Once an old man was very ill and lay dying in his bed.
He had four sons who were always fighting with each other. He always worried about them and wanted to teach them a lesson and asked his sons to come to him.
When they came, the old man gave them a bundle of sticks and said: “Can you break these sticks?”
The first son tried to break the bundle, but nothing happened. He tried very hard and finally gave up.
Then it was the turn of the second son to try his luck. He thought it would be an easy task and picked up the sticks easily. He tried his best to break the sticks, but nothing happened.
Then the third son tried to break the bundle of sticks, but he could not do anything either.
Meanwhile, the youngest son jeered at his brothers and thought they were very incompetent. He thought he was very clever and took one stick at a time and easily broke all of them.
The old father then smiled at his sons and said: “Children, do you understand what happened? It is always easy to break the sticks one by one. But when they are bundled together, none of you could break them. In the same way, you four brothers should always be together. No one will be able to hurt you then.”
The four brothers realised what their father was trying to teach them and forgot all their enmity and learnt that unity is strength.
From that day onwards, they never fought with each other and lived together in peace and harmony.
It would be lovely if Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enoch Chihana and former United Democratic Front (UDF) director of research and self-proclaimed political analyst Humphrey Mvula were part of the old man’s tutorial.
Certainly, it is just regrettable that almost all Malawian political honchos, as luck would have it, once they reach some heavyweight division and carry some more pounds and responsibility politically, they become, in every sense, divorced from their own brain.
It is plain that what Malawians, including those from the North, have always wanted is a desire that has been burning since the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was formalised at the Berlin Conference in 1884 and erupted into the struggle for liberation from colonialism over half a century ago—freedom.
Although the word freedom feels like a nebulous concept, at least, there is an agreement that, as a practical reality, freedom encompasses having access to social amenities such as clean water and sanitary conditions, education, accommodation, health care, gainful employment and the rule of law that safeguards all other fundamental rights.
It also covers having a say in the way one’s country is governed; the way one’s country’s natural resources are used and the way one’s country’s future is shaped.
Probably Chihana’s demand for equity and accountability, as he is attempting to rebuild Aford as reported this week, borders on such perception of freedom.
But that is no justification that Chihana, though Mvula supports it, should fashion Aford on old models and frameworks of governance that are divisive and dearth of national policies and ideologies, but simply “to have a solid political party in the Northern Region to lobby for developments and advance the region’s agenda”.
Ethnicity, the world over, is one of the most frequently cited sources of instability and conflict within States.
It is, therefore, crucial for the Chihanas of the country to build a party like the old man’s bundle of sticks with institutional devices which can ensure democratic participation from the whole spectrum of ethnic groups within a State. n