Our President’s desire to change his official title to “President General” reminds us of the disgrace and humiliation the peoples of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Uganda had to endure under the dictators with unbridled ego that once ruled them.
Jean-Bédel Bokassa turned the Central African Republic into an empire and gave himself the title of “His Imperial Majesty Bokassa the First, Apostle of Peace and Servant of Jesus Christ, Emperor and Marshal of Central Africa”.
Joseph-Désiré Mobutu changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga and that of his country to Zaire.
In 1971, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda made the legislature to declare him President for Life of Malawi. And his official title became “His Excellency the Life President of the Republic of Malaŵi, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.” The title Ngwazi means “chief of chiefs” – more literally, “great lion”, or, some would say, “conqueror” – in Chicheŵa.
And Ugandan dictator Idi Amin gave himself the official title of “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”.
We thought this was a long but permanent goodbye to this disgrace. Today we are starting to witness a rebirth of all this painful and shameful experience in Zambia.
Our President started with giving himself the honour of being called “Dr”. And now it’s “President General”! What’s next? And where will it end?
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, “It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles.” He was right.
Changing our President’s title to President General won’t increase his ability to create impact.
A lousy President won’t get better just because his title has changed to “President General”.
He won’t become better by having a bigger title.
The ability to provide efficient, effective and orderly leadership is not directly correlated to a title.
However, our President wants to let a title define his identity, self-esteem, status, and more. He wants his fair share of recognition, identity and respect.
It seems he wants to turn a title into a currency.
Instead of using the title to facilitate work he wants to turn it into a bargaining chip.
But trying to use a title in this way creates toxicity rather than clarity.
This reminds us about what George Bernard Shaw once said, “Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior, and are disgraced by the inferior.”
But people don’t follow titles of a leader, they follow performance and character.
When titles equal to power, changing them doesn’t help you at all; power will simply shift its form.
Having a bigger title doesn’t equal to better understanding.
We shouldn’t hide behind titles – the one we have or the ones we want.
Mwika Royal Village, Chinsali