The contentious debate on whether Malawi should become a federal state has raged on for quite some time without proper direction and it appears that, so far, it has only served to make the topic become more divisive than fruitful.
There is a serious problem and that serious problem is that the federalism movement in the country is being championed by politicians whose motives seem to be quite suspicious.
Actually, of late most of the debates that are crucial for the destiny of our nation are largely led by politicians. This is not only worrisome but also dangerous because in our country the majority of politicians are not only selfish but also intellectually challenged on various critical matters. We have in abundance politicians who offer very suspicious reasons when fighting for a particular national cause.
For instance, those who have been keenly following the debate on federalism will agree that since it surfaced there is no politician who has arguably offered sober and convincing reasons either for or against the idea of Malawi going the federal way.
Those against the system have given the despicable reason that federalism will only serve to widen the divisions among the already divided Malawians. But should this be believed? Really?
Then there are those advocating for the system who preach that it will sound a death-knell for such vices as nepotism, regionalism and tribalism when it comes to sharing the national cake. Federalism to end nepotism, regionalism and tribalism? My foot!
I, for one, feel there is need to critically examine how federalism will divide Malawians before dismissing the system outright. Look, there must be a good reason why President Peter Mutharika is on record to have said there should be thorough debate over the issue. So those against the system should not rush to conclude that federalism will divide the nation. That is not only shallow but also myopic thinking. If anything, why is Malawi already divided into districts or regions?
Likewise, there is also need to thoroughly analyse the problems currently facing the country and clearly articulate why federalism is the solution. How, for instance, will the system deal with nepotism or tribalism?
Much as federalism is by and large a political issue, let other eminent citizens other than politicians offer their voice of reason on the matter in an effective manner. You see, politicians such as Reverend Mzomera Ngwira, who has become the self-styled poster boy for the federal movement, had to wait for the People’s Party (PP) to lose the 2014 presidential elections to launch his campaign for federalism. That is suspicious. Then there is one Enock Chihana who also appears to have realised the good side of federalism after PP got stripped of the governing powers.
In fact, what, maybe, has also been much of a problem with the federalism movement in the country is that most of the voices calling for the system have for a long time emanated from Northern Region politicians.
Those in the know will recall that some time back, after AFORD noticed that chances of it ever ruling Malawi appeared almost close to zero, notable politicians such as the late Dennis Nkhwazi also started preaching the federalism gospel. When AFORD realised that it was an uphill task selling the federalism agenda, there were suggestions for introducing the concept of rotational presidency in the country. All these efforts failed to gather momentum and just died as worthless ideas belonging to some frustrated politicians from the North.
Of course, this time around it appeared that federalism was going to gain support from MCP parliamentarians but theirs, too, was support from a bunch of disgruntled souls after their party lost the May 2014 presidential elections. Such kind of support is also suspicious and should not be encouraged because national movements should be based on solid principles.
Those for or against federalism should recall the recent political history of Malawi. Most of the notable political movements in the country in the recent past were successful not only because of politicians. Remember the introduction of multiparty democracy? Remember the fight against the infamous Third Term bid during the Bakili Muluzi regime? These succeeded largely because of the tremendous contribution from distinguished members of the clergy, academicians and other upright citizens who helped drum up public support.
But if we leave it to some greedy politicians (and selfish chiefs) to guide us with their tantrums we will only achieve in making the debate on federalism sow seeds of hatred among peace-loving Malawians. Do you remember that even before the dust had settled on the federalism debate the same Reverend Ngwira started sermonising on secession of the Northern Region? Such is the magnitude of the peril when politicians are left with the mandate to lead us on everything regarding the destiny of our nation.
On another note, it is an uncontestable fact that not everything about federalism is bad just like not everything about federalism might be good. There is need to offer honest reasons when attempting to awaken consciousness among the masses on this system of government. For instance, under the current system of government, one realizes that apart from the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu, most parts of the country have largely remained underdeveloped.
It is not only the North which has suffered as we are made to believe because if you go to Neno, Chiradzulu, Ntchisi and Mchinji (just to mention a few places) you would appreciate that, maybe, if we give federalism a try, development would finally trickle to such places since the system will ensure there is greater focus on all nooks and corners of the country.
And it looks like I, for one, support federalism!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :