption and political appeasement.

Sir, as a matter of being straight here, the thing is, at last, to walk the talk. Not to crawl the talk. Neither is it to talk the talk or talk talk the talk. The point is: walk the policy talk Sir. It is only when you walk (and not to wander away from) the policy talk that the criticisms will die a natural death. Because, as earlier elsewhere pointed out, that’s the best way, Sir.