It’s intriguing that as Sidik Mia launched his not-so-clandestine underground campaign for the vice presidency—shouting religious slogans, probably, in grandiose surroundings of a mosque and a circle of sheikhs, the incumbent Saulos Chilima was doing the opposite.
In public, Chilima—almost apologetically—was distancing himself from any notion that his well-choreographed relationship with the Catholic Church has political undertones.
Thanks to the minefield of being State deputy president with a precarious footing in the ruling party, Chilima-speak nowadays comprises either parables or hints no one else understands.
Long gone is the free-speaking young man who stormed to political office looking as president in waiting.
“It is wrong to suggest that I attend and serve the church for votes. No!” Chilima protested, “I am 43 years old. Of these, I have been Vice-President for only three years. So, why should I use the church to get votes? Actually, it is at church where I actually learnt that leadership is not a position.”
Not Mia apparently. He is apologising to nobody for flaunting his ambition and doing so using religion as the vehicle.
This blatant and incendiary promotion of sectarianism, however, speaks volumes of the quality of leadership on offer from this so-called Lower Shire giant.
Bereft of any moral guise, Mia says he will join a party that is “attractive” and pays a blind eye to any notion that leaders are there to serve by absurdly and shamelessly, inviting fellow Muslims to support him, for being their “brother”.
Mia, inadvertently, raises the spectre of recycled politicians.
With Mia, for all intents and purposes, now MCP, Chakwera has his job cut out for him. Spin this you may call, after serving the disastrous UDF, DPP, PP governments, Mia is the archetypical recycled politician—read political prostitute—Chakwera once denounced.
Singularly, MCP casting the net wider beyond its predominantly Central Region base is good news for intra-party democracy. Mia’s rumoured vast war chest equally sounds a blessing to an allegedly cash-strapped party.
Mia, though, does bode ill for one Richard Msowoya, Speaker of Parliament and MCP’s current Number Two. But Msowoya—declaring himself unshaken—is already fielding the challenge. With Chakwera’s own party position anything but secure, the deal-making and ‘back-knifing’ in the country’s oldest political establishment will make some interesting reading, for some time.
You cannot, however, say the same about the mighty DPP. In the ruling party, events happen in far darker corners for observers to predict, for example, where Vice-President Chilima’s future stands.
Few, though, are under any illusion that 2019 will likely bring promotion or even secure second tenure for Chilima. The history of doomed vice-presidents continues to loom large over the former corporate executive.
President Peter Mutharika’s recent public praise for UDF/DPP alliance, too, casts even darker shadows. If Mutharika decides that his best calculus for 2019 is to partner with UDF’s Atupele Muluzi, Chilima’s political promise will be nicked in the bud.
Once again, the vice presidency is a bondage to the office holder. That, ladies and gentlemen, is hardly news.
Justin Malewezi, after enduring enough ridicule from boss Bakili Muluzi and was overlooked for succession, contested the next elections as an independent president and lost miserably.
Cassim Chilumpha was not even a ceremonial vice-president. He spent his tenure battling funny treason charges and a case of constructive resignation from office.
Joyce Banda was ostracised like her predecessors. Banda herself caressed and massaged Khumbo Kachali only to overlook him as running mate for the 2014 polls.
Oh God, it must read as an ominous sign for Chilima.