THE WASTED OPPORTUNITY: AN ANALYSIS OF CHILIMA’S PRESS STATEMENT
As part of the analysis of the press statement that Vice President, Right Honorable Dr. Saulos Chilima delivered two days ago, on June 6, let me very briefly give you two political incidences in world history which I like very much. They are case studies very relevant and central to my analysis and commentary on Chilima’s speech and what the moment meant.
On March 15 , 44 BC when Emperor Julius Caesar had been assassinated by Roman Senators, a Roman politician and sympathizer of Caesar, Marc Anthony, having been spared by the conspirator had only one way to avenge the death of Caesar and overthrow the conspirators. He only requested for an opportunity to be allowed to give a speech and address citizens of Rome during the funeral ceremony of Caesar. Anthony knew very well that during the funeral all citizens of Rome will have their attention towards the podium where he would put the lifeless stabbed and bleeding body of Caesar while he speaks.
During the time of speeches, Anthony was given the chance to speak last. When he to rose and spoke, he spoke in such a way that by the time he finished speaking, the citizens of Rome had moved into a riot. They burned down buildings in anger and destroyed homes and property of the murderers of Caesar. They all quickly fled from Rome. All Antony needed was an opportunity to give a speech and very moment when all citizens would give him undivided attention. That speech at the very moment did not only help him avenge and overthrow the traitors but also sealed his fate to become Emperor of Rome.
That was an ancient example, but principles of the art of politics do not really change. That is why in a more contemporary example, Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez requested to have a press conference on television as a condition for his surrender to the coup d’état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez on February 4, 1992.
Just like Marc Anthony, Hugo Chavez knew very well and calculated that since there had been a coup attempt, the whole country would be very interested to listen to what had happened and who was behind it. They would all have their attention to the television to listen to the man that had tried to overthrow the president.
President Perez allowed Chugo Chavez to address the nation, but that was the speech that changed his fate and the history of his country. By the time he finished speaking, he had managed to win the hearts of all the citizens of Venezuela so much that though he had failed to overthrow the president and went to jail, his speech had made him the most famous person in the country whom the majority wanted to be president. His speech succeeded where the coup had failed. He had become so famous that during campaign towards elections that followed 2 years after his imprisonment, all presidential candidates had included in their manifestos that if they are voted into power, they would release Hugo Chavez from prison. He had become so important that promising to release him to the people would make someone president.
That is how Anthony and Chavez utilized that same golden opportunity that Chilima had. In fact, the examples are many on how other great politicians in the world did strike when such a moment rose before them. Chilima should have known that many politicians in the world would die just to have that critical moment when you get undivided attention of the whole country to yourself and have them all ready to listen to what you have to say.
When a politician has such a moment they give it their best shot and pray that they don’t miss. They make the moment count because great history is made and fate is decided right there and then or never again. I am very sure, and I won’t be moved that Chilima had this golden moment for himself but he just wasted it. It is very disappointing that he instead simply promised that he shall come again thinking that the country shall be interested in him again with the same level of attention, excitement and hope. Never! He brew it.
You see, at the moment of his press conference the momentum towards Chilima’s movement and his candidacy, and the admiration of his sympathizers and undecided followers were at the peak most. His vocal and silent supporters had been waiting for the very day when Chilima would stand and speak not only about the DPP convention but also about the May 2019 agenda. In fact, the whole country and the entire political machinery across the divide had been waiting for the day Chilima would speak. And when his office finally announced that June 6 was the day, all radios, televisions, Facebook and Whatsapp groups caught the news and spread it like a bushfire because every Malawian from President Mutharika at Sanjika Palace to an ordinary vendor in the street and villager back home knew that the long awaited day had finally arrived. June 6 2018, was supposed to be Chilima’s day in our history if he had handled it well.
As of 10:00am every eye was glued to their televisions and all ears to their radios. Nothing else mattered in life but to listen to what Chilima was going to say about his candidacy and determination towards 2019. At this moment, Vice President Chilima was the most talked about person in the country and had more attention in the country than President Mutharika himself. This was the moment for Chilima to hit real hard that even children unborn would hear his message loud and clear and will talk about it in the future as if they were present on that day.
Yes, the coherence, flow and diction of his speech were excellent but these elements only assist to attractively package political substance for excellent delivery of the speech to the audience. And much as he also condemned tribalism, undemocratic tendencies, corruption and similar malpractices of government and resisted the temptation to play conventional politics of personal attacks, he missed it badly on the real substance of the context and moment that necessitated his speech. Unlike Anthony, or Chavez, Chilima missed the real opportunity to make history and influence Malawians to embrace him as the messiah that the country has been waiting for.
Chilima failed even to immediately announce his resignation from DPP after giving his audience more than enough reasons that would make him leave DPP without hesitation. Yes, he made it clear that his next step after withdrawing himself from wrestling with Mutharika will be a procedural resignation. But let us get serious people! What does that even mean? There is no substance here because he makes it look like there is a certain rigorous procedure that must be followed at all cost in order to resign. But what burdensome procedure does one follow to quit a party he accuses of corruption and nepotism and does not even have any position that might require handing over of files, responsibilities and equipment to facilitate smooth transition? What will Chilima be doing in DPP between now and his future resignation at an unknown date which is so important that an immediate resignation was not possible?
As far as I am concerned, Chilima has demonstrated high levels of indecisiveness and lack of a sense of timing to pounce and take full advantage of opportunities. In fact, he does not even know an opportunity when it is there. If he knew that he was not ready to declare his plans for 2019 or that he is not going to contest at all, then he should have just issued a press statement through his spokesperson and get it published in the newspaper and other channels. He should have reserved his day of public statement and appearance on television for serious things. He should have kept this moment for serious impact whereby he would stand and speak without even having to read a speech, but speak strongly and boldly from the heart to declare instant resignation from DPP and the formation of his party, and draw the battle line. On this day, he would have assured Malawians that the moment of new leadership has arrived, and he is ready to redeem them or die trying.
Unfortunately, Chilima has demonstrated that his is too careful for leadership of a political revolution that Malawi desperately needs. He takes too much of his time with details and hesitates to act. He can’t lead a revolution. Chilima is too much of bureaucrat and the private sector still has too much of him. That is why he even thinks about following procedure to resign from a position he does not have. He is too much of a gentleman for the political leadership that this moment demands. He is too good a CEO of a company in the private sector, but for a brave political leader of our time, Chilima is nowhere near that. And that explains why he failed to carry an effective coup against Mutharika within DPP. He does not have it in him. He is just an intelligent bureaucratic. But maybe that’s what our country needs. I still wish him the best!