A few months down the road we’ll have our next general elections, in which we’ll be using our democratic rights to elect our favorable candidates. However, democracy seems to be the only thing that gives everyone the right to do something silly, and because this chance comes only once in five years, silly choices will be made, and we’ll all start complaining about the leaders we’ll have chosen willingly.
So I guess I should start putting my stuff together because I wouldn’t want to leave the affairs of our nation to chance. The stakes are too high; and we all need to be responsible for the mess around us.
First things first: so let’s start with the media. Someone said that “If you want to put all the dangerous weapons out of the hands of people, start with the typewriters” (computers nowadays), implying that the media can be lethal to society if abused.
We, likewise, cannot underestimate the impact of the media to our society before and during election years. And the greatest favour the media can do to the public at this pivotal moment is to afford the general public with unbiased information. One thing needs to be clear to the media people, and that is: “The only job of the media is telling the public which way the cat is jumping. The public will take care of the cat.”
Unfortunately, we in the media, tend to overstep our boundaries. In some cases hijacking more authority than we actually deserve; we tend to plant leaders we want by misleading the general public with biased information on the merits of the candidates. This is definitely toxic to our nation’s development. We need not impose leaders by falsely popularizing a candidate(s). And this is what I intend to discuss briefly today.
There is a tendency to confuse leadership skills with popularity. It’s frequently a common mistake by the electorates. We’ve done it. We’re likely to do it again because most folks can’t tell the distinction.
Almost always electorate confuses general elections with popularity contests. We usually forget that popularity is not an indication of quality. “Leadership is defined, not by attributes, but by results”. According to Peter Drucker, “Popularity without leadership skills is the worst form of political corruption”. This has happened in our nation. And we have to deal with it lest we will be surprised.
Popularity is good only and only if backed up with good leadership qualities. Unfortunately more often than not, popularity comes without good leadership ability. Worse is the kind of popularity, which comes just out of a person’s physical attributes. Some people happen to gain favour from the majority just because of their charisma, their looks, their age, their belief or something completely apart from their ability to lead.
Some people have become popular by just doing or refusing to do something. We’ve witnessed people becoming popular by just a certain label; some by just saying or refusing to say something. Some have gained popularity by just the fashion with which they said or did something. That makes them popular! Sometimes just by being fiercely opposed to something, people happen to become popular.
These are not leadership skills though; and they should never be confused as such. People investing in that kind of popularity mistakenly get elected to different offices. That is corruption! We need to stop it.
Someone once said “get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to any office.” My appeal to the media is to help people with needful information as we sort out our priorities. Let’s concentrate on records of performance and individual integrity…somebody’s already shouting “where do we even get such leaders with record of performance and integrity in this country!! I say “it takes all sorts of people to make the world. So let’s look around.”
The truth is: people who only capitalize on popularity hardly make good leaders, not for about 40 million Tanzanians, among whom over 35% are said to live under poverty line, some of them as someone puts it, living a life closest to hell. This type of leaders cannot serve Tanzanians honestly. They will not encourage good use of the 343,317 square miles of land with numerous resources but with no real benefits to citizens; and no good agricultural policy despite the long lasting rhetorical emphasis in the importance of agriculture. Such people may not be capable of uniting Tanzanians, in a union whose stability is already in question.
Changes are happening in quick succession. We need leaders that will not only exercise good judgment, but also make those judgments in a timely fashion. Leaders who promote a principle of rewarding hard work instead of giving “takrima” in order to continue floating on popularity.
This nation definitely needs leaders who will unite people and reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Tanzania needs leaders strong enough to fight the genetic problem of corruption. This nation needs leaders that can restore law enforcement.
Such leaders are rare, especially in the new era Africa. But there’s no shortcut. We need to be keen in every step of the way. In the book “Why Presidents Succeed” the author talks about Americans and their General Elections. He points out that “Americans take their presidents so serious that suicide rate drops during election years!” We need to take our leaders more seriously. And in that, we cannot afford to entertain another popularity contest in October!