Sometime last year, I made new friends and colleagues in some distant part of the world. Many people that surrounded me, and those I came into contact with, did not know what Malawi is, or where it is located on the globe. Most of them heard the word Malawi for the first time from me.
One day my friends asked me to show them some pictures of Malawi. They wanted to know what Malawi looks like. I told them I would show them some pictures the following day. At my residence, I thought of downloading some great pictures that would impress my friends that I had a country that really belonged to this planet, and save myself from shame. I was only able to get pictures of three buildings and only two from the Capital. The pictures were the Malawi University of Science and Technology, the Parliament, and the five-star Hotel. There were a number of pictures showing these buildings from different views, which I had sourced from the Internet.
I showed the pictures to my friends and they were impressed that Malawi was a progressive nation, and I felt so proud of my home. They asked me to show them more pictures, but I told them that I could not show them more because I had problems with downloading. You and I know that my problem was not downloading, but there were no more pictures to show.
If you think about the pictures I showed my friends, you will notice that they are all pictures which speak about the works of the hands of Bingu wa Mutharika. Why am I sharing this now? The Chinese funded state-of-the-art stadium which is under construction in Lilongwe has been named Bingu National Stadium, and some people have developed some headaches and stomach-aches over the naming. The reason the naming is causing controversy only explains that the people of Malawi have chosen to always think with emotions and totally abandoned reasoning.
We have allowed our hatred towards Bingu, and our love for his opponents to dictate the terms and levels of our thinking on matters to do with anything that embodies him. In the process, we have ignored our responsibility towards the pursuit of our aspirations for a better Malawi with a great lifestyle and improved standards of living: a Malawi where youths have jobs, and are free to operate successful businesses; a Malawi where people have access to great sanitary facilities, and a reliable electricity supply; a Malawi where youths have access to relevant education at affordable costs, and live in an environment that enhances their innovation; a Malawi which allows effective political participation for the youths, through a transparent and accountable government that values the contribution of young people.
These and many more are our aspirations and dreams. But we cannot chase and realize these dreams if we sell our common sense to the vanity of cheap politics where our love for one politician and hatred for another, compromises our judgement to discern between important and useless arguments.
Common sense, will tell us that as ambitious youths, motivated by our desire to have a better Malawi with opportunities and room for prosperity, we have nothing, totally nothing to lose or benefit in the mere name of a stadium. Whatever government decides to call the stadium in Lilongwe, will not improve job and business opportunities for the youth. Whatever name is given to the stadium; water and electricity supply, and access to higher education, or availability of health and medical facilities will remain poor. Therefore, we need to find other topics of importance to argue on. We cannot spend time arguing on matters that do not resolve our immediate challenges, when we have so much at stake for the youths that need quick redress.
When Bakili Muluzi became president in 1994, he decided to erase the name of his predecessor, Kamuzu Banda, just because he was the dictator under whose regime many Malawians were exiled, persecuted and murdered. Muluzi, also had personal vendetta to settle with Kamuzu. So he removed the name of Kamuzu on several buildings of national significance, like Kamuzu International Airport, and Kamuzu Stadium. But when Bingu became president in 2004, he reinstated the name of Kamuzu, despite the fact that Bingu himself had been exiled by Kumuzu’s dictatorship. Bingu believed that despite Kumuzu’s short falls, his name deserved a place in our history, because of the great things he had achieved
Without regards to love or hatred over Bingu, I think there is no human dead or alive whose name deserves a mark on that stadium more than Bingu. We can choose to change, to satisfy our emotions, or we can maintain his name, but one thing that remains true and very important, is that Bingu changed the face of Malawi, and gave us all a sense of pride through a number of magnificent infrastructure developments only in eight years, and left some in progress. He failed politically and economically especially at the start of his second term, but we cannot hate him forever, and deny his name the greatness it deserves just because of the failures. What matters is what he managed to give us when he could, even as he was subjected to human weakness; arrogance, tribalism, and dictatorial tendencies.
By November, I will show my friends one more picture from Malawi, the picture of Bingu National Stadium. I will tell them that, somehow, downloading worked and stopped again.