The State President stays in office for a maximum of two consecutive terms. In those two terms, he or she is expected to do everything that can be done and then pass on the baton to another person. Former president Bakili Muluzi has a chapter and a verse on the matter. Not even his political acumen and eloquence—which earned him the accolade political engineer and Acheya—was able to make him stay one day longer at State House in 2004 after his official two consecutive terms as president expired. That is when he settled for Bingu wa Mutharika as his preferred successor, a story we can tell on another day.
In contrast, as Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president, the first two terms are just a preamble. In the second term, you are cleaning up the cobwebs left by your predecessor. The third term is for sitting down properly. In the fourth term, you are dreaming about what you can do. In the fifth term—and meanwhile you have clocked 15 years as FAM president—you have started implementing your plans. All the while, football standards in the country are degenerating.
In those 15 years, you have made the Flames somersault on the FIFA ranking from the top 100 to an abysmal 124. But you still claim you have contributed a lot to football development in the country and are seeking re-election to complete the unfinished business. This is the case of one Walter Nyamilandu Manda who is seeking a sixth term as FAM president. Nyamilandu has no qualms flaunting his lack of honesty after he repeatedly told the nation when seeking re-election for the fifth term that he is bowing out at the end of the fifth term.
After previously swearing to the 18.6 million Malawians that ‘never again would he seek re-election’ as FAM president, Nyamilandu has unashamedly renounced all that. He is proudly and without any scruples, in the race for a sixth term. His strategy is to use his term at FIFA council to hoodwink everybody that Malawians need him more than ever before. So two weeks before announcing his sixth re-election bid, he launches his football academy to give Malawians a glimpse of the benefits accruing from the FIFA council stint. He makes sure all the media houses give maximum publicity to the event. And just this week when announcing his re-election bid, he hired all the top television stations—ZBS, Times and MBC to make the announcement at the same time. The three TV stations announced his recorded message and embargoed it for prime time—20:30 hours. Now all this does not come cheap.
But as we take turns in vilifying Nyamilandu, let us also look at the other side. His dishonesty aside, Nyamilandu does not elect himself. His, is only one vote. He is put into office by FAM affiliates. Why do they vote for him all the time?
Some people have said Nyamilandu is a generous man and that he also has a deep pocket for campaigns like this one. If this is true, I contend that Nyamilandu should not be condemned alone. If he is selfish and dishonest, a majority of the affiliates are not any better. As king maker, they are worse.
Some people also say that apart from getting the affiliates to his side, he has also managed to befriend the media. They challenge that you will never come across a negative story about Nyamilandu whether in the newspapers, radio or TV. They say, for example, why is it that during his stay at FAM, he has seen several coaches come and go. He has been hiring and firing them for underperforming. Why is he not seen as the culprit?
Yet others have said Nyamilandu should not be dismissed as an outright failure on the football front citing some infrastructural developments at Chiwembe’s Mpira Village in Blantyre and a semblance of corporate governance he has initiated and instituted at FAM secretariat. You can’t fault them.
All said, one thing is clear; resources aside, Nyamilandu is also a good strategist and marketer. He knows which card to play to get where he wants and when. He has managed to make himself indispensable at FAM and among its politburo despite failing to take the Flames to greater heights. n