By PROFESSOR GEOFFREY LUNGWANGWA
A DEEP reflection on the essence of existence across all species reveals that there are three fundamentals to it namely Procreation, Survival and Happiness. Each of these fundamentals of life needs no protracted debate because they underline the truth of the existence of any species.
A loss of any one of these fundamentals of life is the surest way for the extinction of the species. Without procreation, the species cannot reproduce itself. On the other hand, without mechanisms for survival in the environment is equally a guarantee to vulnerability and a threat to existence.
Happiness affects the mental and physical wellbeing of a living species. Without Happiness the health of any living species debilitates terribly.
The three fundamentals of life do not exist in isolation but they are interconnected and impact on each other. For example a threat to the happiness of the species does negatively affect its chances of survival and procreation.
Politically speaking, Procreation, Survival and Happiness have a great bearing on how people relate to their systems of political governance. Historically, people held their leaders in high esteem because they were able to establish teams of strong, skillful and courageous soldiers who conquered other nations to protect and expand the empire.
In recent times and not long ago, a strong and powerful leader who managed to establish a very strong economy for his powerful country was voted out of office because of what people felt as a threat to the fundamental values of what their country stands for, the basis of their survival and happiness.
Examples abound where leaders vacate office because the citizenry feel that their leadership is a threat to their happiness.
Happiness of most people in society is therefore a very important barometer upon which to measure how the citizens relate to their political leadership. This is a factor which almost always is not seriously paid attention to by those in the high echelons of political power.
Leaders that have significantly taken happiness as an important factor in how well they are governing their countries have established ways of measuring it.
In 2016, the United Ara Emirates (UAE) established a position of Deputy Minister of Happiness whose task was to harmonise government policies, plans and programmes to achieve a happier society for its citizens.
In the 1970s the King of Bhutan established the term Gross National Happiness as a measure of the collective happiness of the society.
Happiness of the most people is therefore an important factor to consider in the governance of a country. Those in leadership authority have at every turn to pay attention to how their leadership is impacting on people’s happiness.
This article is specifically devoted to the principle of happiness as an important factor in the governors and governed relationship which gets reflected in how people vote in the general elections.
The thinking of those who are in positions of governance of the country is always that they are doing better for the people.
Equally, those aspiring for leadership are also of the view that they can do better for the people. Those who have at some point lost the opportunity to govern have asked themselves the question what went wrong after all these things we have done for the people.
Most happiness of most people is the central axis of political contestation for winning voters’ confidence in a democracy. Political party manifestos are usually crafted on the basis of their appeal to peoples’ happiness.
The challenge in all these positions is that those who occupy, occupied or aspire to occupy leadership roles view success in leadership in quantitative material terms.
Satisfaction of the people is viewed in such materialistic things like schools, roads, hospitals, employment generated, bridges constructed, numbers of people accessing welfare packages or those on farm input support programme.
Rarely is the state of mind of the people as exhibited in their happiness considered a measure of how well a leadership is doing or can do or have done. The happiness of the people, it must be underlined, is the sine quo non of success in leadership This is usually the missing link between leaders and the people.
Political campaigns strategies always focus on packaging messages that appeal to the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the voters. What the voters want to hear are promises and prospects of a better life for themselves and their families. A better life does, inevitably, bring about happiness. Political leaders who earnestly want to be in power try as much as possible to craft messages for a better life ahead.
Prospects for better lives ahead stimulated by political candidates bring about loud ululations, songs of praise and dances. What the people look towards after the protracted periods of political campaign is happiness for most people not just a few.
This should in fact be the measure of the success of political leadership namely achieving the most happiness for most people. This is the reason d’etre of governing or having an opportunity to be leaders.
The goal of governing is to raise the happiness of the people. Not just a few people but most people. A successful team of leaders is one which gives
attention to what raises the most happiness of the most people. This is the litmus test of good leadership as seen from the perspective of the governed.
General elections are a measurement of how people assess their leaders on the scale of happiness through their vote.
Most happiness for most people is the basis of measuring a ruling political party’s performance in a fair and credible general election. The underlining factor which gives rise to malpractices and violence during election is in most cases the degree of happiness voters have with their leaders.
The collective efforts of government as viewed from such efforts as construction of roads, schools, hospitals and clinics, provision of water and sanitation facilities to mention but a few is to achieve happiness for everyone.
Additionally, it can be argued and correctly so, that the ultimate goal of all institutions of governance in their various forms is to contribute to the greatest happiness of the people within the defined political boundaries in which they operate.
Successful leaders create environments for institutions of governance to be strong, efficient and to operate independently without political interference. The most important role of Government therefore is to ensure happiness of the majority of the people. The ultimate goal of government policies, plans, programmes and projects is the happiness of the people to whom they are directed to benefit.
Good leaders strive as much as possible to create an environment for people to be happy and establish instruments or mechanisms of measuring it. The neglect of this fundamental principle is the surest way of signing oneself off from the platform of political leadership.
However, rarely do leaders get down to measuring the people’s happiness emanating from their development efforts. Leaders’ content is usually at the level of seeing physical structures like roads, schools, power stations, clean water and sanitation facilities etc.
These facilities are indeed important but should not be the end in themselves. The next step should be whether they bring about happiness in the people. Research should bring out data that show the link of such facilities to peoples’ happiness.
The August 12 elections in Zanbia evidently brought this issue. While the leaders strongly shouted their achievement in infrastructure development, the ordinary voter was strongly shouting back saying but shall we eat or are these beautiful infrastructure feeding us.
There was truly a gap between the beautiful infrastructure constructed and the basic needs of the people which was the basis and measure of their happiness.
It is this mood of unhappiness in the people which the UPND skillfully captured in its campaign and eventually won the peoples’ mandate to rule. The PF did the same in 2011 and was able to get the peoples’ confidence to rule.
The MMD successfully pushed UNIP from the political platform because the voters were no longer happy with its 27 years rule.
The most critical segment of society whose happiness is of paramount importance are the youth and women who are the majority in the voting population.
Happiness is important because it is a prerequisite to other things namely: Happy people can see opportunities in their environment and strive to take full advantage of them.
Happiness makes people to work harder and try to bring the best in themselves. Happy people are productive in places of work. Happiness contributes to peace and lessens conflict, hatred and enmity.
Happiness instils a higher loyalty or patriotism to the country. Happiness instils in people a strive for self-improvement or self-determination.
Where people are happy, the degree of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship is high. Happiness raises peoples’ talents to levels never before imagined.
The challenge however is, what happiness is, and how best it can be brought about and how it can be
Happiness means different things to different people. However, what is true about happiness is that it is not outsourced or imposed. It is intrinsic and owned personally.
In other words happiness is what is perceived or felt internally by an individual. It is in the heart, mind and soul of the individual.
Aristotle described happiness as the central purpose of human life and the goal in itself. Happiness speaks to the inner feelings of individuals in the way they relate or interpret the reality around them.
Happiness does not lie in the quantity of material wealth acquired. There are many people who are rich in material terms but not happy.
From a political point of view, there are many factors that bring about happiness in people and the following are
but some of the critical ones:
1. Having opportunities of developing decent means of earning a living.
2. Being guaranteed peace and security at personal, community and societal levels
3. Having opportunity for affordable
quality social services like education, health, shelter, transportation, water and sanitation.
4. If disabled and or elderly having
opportunities of being looked after by the state or other institutions.
5. Having opportunities for government contracts and freely conduct businesses within the prescriptions of the law.
6. Having equality of opportunity for employment in public or private sector and being treated fairly in the place of work.
7. Having liberties and freedom including
freedom of worship and of conscience protected and guaranteed under the law.
8. Being assured of opportunities for a decent standard of living more especially being guaranteed food, shelter, safety water and sanitation.
9. Being assured of efficient quality
services whether they be in private or public domains.
10. Having opportunities for self
determination to achieve one’s dreams and aspirations in life.
11. Having an environment in which the
rule of law reigns fairly and equitably.
12. Having a team of leaders that is not only competent but ethically transparent, accountable, efficient, fair and compassionate.
These conditions are in accordance with the higher values and principles of life namely: Fairness, Social Justice, Equity, Equality, Human Dignity, Decency, Rule of Law, Efficiency among others.
A critical scrutiny of these indicators of happiness point to the fact that happiness is about peoples’ perceptions or views about social justice and opportunities in the policy. This is what is referred to in the abstract term called good governance. When people shout that they want good governance what they mean is that they want to see social justice and opportunities. The key words in good governance are SOCIAL JUSTICE and OPPORTUNITIES FOR QUALITY LIVES and
these principles are deeply embedded in the higher values and ethics of life.
At the root of happiness therefore is the assessment or evaluation by people about how well the political leadership is performing on the basis of higher moral and ethical principles.
This assessment or evaluation is an unstoppable process which begins immediately a team of people take over the reign of power as leaders. However even those who are not yet in positions of leadership are also assessed on the basis of these values from what they say or promise as aspiring leaders.
It is in this vein that all government policies and programmes have to be seen in the context of how well they meet peoples’ happiness. The manifestos of political parties are evaluated on that basis too. Individual leaders whether in ruling or opposition parties are equally assessed on the basis of the values, morals or principles they stand for and how they relate to peoples happiness. The challenge of governance therefore is how to achieve the most happiness for the most people.
What makes the challenge of meeting peoples’ happiness even bigger especially in a country like ours are the numerous problems that confront it namely: high poverty levels; low productive levels of the basic necessities of life e.g. food; rising debt levels; high cost of living; high interest rates; high taxation rates; high levels of unemployment among the youth; wide gaps between the urban and the rural areas and between the rich and the poor; high levels of corruption; radicalisation of the youth; high levels of lawlessness; poor delivery of services; weak governance institutions; poor implementation of set policies and plans; regional or tribally oriented political support bases; nepotism or tribally based reward systems; arrogance of leadership to mention but a few. These problems are on the other hand the parameters upon which leaders should measure the degree of peoples’ happiness with their leadership.
These difficulties face many African countries. The stumbling blocks to happiness call for leadership which states that when society is confronted with exceptionally difficult problems there is need for leaders who will focus their minds and energies on them and provide practical solutions for the good of all the people.
This is what the late Toivo Ya Toivo, the Namibian political icon meant when he said that the role of leaders is to define or confront reality and give hope to people. That hope relates to coming up with solutions which will make people happy. In other words, behind every problem are opportunities which are not yet clearly defined.
In President Motlanthe’s words, “Toivo Ya Toivo proved that no condition is ever stagnant. No reality is too overwhelming to imagine change. Even posthumously, he reminds us that above all things there is always a possibility for change.”
In other words the problems that confront Zambia and most African countries can be confronted and solved. The necessary condition is for the leadership to lead by the principle of striving to achieve the most happiness for most of the people.
At the centre of this happiness challenge are two very important pathways. First, is the need to formulate reforms in various sectors which will objectively and evidently spark a glimmer of happiness in people. Such reforms must be judiciously implemented.
Second is the need for a strong research programme to give the leadership feedback on how well their
reform efforts impact on peoples’ happiness.