Sata, example of why an African president needs high IQ

By Chanda Chisala 

I think it is now completely clear that the current president of Zambia, Mr. Michael Sata, does not have a clue what to do about the seemingly intractable problems of the nation he is leading. I think he sincerely wanted to help the country and he sincerely felt compassion for the many poor suffering people all over the country, but sincerity and compassion is not what solves problems. You need to have real ideas, and these need to be rooted in a theory that is testable and workable. Some people may say that “theories” do not put food on the table, but in fact they do. All countries that developed from poverty to wealth were led by people who took ideas very seriously, and happened to espouse the relatively correct theories to deal with their specific situations. Although such leaders did not blindly follow textbook theories, they were still theoreticians themselves who were able to think hard about the most appropriate theoretical framework for dealing with the main problems in their nations, and developed an integrated set of policies to practically achieve their goals.

Instead of thinking hard about what will end the obscene levels of poverty in Zambia, Mr. Sata’s mind can only be occupied with the politics of intimidating his critics and political opponents. One would have expected that the best way to deal with Hakainde Hichilema (HH), the leader of the opposition UPND, would be to simply achieve so much economic success for the nation that Mr. HH would have nothing to say to the people. That’s the way it should work in a democracy and it is the reason why such electoral competition leads to experimentation with different ideas until the right ones are found.

Instead, Mr. Sata prefers to destroy HH by any other means. For a long time he has been obsessed with the wealth made by HH. He claims that Hichilema made this wealth through some corrupt means about twenty years ago, even though there is clear evidence that the man has professionally engaged in profitable initiatives for a very long time.

If Mr. Sata thought that HH is such a corrupt person, then why did he merge with him before in a pact between their two parties to dislodge the allegedly corrupt MMD? Why would he merge with another corrupt person in order to remove corrupt people from power?

He cannot say that he did not know HH was corrupt at the time since the issues he is referring to were known to him at the time. In fact, he had accused HH of being corrupt before this pact, changed his mind during the pact, and then continued with this accusation after the pact had failed. This clearly shows that to Mr. Sata, your guilt or innocence depends on whether you are political friends or enemies. Thus, someone like HH is totally corrupt while people like the infamous businessman GBM are highly virtuous businessmen who got all their wealth through very legitimate and open deals.

But none of this explains why Mr. Sata is focused on such squabbles and nothing else, whether it is against HH or other opposition leaders and critics. The main reason he is so obsessively preoccupied with “sorting out” his opponents is simply that he has discovered that changing a country is much harder than he had thought. It is much harder than his IQ will permit, and so he has found himself totally discombobulated by the challenges he has found in the office.  I think that he sincerely believed that it would take him just 90 days to fix everything, as he always promised, because he thought it was all about “action”. But he has found himself overwhelmed by the abstract nature of the problems, and unfortunately he is just not intellectually capable of solving them, besides doing some cosmetic fiddling with a few problems here and there.

The only way out for him is to deflect attention from this failure by engaging in personal battles, especially with people who have made it their job to expose his incompetence.

A president does not need to have a genius IQ, but if one is going to take a country from such levels of poverty, a sufficiently high IQ is quite imperative. IQ is required for someone to be able to understand competing theories, and to make an independent decision on the correct formulation for dealing with such problems. It is required for one to understand the “why” of every action taken, so that one does not take actions that undermine each other in achieving such goals.

This is the reason that the presidents who have achieved this feat in the world have been demonstrably very intelligent people.

Thus, the big examples of people who have turned their poor nations around also proved themselves intellectually. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore came from Cambridge University in the UK to lead his nation “from third world to first.”  In Africa, the Oxford educated president Seretse Khama took Botswana from being the poorest country in Africa to the fastest growing economy in the world during his presidency.  The president of Rwanda, who has turned his nation around from a virtual failed war-torn state to one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Paul Kagame, is clearly a very intelligent man who is deeply engrossed in the world of ideas, not just “action” without careful analysis.  Kagame did not attend any (special) university, but he reads and researches voraciously, as evidenced by his many intellectual debates with people of opposing ideas.  He has modeled his leadership style after one of his favorite intellectual writers,  former president Lee Kuan Yew.

There is a reason why even in the already-developed United States, presidential candidates tend to write a book or two before they run for office. Intellect is critical for such an incredibly demanding office, and they have to be judged by the public for their ability to articulate their personal worldview before they can run for office. Even running mates, like Governor Sarah Palin, had to answer tough questions from the media to defend their intellectual capability.

True education is just about a passionate interest in ideas and scientific evidence for them. Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, does not have a university degree but he could have easily got one if he wanted to – from Harvard itself where he decided to drop out. Both business leaders and political leaders share that passion for ideas, particularly when they want to achieve something as significant as transforming a startup business into a global empire or transforming a poor nation into a wealthy one.

It is also true that an intellectual president might believe in the wrong ideas and lead his country to worse poverty and destruction (especially if he is not strong on scientific evidence). But having no interest or ability in ideas at all, simply disqualifies a man from such high leadership because he is guaranteed to not only fail, but to even make things harder for future presidents to fix. If he believed in and articulated something specific, at least the future presidents would know that it does not work and would not waste time repeating it (hopefully).

Mr. Sata is a hard worker who did very well in most of the tasks he was given when he worked in government. But such tasks do not need one to have a high IQ; one needs only to be a committed worker.  As a government minister, he only had to deal with one Ministry and its problems and all he needed was to be “a man of action” – as he says himself. As president of the whole country, he needed to combine this with an ability to develop (or understand) more abstract insights, so that he could make important strategic decisions by constantly referring to some well-articulated ideals and principles of his own. Unfortunately, he simply can’t. He’s unable. So we have to brace ourselves to simply keep watching more and more deranged political drama while people keep dying and suffering from simple problems caused by some complex systemic failures.

Original article is found here

Share this post