Mr Junior President and our future leaders

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I am glad to be back after an absence of nearly 2 months. My hands were completely full folks, I was preparing for the wedding of my eldest son. I have attended many weddings in my time and I had no idea what it took to pull it off…

Next time you are at a wedding please stop to think of what happened, what didn’t happen and what could have happened. Thereafter say a prayer for all concerned. Amen!

I was still able to make my observations as I moved around running errands in my environment and kept reflecting about what we do with and about money, how we can do things differently and how our mindsets lead to make one decision from another. When I refer to mindset, it is not only in relation to money but mindset determines our relationships with the world around us, what we think and do, what we anticipate the future to be and the preparations that we make for that future.

It is in this mode that I reflected on a TV program on our local network which I was watching some time back. This program had apparently been well advertised in the newspapers as well as local TV. The program was called ‘Junior president’. The 10-20 second clips depicted the trappings associated with high office, chauffeured vehicles, press conferences and bringing people to attention. The clips interested me and I promised myself to catch the screening on the said date. So you can imagine my pleasure when I stumbled on the screening while visiting family.

I missed the introductions, if there were any, about the gist of this program. However, it was obvious that these were young actors in the role of presidential candidates. The vigour of their speeches indicated that they were on a campaign trail. I guessed that these people were from our institutions of higher learning, if not I guessed that age was a big factor as they were all very young.

University and college students and the youth are our future.

Those in university and college are at the frontier of change; rather, whatever change the world is going through, they will face it head on. It does not matter whether we have done well, very well or exceptionally well in the last 50 years. The future is ahead and they will have to deal with futuristic problems. Whether they like it or not, they have to start by dreaming, scheming and preparing for that future. It is also their privilege, that of having a future thrust upon them.

I really expected a script that reflected a Zambia in 2030. I expected an outline of local problems and to hear new tool kits and methods of how these problems were going to be tackled. Some of the future problems that will plagues us are shortages of power, climate change, effects of technology and even challenges to do with regional integration. Surely these young people with the aid of social media are in contact with the whole world. Information albeit in titbits is available on Twitter about every topic.

None of the globalized issues seem to concern the dialogue.

Whether Zambia is affected in the immediate term or not, these are issues that transcend borders and whether we are the originators or not, we are affected and must start to think of solutions.

These young people should have been challenged to show viewers what the future looked like for them. What issues will be relevant to Zambia in 2030, how would they mobilise people to understand and appreciate these problems and how were they going to solve them?

The idea for the program of Future President was well founded. Whoever thought of this program was trying to fast forward Zambia 2030. However, when it came to scripting the lines, everything was all too familiar. The contestants should have auditioned with their own script of what they think are the issues plaguing Zambia will be in the future and offer solutions. Not mimicking politicians.

The opportunity was lost to get these young people to give us a peek into the Zambia they expect in the years to come. To deal with my disappointment, I will go back to some of the issues I have raised in the past about legacy, long term planning, management of self, habit forming actions (commitments) and other attributes that lead to growth.

What does it take to make a leader? Remember, leaders are made not born. What are the common attribute that make you credible enough for people to trust you to lead them? This is not rocket science; many books have tackled this subject from a psychological, biological and various perspectives. There are many theories including those that say that leadership is a chance or one off opportunity that one must seize as it presents itself!

While that is acknowledged, in what state of mind should such a person be in? In a state of preparedness!

The producers of Junior President should have thought through this program a bit more deeply in order to mine to the surface some new perspectives on how we should change our mindsets towards leadership in our country. It would have been exciting for viewers to debate on which of the future solutions were credible to be pursued and which were too expensive relative to the resources at hand. It would also have been a wakeup call to young people – leadership is much more difficult than it seems.

These contestants should have been auditioned to see if they fit the bill of accurately portraying a leadership role even if it’s only play acting; from the ideas they put forward to the things that they really care about. Remember a leader must be compassionate, knowledgeable and pursue ideas that others are willing to follow. When you look at Idris Alba, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover and a few others who have played the part of Mandela in various versions of his life. You have one look at the actor and you can see Mandela in them. Why?? Because of the way they carried themselves and delivered the dialogue. It was absolutely convincing! Now imagine if two fantastic actors in their own right, Chris Rock or Jamie Foxx, played the part. I doubt that they could have pulled it off as convincingly.

The young actors should have been challenged to search within themselves for what they are really committed to and how they would pursue this matter with presidential powers. They should have been allowed to imagine an ideal future environment and the kind of resources required to achieve it.

It would have been an opportunity to get into the minds of the young actors to see if they see things radically different from the way we see things now. It would also give the current government machinery to appreciate what it is they should be doing to prepare Zambia for 2030 and beyond.

All that was lost, in my view, simply because we saw the whole situation through our own tired eyes and failed to motivate these young actors to imagine, just imagine.

How can this program be done differently?

Fundamentally, this program was about future leadership. Once the producers had determined that, they would have challenged actors to dramatise future leadership. What should it look like and how different should it be? What should these future leaders focus on? Is it on education, empowerment, infrastructure, technology etc.?? One can only imagine that for a leader to emerge and influence others to follow him/her is a big ask and therefore one must be credible in many ways. The message must be simple but doable and the resources available must be believed to exist for people to be convinced that it can happen. One does not get very far without such a master plan or by mimicking others. Therefore to expect those young actors to portray a leader in the highest office in the land, they must do better than what I saw on TV that day.

One topic that I would have loved to hear about which is close to my heart is financial literacy and empowerment. How can Zambia move forward and compete favourably with its neighbours when 90% of its citizens are financially excluded and not empowered?

Zambia is now classified as a middle income country, what should that mean to the general populace and how should we interpret that by 2030? What should that mean in terms of employment opportunities, transport and communication, access to health, financial services?

I ask Mr. Junior President..




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