Politics of uncalled-for accolades, compromises is a walk on slippery ice

Leaders should be held strictly accountable for what they say. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Singing praises for leaders leads to compromises. Leaders should be respected but also questioned because they are answerable to the people they serve.

It is almost a culture in our beloved country of Tanzania, that when people assume higher public offices, they become of a different (higher) class from the rest of the citizens.

While in principle all Tanzanians are equal, experience shows us, like in many African countries, the gap between the leaders and citizens is practically wide, and there is a risk of widening even more.

This is not the principal subject matter for today, but it leads us to the concern of this write-up, which is the danger of showering leaders with tons of praises in everything they do, and often times in anticipation before they accomplish the tasks, or in things that are just made up in order to appeal to the public that the leaders are doing well.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere spoke of leadership as servant-leadership; Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana spoke of leadership as concerned with the pursuit of positive action and characterized with learning and growth.

Nelson Mandela of South Africa said it is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, and highlighted that leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of the people.

There are many other leadership thoughts from all over the world which differ in many and variant ways.

However, these three African nations' founders’ thoughts will help our purpose of attaining a meaningful synergy and synthesis.

The three words I will take special note of from the above juxtaposition of leadership perspectives are: ‘servant’, ‘growth’ and ‘freedom.’

The first word, ‘servant,’ highlights the nature of the leader which ought also to be exemplified in the person’s charisma as an evident desire and commitment to be of service.

The second, ‘growth,’ pinpoints the purpose of the commitment to lead which is to steer growth. We do not need leaders just to pass the days, we need them to be instruments of positive change in the lives of the people.

The third, ‘freedom,’ entails that leaders are to solve problems and remove shackles that hold people from progressing. The society needs to be freed from problems: poverty, unemployment, crimes, etc.

True freedom is to be free from restraints and to live comfortably. As such, the problems of the people should speak to the leaders that they have more and more work to do.

Politics of Accolades

It is common to hear in the media, news, public addresses, celebrations, etc. that leaders are praised so much. Often times the praises are exaggerated as compared to the performance of these leaders. It is high time we question when all this began and where it is taking us as a people. Why do we entertain it?

The point here is not that leaders should not be praised, but that they should not be glorified for merely doing their job. There should be a clear line between doing one’s job and doing something extra. In the politics of developed countries, there are no such things as making leaders like demigods and singing praises for them. Everyone is audited and thoroughly checked and can be called to order where things go wrong.

The danger of singing praises for leaders is that it makes it difficult to challenge or hold them accountable because the people who sing praises are the same people who should be keen to ask critical questions and make meaningful suggestions.

Leaders do not bring development to the country because they want to, akin to saying, out of their generosity. It is their work, and the resources available are there because of all Tanzanians as a people. This is why it defeats logic when they are glorified as though they put in their personal resources for the public and as though the citizens will all die of starvation without them.

How young people are affected

The politics of accolades have negative effects on the socio-political engagement of well-meaning young people, their participation, as well as their appreciation of politics as a useful societal tool for service, growth and freedom.

Growing up with politics of accolades that compromise crucial matters of the people and focus on pampering, praising and taking care of the leaders is catastrophic.

It makes smart people refrain from politics. The term ‘Siasa ni mchezo mchafu’ which means ‘politics is a dirty game’ should not be descriptive of our politics.

Singing praises for leaders leads to compromises. Leaders should be respected but also questioned because they are answerable to the people they serve. Compromises affect the pursuit of the common good.

Leaders should strictly be held accountable for what they say as well. It should not be a word game to pass a moment while people’s lives and rights are at stake.

Keen questions directed at the aspects of service, growth and freedom will always be a good start.

Leaders who are scandalous and move opposite to the direction that brings growth and true freedom to the people should be evicted and brought to order.