I guess congratulations are in order to Mr. Walter Nyamilandu Manda and his ‘new’ team of administrators for winning the recent free and fair elections at Football Association of Malawi, FAM.
I am neither a journo nor a writer. I am only an aspiring information scientist. I will not impregnate this opinion article with meanders of tickling and rosy words. I will try to be straight to the point; will occasionally use unsuitable words in the process.
The winning of the third bid of office by the president of FAM, Mr. Walter Nyamilandu Manda, comes with zero information in it. It was as certain and predictable as ‘electricity blackouts’ in Malawi. However, it has aroused some debate within me. It is my conviction that I may not be the only one with such internal debates.
Shallowly put, Mr. Nyamilandu won the third bid of office because there were no better candidates for the position of FAM’s president. However, such reasoning raises more questions than answers. Why were there no better candidates? Where did Mr. Nyamilandu get the muscle to bid for the third term in the first place? In an attempt to answer some of these questions, let us look at the frivolities of individaulising team achievements, blind loyalty and overzealous emulation of Mzungu.
It is undeniable that the team of administrators led by Mr. Nyamilandu has transformed FAM. I vividly remember when Mr. Nyamilandu and his team first came to the administration of FAM. I was an undergraduate student at the Malawi Polytechnic then. Even with the ‘carefree’ nature of a Unima student, we all could sense that FAM was in a mess. From lack of sponsorship to hooliganism at the stadia, the signs of lack of leadership at FAM were visible everywhere. Today, almost a decade down the line, FAM is in a respectable shape. Bravo to Walter and his team.
However, it sounds more subjective to attribute such notable achievements by a team of capable administrators to one person: Mr. Walter Nyamilandu Manda. Phrases like ‘Walter has transformed FAM’, ‘Walter has done a lot for FAM’ could be spotted in both the electronic and print media. Such phrases, said or implied, sound immature and more often than not end up creating a ‘superman’ within an ordinary person. The fact remains that Walter did not transform FAM as we are made to believe, his team of administrators and the entire FAM staff did.
Mr. Nyamilandu presumably sensed the ‘superman’ being created within him as a result of such dangerous individualising of team achievements, and he probably smiled. The end result: no clear succession plan was calved during his two terms of office even though everybody knew one was necessary; no suitable replacement of Mr. Nyamilandu was identified and groomed within or without his team of capable administrators; a deliberate vacuum of candidature was created where Mr. Nyamilandu and Mr. Nyamilandu alone could be seen standing taller than the rest. This prompted him to bear ambitions for the third term bid. Besides, a few Jims and Jacks might have praised him in the face over a glass of wine.
Seeing the virtual ‘superman’ existing in their leader, the teammates of Mr. Nyamilandu dwarfed their ambitions. No one within his highly capable team of administrators, most of whom could easily do an equally recommendable job as FAM president, could dare him even if the corners of their hearts carried ambitions of becoming the next FAM president. A blind loyalty loomed. ‘Blind’ herein encapsulates cowardice, greed, rigidity to change, who-cares attitude and the simple good-boy tag. Consequently, only those people whose sense of self-assessment either died long time ago or has always been questionable announced their ambitions to stand for the presidency. The end result: Mr. Nyamilandu still stood taller than the rest.
FAM as an institution has no original organization model. It lacks originality. It expectedly emulates FIFA and other similar bodies. Yes, it emulates the Mzungu’s institutions. ‘Mzungu’ herein would easily be replaced by ‘a person from the west or the east of any race’ but for fear of sounding political, I will stick with ‘Mzungu’. If Mzungu Sepp Blatter did it at FIFA, why not Mr. Nyamilandu at FAM? Mr. Nyamilandu saw this and watered his ambitions with it. With direct reference to FIFA, he knew his ambitions of the third term of office would readily sink into the minds of Malawian as a normal thing. After all, FAM’s ‘constitution’ does not bar third term of office. Who cares about the principle behind the bid, the precedence it is setting?
Such bend-it-like-Beckham reasoning is not strange in Malawi. For example, how many aspiring young leaders have likened themselves to President Obama even if, at any levels, they remotely compare to the celebrated young president of the world’s greatest nation. How many football players have named themselves after Roberto Baggio, David Beckham, and Thierry Henry? How many musicians have dressed and sounded like R Kelly, 50 Cent, Jay Z, and Rihanna? End result: no originality, no identity, duplications of the Mzungu way of doing things. Mr. Nyamilandu knew all this.
My take is that, yes, Mr. Nyamilandu and his team have done a great job at FAM. But is the third term really necessary?
Unless we avoid the frivolities of individualising team achievements thereby creating ‘supermen’ that never were, blind loyalty and internal abortions of ambitions, and overzealously doing things the Mzungu way thereby remaining identity-less followers, we are likely to find ourselves in not-so-attractive and retrogressive situations like the one FAM is currently in.
There is absolutely nothing new that the third term of office by Mr. Nyamilandu will bring at FAM. The best they could do is to maintain the status quo. But is that the best we can hope for in Malawi? Is lack of good succession plan, prolonged leadership, lack of originality and identity the best we can hope for in Malawi? Today it is in sports, but tomorrow it could be in a different profession altogether. It is high time we were more ambitious but organized, civilized, responsible and original as Malawians.
*George Zimba is a PhD(ICT) Student in ChinaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :