Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lucius Banda's Unartistic Behaviour, The Hypocricy of Malawian Journalists

It must be more difficult to run away from a pattern than it is to run away from the truth.
But musician Lucius Banda doesn't seem to realise this, and has, unwittingly, become a victim of his own anger.
The Balaka-based musician has built a reputation (for himself, not for Malawi) as a mature artist who comes handy during 'heavy' times in Malawi.
And the 'heavy' times have come, sadly, handy for Malawi the past 15 years. First, it was former President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda- the Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation.
It was in September 2007 that the flamboyant leader lost his life to eternal progression. It came as a surprise, then, though others so it coming. That month, both the former President and Bakili Muluzi- the then incumbent President- were taken ill.
It was strange; so strange. These were both heavy-weights, in their own respects.
Sadly, and to the shock of Malawians, their most-beloved former President died.
Lucius Banda, always ready to play song in line with the national mood, took to his head in the search for a befitting song for the departed leader.
Kamuzu was no ordinary man. Though limited in height, he set about a tough mission: To abolish the "stupid federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia".
And that he did.
He did many other things, too. Road, rail infrastructure improvements. The transfer of the Capital City from Zomba to Lilongwe.
He did more. He did more.
His death was thus always going to be a big deal.
So, Lucius Banda the multi-talented  musician composed 'Mulandireni'. In Mulandireni, Lucius begins by sharing his experiences, especially on how shocked he was to hear that the Ngwazi (hero) was gone. He, then, reminded Malawians that the Ngwazi had chalked his own achievements, including the tattering-up of the "stupid federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia", his leadership skills at uniting Malawians, and conceding defeat when Malawians 'voted' for the 'back' of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
It was such a touching song, with its sombre melodies. Paul Banda (who else could it be?) did well with the mixing, and the drumming, and the repercussions. In short, the production.
That act made it; it established a pattern for Lucius Banda.
He became Banda the musician who peddles his way to fame by effectively employing the national psyche as the currency.
It came as no surprise, therefore, that Lucius went Chakufwa-Chihana-lyrical when the later died mid-way through the last decade. 'Chihana Wapita' reminds Malawi of the man who arrived at Kamuzu International Airport with his life on his finger-tips, raising two fingers: the symbol of plural politics.
It was like a man coming from outside, and demanding that, in your own house, it will be him and you as husbands to the only woman you love.
Two fingers were to become the unmistakeable symbol of Chihana's Alliance for Democracy, the party credited for defying the prevalent political air of the time, and fighting for general respect for total freedoms.
Before that moment, intellectual discourse was anathema to the political order of the day.Press freedom did not exist. And others so numerous to count at this dark hour.
Of course, some would argue that it was the Catholic Bishops that set the pace through that famous Pastoral letter which will remain a symbol of positive change for Malawi. True, it is the Catholic Bishops who risked their lives before Chihana came onto the scene. It is the Catholic Bishops, through the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, who started rolling this chain we now call democratic governance in Malawi.
But Chihana, too, remains the courageous man who showed the, then, scarce commodity of courage, and came out (almost from nowhere) to challenge the powers that be.
In composing Chihana Wapita, Lucius did not bring anything new. He was merely living up to the pattern he had established himself. He was living up to his own standards.
But, today, following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday- April 19, 2012- Lucius has become a shame. He has evolved into a total shame for the country,  a man so bitter he has allowed his emotions to prevail over reason.
By not composing any tribute song for the fallen Mutharika, a leader so unanimously elected by Malawians during the May 21 Presidential Elections, Lucius is showing Malawians that he has been lying all along in telling Malawians that he sings for others, and that he is a "Souldier for the poor". The guy has been fighting his own battles in the name of Malawians.
Take, for instance, what has happened now. Lucius has abandoned his artistic objectivity to allow emotions take their course and affect his reputation as a no-holds-barred musician.
Lucius was once a Member of Parliament in Balaka District. He was a United Democratic Front Parliamentarian.
But, somehow, he danced to yellow politics and started a campaign that, if successful, should have seen Mutharika park his bags for Ndata Farm.
But, somehow, one of the ruling party cadres 'went back' to their memories and discovered that Lucius had skeletons in his closet: the man's Malawi School Certificate of Education was fogged.
Bingu, taking his chance, pounced on Lucius by instituting court action. Lucius was convicted by the Zomba Magistrates' Court, and sentenced. He, in effect, became a convict. Lucius is an ex-convict.
That, predictably, must have made him bitter. Whereas Lucius was supposed to be a clean man, he now is associated with past criminal activity.
He carries this reputation (of an ex-convict) wherever he goes.
It is this reputation that has shielded his vision as an artists who sings for others, and not himself, and make him so mute (musically) over the death of Mutharika.
Where is the singing for the people now?
Do artists fool people when they claim to 'sing' for others, and not themselves?
When is the artistic spirit here, when musicians take things so personal, and deprive their fans (who have different political affiliations)  of heart-rending music?
This is the shame of this time.

Where is objectivity in journalism
 When I noticed this pronounced silence from Lucius Banda, I asked some of Malawi's seasoned arts' journalists and their attitude seems to fall in line with Lucius's bad tempers over the death of Mutharika.
The journalists, including one international journalist, told me it would be absurd for Lucius to wax lyric about a man who got his imprisoned.
I have told the journalists that they, too, have lost the plot and objectivity.
I told them it is bad to allow emotions overtake their reasoning.
One of the veterans even told me to "shut up; what are you saying that (Lucius should sing)? Something has gone wrong in your head".
But I defied him, for once, and never got quiet. The Republican Constitution guarantees press freedom. The problem with Malawians, journalists inclusive, is that they feel that if you don't agree with them, then, you must not speak. You must keep quiet. That, at the point you differ with them, you are no longer entitled to freedom of expression.
But I say no. Respect other people's opinions even when you don't agree with them. Attack people's views by offering better alternative views instead of hushing them. If you don't agree with someone, don't shut them up; close your ears by placing two fingers in them!
That's why I defied the veteran journalist. I will always speak my mind. At least I have that right.
The problem is that some Malawian journalists have abandoned objectivity and are so excited with the events now so much so that they have thrown objectivity to the wind. They want others to do this as well.
I will not be one of them!
Granted, Mutharika attempted to muzzle press freedom through the much-hated Section 46 that empowers the Information Minister to ban publications deemed anathema to the public interest.
He might not have done better in other areas, too. People now queue for sugar; they queue for fuel. The fight for money.
But all these are not good grounds to deny Mutharika the respect he deserves.

Senior Chief Kaomba's view 
"Our culture does not provide room for criticising dead people. Those who have died, no matter their short-comings, deserve to be praised for their efforts in life. That's what our culture dictates," Kaomba says.
It is common sense, really- something Lucius and some Malawian journalists have lost touch with.

Zachimalawi's conclusion
Excitement killed Lucius Banda's artistic mind and some Malawian journalists' objectivity.
It this happens, the end result is called 'shame'.

This was an opportunity for Lucius to show that he can rise above personal vendetta and help Malawians remember a man who came onto the scene, did his part in achieving food security, and left unexpectedly- when Malawians needed him to solve some of their challenges and create a legacy as a man who faced challenges and won his battle.
So bad for creativity and journalism.

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