By Alexander Nkosi (Development Economist, firstname.lastname@example.org)
It happened so fast. Ministers, cadres and all the people around the former President where hoping this was just a bad nightmare. They told him that people loved him so much. They told him it is impossible to lose an election. They told him he had the best strategy, power of incumbency and all institutions were with him. They told him what he was doing is exactly what the people wanted and all those who were speaking out where paid to do so by the opposition. They told him under his leadership the country had recorded unprecedented development.
When time comes, there is nothing much anyone can do about it, that is just how power is. The same people that gave you the power can take it away from you. You can have so many people making noise on social media comforting you and talking about development they dont even understand, at the end of the day what matters is whether people are better off under your leadership. They will sing about how bad the opposition every day just to ensure they keep their positions and show false loyalty to you. All those who advise you qre seen to be working with your rivals.
You can have so many complete and incomplete schools and universities but education is more than structures, it should be quality and affordable, it should lead lead to a better economy with jobs and thriving industries. You can have so many complete and incomplete health facilities but there is more to health than these structures. You can have so many complete and incomplete roads but you can only appreciate them if transport costs are low and industries are thriving. Anything that leaves debt levels unsustainable and throws the economy into a downward spiral is not development. You basically degenerate into a state where underperformance across sectors is seen as the new ormal. All those complaining about economic hardships are seen as lazy.
You basically reach a point where you trust your strategies more than the need to get voters to trust you. There is no better strategy to win elections than addressing the needs of the people. Your political rivals know the mistakes they made in the previous elections and will do their best to address them. You can visit all regions every week with cameras launching projects and meeting traditional leaders but your opponents won’t just sit and wait for the eleventh hours, they also have a special way of sending 29,560 people deep into key regions of the country unnoticed breaking barriers. Your own people will facilitate this process without knowing what is going on. They always have a way of can quietly. They will keep you busy in the city on social and mass media without knowing they too have a way clever way of doing things.
It is a game of chase, I do not underestimate the power of creativity. I have conducted surveys in some of the most dangerous places in Africa: Gorongosa region (home to Renamo), Eastern Congo DR and South Sudan. This experience taught me important lessons on how to mobilise communities and inspire behaviour change on topics that are so hard and deep rooted into cultural fabrics of these communities. Community mobilisation is evolving at a fast rate and people have developed clever ways of penetrating communities: invisible methods of mobilising a visible community, visible methods of mobilising an invisible community and invisible methods of mobilising an invisible community.
Other African leaders have a lot to learn from the Malawian experience. There is no better way to prepare for an election that addressing the needs of the people. If you cannot learn from Malawi and other countries, others will learn from you.