Lately, there has been a hype about youth taking leadership positions. The argument goes, youths form a majority of Malawi’s population and so a youthful leader would be best-placed to respond to the needs of the majority. A sensible argument really.
However, what becomes a concern is the converse of that mentality. It has come to a point where it is as though being a youth is the only quality needed for one to become a leader. This is misleading.
It is untrue to say Malawi can step on the right rail to development and become less corrupt by having a youthful leader. For there are (and there has always been) youthful persons in various leadership positions in our government and other organisations.
Unfortunately, evidence shows that some youths have been implicated and convicted in corruption and theft cases. For ethical reasons, I will not mention names. Our memories are fresh and some examples are in the public domain.
What we should not forget is that youths of this nature will continue to exist in various sectors of our economy regardless of who the president is. This is not to say the not-so-youthful are innocent either, the point driven here is that perhaps leadership is not about age alone.
At the moment, what we have in Malawi are, on the one hand, some not-so-youthful leaders who surprise us with their decisions that do not sit well with our interests. On the other hand, we have youths who are taking advantage of our desperation and poverty to blatantly say illogical things to us, practising the same old politics of lying with no remorse whatsoever.
At this point, apart from being visionary, a leader should be revolutionary. A revolutionary is someone who is obsessed with transformation. This is judged from his/her decisions and statements. While the likes of Martin Luther King Junior and Che Guevara are known for their oratory skills and charisma, what mattered really were their actions. They were revolutionaries even before taking leadership positions. In fact, it is this character that earned them their leadership positions.
While being a youth is advantageous, it is not an absolute requirement for a revolutionary. It is the action and character that matter and not age. For example, Nelson Mandela started off as a youth, but became president in his old age. His leadership style left a legacy that is living on.
Similarly, it can be illogical to say former United States president Barack Obama is not fit for presidency, eight years from now, simply because he will be 65 years old.
An even better example is what happened in Tanzania. One needs not to see President John Magufuli’s birth certificate to confidently surmise that the man is not a youth. He has excelled at that old age. In Malawi, despite being older, Bingu wa Mutharika shined with his leadership style.
The point being made here is that we need to be more objective in our arguments. It is important that those of us who are youthful and learned, take a leading role in shaping the political mindset positively. We must employ our analytical skills to help mould those whose voting decisions are tied to unjustified factors. n