During the eight years he was Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a belligerent public stance to the world, and thus brought such backlash and hardships on his country and his people.
Riding on the back of Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, Ahmadinejad created a state so vile and isolated with an economy paralysed and battered by tenacious international sanctions.
Change in Iran, the wise ones opined, would begin with change in Iran‘s leadership philosophy.
For starters, since the 1979 revolution, Iran is governed by an Islamic theocracy with hardcore fundamentalist Ayatollahs as the Supreme Leader overseeing the president who runs the day-to-day affairs of the state.
This power hierarchy has for years been defined by extremist policies such as building nuclear programmes and, of late, supporting the Assad regime in Syria.
Most Iranians, however, have been crying for a break to this belligerent leadership philosophy. They demand an Iran with more freedoms at home and much better relations abroad—the mark of modern progress.
In the run-up to the June 16 presidential election, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a presidential contender, campaigned on the premise of more moderate policies inside Iran and for constructive engagement abroad.
He was disqualified from contesting by the system. But that did not deter another moderate, Dr Hassan Rouhani, to pick up the pieces and contest with four other hardcore contenders, just like Ahmanejad, whom the regime preferred.
Rouhani’s stunning landslide sent a strong voice of the quest for change at the heart of every Iranian.
In fact, I watched crowds of joy and triumph spilling the streets of Tehran; I was struck by an incredibly timely lesson from the past. Fifty years ago this month, president John F. Kennedy delivered one of his most important speeches ever.
It was about the Soviet Union and arms control, at the height of the Cold War.
“Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man,” said Kennedy.
The Iranian political system was self-made, and for years the people there have suffered a defeatist belief of living in the shadow of oppression. Rouhani’s victory, hence, tells a story of a nation rising from ‘defeatist belief’—a powerful symbol of a larger political problem beginning to be solved.
Iran will not change tomorrow, of course. But with Rouhani at the helm it will be the same as yesterday. And as pundits debate its future, I couldn’t help but wish the possibilities of Iranian’s voice caressing the hearts of Malawi as the nation drifts towards 2014.
Coincidentally, 2014 will mark 50 years since independence, a half century during which Malawi, with a stubborn will and ruthless streak, continues to rank among the poorest of the globe. They say even countries such as Mauritius that were our underdogs during the 1960s have built their economies handsomely, leaving us in the mud.
Just like in Iran, experts argue, leadership remains the stumbling block. For 50 years, Malawi has and continues to be led by an Ayatollah-like political class bent on nothing but primitive accumulation and creating their personal dynasties.
I was too young to understand the hell that Malawians went through during Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship decades. Since his ouster, I am yet to differentiate the leadership philosophies of Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda.
Apart from pushing myopic policies geared at winning votes than winning against poverty, they all share a leadership philosophy of retribution, vengeance and primitive accumulation.
Frantz Fannon—that Algerian writer—said it all about the character of Africa’s post-colonial leadership in that must-read book The Wretched of the Earth.
The elections next year, hence, just like the one in Iran, should be geared to eliminating Kamuzu Banda’s triplets: UDF, DPP and PP. From the arrangement, choosing within Kamuzu’s triplets equals doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. It is foolishness.
The only established party that has given a glimpse of change Malawi needs, I opine, is MCP. I have a strong feeling that MCP—without John Tembo, and please underline without John Tembo—has a fresher line-up of presidential contenders that can give us the Rounanis.
That is why whenever I read about political crookedness and monkey business surrounding the party’s convention, I feel very bitter. I am bitter because, just like the Ayatollahs, MCP is delaying people that, at least, give us a breather.