Professor Patrick Lumumba of Kenya was once quoted as saying ‘a good dancer must know when to leave the stage’. He said this in the contest of Heads of State who overstay in power with lame excuses that it is people who want them to remain in power. In fact, Lumumba also said the best time to leave is when people want you to stay. In this way, one leaves behind a good legacy. Unfortunately, most leaders who overstay are also corrupted with power to the extent of mystifying power as a preserve for them only.
It is common knowledge that leaders who overstay clearly show that they have run out of ideas. However, they deliberately pretend not to see that people are just tolerating them. The institutions fail to work properly and the end result is that people suffer.
To cover up such a bad situation, leaders corruptly surround themselves with henchmen and hero-worshippers who defend leaders without knowing what they are defending them for. What has been observed in Africa is that overstaying in power even writes off all the successes that a leader might have achieved. The country just remains relevant because of its sovereignty—having its own flag and national anthem.
Meanwhile, it can be said that, through experience, Heads of State who remain in power for too long are just as bad as newly elected ones, with characteristics of being clueless about running a government, let alone, a country. In Malawi, at the moment things are really falling apart. Malawians are getting deeper into poverty as institutions fail while corruption and stealing of public resources are the order of the day. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Peter Mutharika government seems to have failed after being in power for only three-and-a-half years. The government does not want to accept this fact and that the majority of Malawians are just tolerating it. Strangely enough, the government continues to make more promises (in addition to the unfulfilled ones) in an attempt to build trust.
One would wish if Malawi had/has a system whereby a failed President and his government would stand down to avoid further destruction of the country. Regrettably, this is not on the cards of President Mutharika and his government. The idea of waiting for five years to change a failed government seems not to make much sense. There is need in this country to find a lawful way of recalling a President. The excuse that changing government now and again Malawi cannot afford makes no sense.
In fact, tolerating a failed government is much more expensive and a total loss. Systems of government become completely incapacitated. Imagine, at the moment electricity supply is a privilege of those close to the power that be and to the point of even denying hospitals. The same goes for water supply. Imagine, again, in this country converting public resources into personal fortunes seem to be a vocation for the elite. All what is stated here and much more maladministration out there, justifies a peaceful change of a failed government in midstream.
Having said the above, it is indeed clear that a Head of State who overstays in power is just as bad as the one who has just taken the reins of power but clueless about running a government or leading a country. The current leadership in Malawi is an example. Though the Mutharika government tries to show that the economy is improving, it is hard to believe amid unprecedented levels of suffering.