Speaking in Lukulu, Western Province on Monday, President Edgar Lungu said those who say he has no vision are right and he doesn’t worry about that for as long as the people he is leading tell him what they want.
“Somebody was saying ‘Lungu has got no vision’ and I said ‘yes, I have no vision’, but collectively we have a vision because you the people are the ones who know what government should do for you,” said the Head of State.
This admission is not new, Mr Lungu first said this in 2015 when he was campaigning to become Head of State. And surprisingly, the people of Zambia went ahead to elect him as their leader. Considering that, somehow, he retained the presidency in 2016. President Lungu now thinks Zambians are happy with his leadership qualities.
Our Republican President is very sure that Zambia is exactly where its citizens want it to be. Without claiming to have a vision for the country, he has let the people govern themselves and they have taken themselves where they desired to be. We can talk about that naivety of voters another day.
But today, we would like to point out that the danger of having a President with no vision is that he arrives before he starts the journey. He has no aspiration for the people he leads, and therefore he has no imagination of the country’s destiny.
We need to help President Lungu because perhaps he thinks it’s sensible for him to have no vision as Head of State. Maybe President Lungu doesn’t know the connection between leadership and vision.
Mr President Sir, leadership is about going somewhere. How do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a vision? Vision makes your work purposeful. Vision helps us your people feel protected and guided by someone wiser than ourselves.
Mr President, maybe no one has told you this, but a leader without a vision to serve is in danger of becoming self-serving. We are afraid that since you came into power, you seem to be serving yourself and not the people of Zambia. It seems you only think about how rich you want to be and how much longer you want to stay in power.
You need to understand Mr President, that every great leader in history has done something redounding to the honour of their people. They had a vision, they had a cause, they had a plan and most of them understood the times that they were in and were able to do everything that history allowed them to do.
Ending apartheid in South Africa was Nelson Mandela’s life struggle. Breaking the manacles of racial segregation against blacks in the USA was a clear vision articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. Even in the Bible, Moses was set on leading the children of Israel out of the wilderness, and the list can go on and on.
Here in Zambia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s vision was to emancipate us from colonial rule with the help of his fellow freedom fighters. Frederick Chiluba told us that his vision was to liberalise the economy. Seeing a corruption-free Zambia was Levy Mwanawasa’s vision, and so on and so forth.
Whether these leaders succeeded to realise their visions is for another debate, but at least they were clear from the onset about what they wanted to make out of Zambia and for Zambians. When a leader does that, he attracts those who share the same dream to come forth and advise on better ways to realise that common vision.
So it shocks us that President Lungu can proudly flaunt himself to citizens and buoyantly express his ignorance about where he wants to lead the people. It is not a mark of wisdom for President Lungu to say the people should decide what government should do.
Leadership has different levels. A leader simply takes his followers where they want to go while a great leader takes the people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. All animals, including ants have leaders, but unlike human beings, the leader of ants can’t think any better than the rest. That is why when the ant leader is stuck on a pathway, all the other ants wait stranded in line, because their leader has not explained where he was taking them.
President Lungu is behaving like a leader ant that can’t think for its followers. That is a clear sign of bad leadership qualities and the sooner he realizes that, the better for Zambia. You cannot lead a country with the leadership qualities of an ant.
No matter how educated, no matter how charismatic, humble, loving, passionate, decisive or strong President Lungu might be, he needs the ability to think about or plan the future of the citizens with imagination and wisdom. That is called a vision.
This message is not for President Lungu alone. We the people of Zambia must first have a vision before we demand the same from our leaders. If we the voters have a vision for this country, there is no way we are going to elect someone who has none.
In this regard, we must formulate fundamental questions to ask anyone who is putting themselves up for political leadership of this country. Let us ask these politicians in power and those seeking to succeed them:
What is your vision for Zambia and who fits into that vision?
What would you say are the biggest problems facing the country?
What do you think are the causes of these problems and how can they adequately be addressed?
Do you understand the context of the Zambian economy?
Do you understand the regional and global economy?
Is there a difference between austerity and prudence?
What have you done for people or your community in general in the last 10 years?
Do you understand and can you explain the issues facing youth who make up more than half of our population?
What are your thoughts on poverty, social mobility?
What is your political ideology and how can it, in practice, serve to meet the needs of the country, as opposed to an ideology that is different from yours?
And most importantly, do you truly and honestly believe in God?
There are many more questions that can be asked and Zambian voters must come up with their own, according to the vision they have for the country.
Our emphasis is that when it comes to vision, if they don’t seem to have it, then they simply don’t cut it. An admission of no proper vision should equal absolutely no vote. We need a great leader not an ant leader.