If anyone needed any further evidence that our leaders can occasion and thrive on pettiness—when occasion demands sobriety and levelheadedness—well, the burial of the late Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe on Tuesday was the last straw.
Here was an opportunity for our leaders, both from governing and opposition parties; church and traditional chieftainships; to rise above narrow partisan interests and oversized egos to project virtues that can build a nation.And trust me, in spite of political differences we are one people, one country. But how selfish and petty can our leaders be.
When we’re seeing videos of young men—donning party regalia of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)— on rampage setting fire to opposition MCP flags and the election campaign gets more heated up, our leaders fail this country again.
Funerals, by their nature—are an opportunity to bring together people, and create temporal semblance of unity, even at basic family level.
By failing to rise above the fray, and project unity of purpose; our leaders show they care more about their oversized egos, and less about nation-building.
I mean, after President Peter Mutharika and Vice President Saulos Chilima worked together for four years, the two adults couldn’t bury their hatchet—at least just for a few hours? For a televised funeral?
Our common sensibility and longstanding cultural traditions demand that funerals are not the place, or occasion, to settle scores. What we saw in Rumphi was very upsetting and plainly, executive foolishness.
That, folks, accounts for behaviors of all the players’ involved—not just one side.
Questions ought to be asked: For example, why was the funeral programme (including the sitting plan for the leaders and list of speakers) designed in a manner so blatantly partisan.
The fact that President Peter Mutharika committed his presence at eleventh hour, with hindsight of the presence of his political nemeses, Chilima and MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, makes one wonder, was the president only spoiling for a fight?
Then, there is the church. For some time, the current leadership of Livingstonia Synod of CCAP has been acting like spoilt children.
Its knack for attention-grabbing stunts has become legendary and one reckons, the funeral controversy could at least have been minimized if the Synod had accepted that the state—for all its pettiness—was the one in charge of the ceremony.
Yet, Reverend Levi Nyondo and co, thought, they had a responsibility to wage a ‘holy war’ against the aggressor and damned the consequences of an open fight at the funeral. Couldn’t have a mere rebuke of the state’s stupidity, perhaps, in a sermon (or even in a prayer) not have sufficed?
That, apparently, was too little for a church leadership that has never shied away from courting controversy and what did we see next? Once Nyondo took the mic, the state unleashed its usual surrogates, the chiefs to grab the mic from the church and stop plans to install speakers from opposition.
So as the Chikulamayambe family mourned their beloved patriarch; father, brother, grandfather, uncle etc; right on national television, people fought, literally, just to settle cheap political scores.
And that it all happened in the presence—and perhaps due to the presence—of our president plus those seeking to inherit his office, was a stark reminder that these folks, both incumbent and aspirant, don’t grasp the full responsibility that comes with executive office.
We know this, because in the case of the President, it wasn’t a first.
We still remember how our President again failed us the other day when during one of his rallies, a member of Parliament and his own party, Angie Kaliati, was asked to stand up in the middle of a speech—by the party’s regional governor for South, Charles Mchacha—and was told that he married a stupid wife.
The President did not utter any word to condemn this.
And we also remember that day at parliament when, while the President was delivering his state of the nation address—perhaps the most important speech of the year—right in front of his eyes and television, party cadets disrupted his speech. The cadets hauled insults at opposition MPs and even fought police inside the parliamentary chambers.
The President, even then, demonstrated that he is the most nonsense-tolerating leader, by keeping his thoughts of it all, to himself. Rumphi, hence, did not shock us. Nor the lack of any condemnation of what happened by Plot Number One. n