By Dr Given Mutinta
The ability to think critically is one skill that separates a president with a vision from a president without a vision.
A president able to engage in critical thinking is able to ponder clearly and logically at the highest level of quality about what he or she believes and would do to solve problems affecting the country.
For this reason, critical thinking should be one of the prized attributes of leadership to be looked for in people aspiring for the Zambian presidency.
As economic uncertainty is mounting, there is one thing that is certain; we need a president able to engage in sharp critical thinking to size up the current economic situation, realize the potential where the current regime is not, and capture opportunities for economic upturn.
Many people would agree with me that Zambia is not short of leaders able to engage in critical thinking.
One of such leaders includes Edith Nawakwi able to talk about the current economic situation with very good understanding of the logical links between economic ideas. Listen to how Nawakwi intelligently talks about tapping into Zambia’s natural resources to boost the economy, how she provides insight into how markets operate, and how she analyses tax rates and evaluates the financial health of this country.
We also have Hakainde Hichilema who speaks with hope through his open-minded analyses on national development ideas looked at from different angles. Is it not inspiring when Hichilema detects inconsistencies and common mistakes in the sitting regime’s economic reasoning, when he proposes how Zambia’s problems can be solved systematically, and when he reflects on the justification of his economic beliefs and values that can benefit this country?
That is the way it should be; a president should engage his or her brains in active thinking and talking about envisioned initiatives that can lead to national development.
It is therefore unarguable that to be an effective president at this age and time, one should be able to engage in critical thinking.
This is one of the venerated qualities President Edgar Lungu is lacking in his leadership. He has no critical thinking capabilities essential to the modern economy of leadership.
He is not able to engage in independent and reflective thinking crucial in creating new possibilities in solving economic problems.
To any discerning person, it has now come to light why Lungu avoided the televised 2015 presidential debate in spite of being a national event of great importance. He knew that he was not able to employ logic and broad intellectual principles critical in explaining economic issues.
Simply put, Lungu cannot configure convincing and well-rounded arguments critical in debates on economic issues.
Tell me, how many press conferences has Lungu held to talk about important national issues such as load shedding, the free falling Kwacha, the high cost of living, and other pressing issues?
The answer is, none! Why? It takes a critical thinker to offer journalists a meaningful interactive forum on national development issues. It takes the grey matter to carefully obtain, decipher knowledge and use it to reach a well justified conclusion on several national issues journalists would want to ask Lungu at press conferences.
Therefore, there is no way Lungu would participate in the presidential debate or hold press conferences when he knows back to front that he is not able to apply reasoning and logic to Zambia’s old and new economic situation.
To be a sound president, thinking should be a large part of the seen and unseen work a president does to develop appropriate economic action strategies.
It seems Lungu believes that good economic development ideas only come from inspiration while seated in a sofa in State House.
Of course it is true that Lungu can capture good national development ideas through divine inspiration especially that Zambia is a Christian nation where every Sunday Christians pray for the down pour of the Holy Spirit.
But even then, will Zambia be guided by the elusive inspiration which often comes when least expected?
Even the divine inspiration works well when combined with human efforts to think.
This country needs the leadership of Hakainde and Nawakwi able to actively participate in the thinking process on economic development.
The fact that Lungu cannot independently engage the country on the fluxing economy speaks volumes of his public confession that he has no vision.
It is therefore unrealistic to think that Lungu can critically deduce the causes and consequences of the current economic problems from the little he knows about Zambia’s economy and make use of it to solve the hitches the country is facing.
It requires a critical thinking president, for example, to understand that extensive borrowing especially in foreign currencies is increasing the value of the country’s international debt due to the currency that is depreciating.
What is it; if not lack of critical thinking skills that is making Lungu fail to see that economic bad reasoning guiding him is increasing the national debt that will soon make it difficult for government, companies, and households to pay back their debts and eventually go bankrupt and push the economy into a slump?
If Lungu had comprehension abilities he would have already put in place strategies to address the current environment of financial instability that is leading to lower economic activity.
The current lower economic activity has potential to generate strife because everyday people are losing their purchasing power to afford essentials. If Lungu is serious about leadership, he should critically think about the insults and booing he suffered in Solwezi and at Heroes National Stadium. There is always a limit people can bear unnecessary suffering caused by incompetent leadership.
It is high time, as a nation, we realised that leadership is about active thinking. Being able to think well and solve problems methodically is an asset for the presidency and very important in the new leadership economy.
It is unfair to expect Lungu to deal with the current economic changes effectively when he has no vision that can be tapped into to recognize and find practical means of addressing our economic problems.
This is an era where a president should actively and skilfully be involved in conceptualising, analysing, synthesising and evaluating national issues to reach answers to national economic problems.
What will it take the people of Zambia to understand that Lungu is not a type of a leader able to match our new economy that is placing increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse economic issues?
Well-intentioned Zambians should rally behind the likes of Hichilema and Nawakwi able to think out-of-the-box which promotes creative solutions to economic problems.
As a country, we will only move forward when the importance of the quality of critical thinking in people we put into power is valued as this begets new ideas that are useful and relevant to national development.