By Godfrey Chitalu
Unfortunately, the average Zambian think that having a plethora of candidates running for president is cool. Our mindset is also tailored towards minding our own businesses; oblivious to events that might shape our destinies. If you interviewed a thousand people, I doubt if you would get concerns about the looming crowd that is leaning towards the presidency. I’m not belittling the impending two horse race between incumbent President Edgar Chagwa Lungu of PF and Hakainde Hichilema of UPND. Both have a right to the pecking order but who wins is a story for another day.
My worry is on the spiral effects of having two dozen contenders to the coveted prize. Yes, that revered house on Independence avenue is thrilling and captivating but without tact and unity, it might be a pipedream for many. Perhaps contenders must realize that ruling masses demands among others inbuilt consensus building mechanisms.
I won’t hide you, even if you have a different opinion; there are some elements of opposition disunity, that might prove disastrous. I will also clearly state that the ruling is highly suspicious that their absentee and non performing parliamentarians might prove to be Achilles’ heels. Others might call the situation a bit fluid but this fluidity must be sorted out because time is running out. Very soon trackers of public opinions and elections will enter the scene to confuse us even the more. Indeed, August is fast approaching.
I will just call a spade a spade and not a gardening tool. If all the names I will name below find their way to the presidential ballot, it will spell doom to all our throne hypothetical theories. I elected to list the names neither alphabetically nor hierarchically so we can think through the impending conundrum.
The non-exhaustive list of potential presidential candidates: Mr. Alex Muliokela, Dr. Nevers Mumba, Dr. Chishimba Kambwili, Mr. Felix Mutati, Mr. Harry Kalaba, Dr. Danny Pule, Ms. Edith Nawakwi, Ms. Chishala Kateka, Mr. Bwalya Fube, Dr. Fred M’membe, Mr. Peter Sinkamba, Dr. Saviour Chishimba, Mr. Wynter Kabimba, Bishop Trevor Mwamba, Mr. Peter Chanda, Mr. Chilufya Tayali, Mr. Andyford Banda, Mr. Steven Nyirenda, Mr. Sean Tembo and Mr. Nason Msoni. This list does not include a dozen others who opt to talk through a central mouth piece.
The good news is that democracy actually thrives when we have an inordinately higher number of people vying for not only the top but other offices. Intra and inter party disputes have certainly added a new dimension to this profusion. How come we almost all the time go through the same circus? There are limitless common sense solutions that we need to employ. Unfortunately, we only think about them well after elections.
The bad news is that the burden of a 50 plus 1 threshold does not bode well for all of us. Empirically, after the first round the chasing pack ultimately tend to lean towards the ruling party when push comes to shove. Although plurality voting was a trendsetter, in which candidates with most votes carried the day, 50 plus 1 has come as a spoiler.
Here is a simple truth. Our current political discourse, trend and trajectory does not inspire confidence. Add apathy and lack of campaign messages to the equation and you have a recipe for non-popular selection of candidates. The process seems fundamentally warped to come up with a unifier. We have an archaic interviewing machinery at grass root level that is employed by both ruling and opposition parties to perpetuate their existence. How many of us can fully identify with the pack that is having a higher possibility of representing us at parliamentary level?
It seems our current scenario only exacerbate polarization and maybe to a lesser extent regionalism. We need to find ways of selecting candidates that are popular across the political divide. Non-electability traits are quite obvious in our current hopefuls. And there is this trend of lightweights applying for positions many times their weight! How I hope that some intelligent central or national committee can swap candidates and give us some bit of quality!
The author is a social commentator who writes for pleasure.