Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Prof Clive Chirwa - Power or Influence?

In the play "Kafuti the brazen serpent" by Zambia’s acclaimed playwright Mulenga Kapwepwe, Kafuti the main character asks the age old question – which is best power or influence?

I imagine Zambia's Presidential aspirant Prof Chirwa has mused over this question too, would his influence on participants in Zambia’s political system yield more benefit or does he need to be the principal power to effect the change average Zambians so desperately need?

In the play Kafuti finds herself inclined to choose influence, for she reasons- influence the ability or clout to persuade others to get things done without the direct responsibilities of titular power as in the case of the American Enterprise or Oprah is far more enduring and beneficial than the transient power of a political title.

Political power would, readily avail Prof Chirwa the potential to allocate resources, make and enforce decisions but even Presidential authority relies on the power of persuasion and influence to rally important and effective players for government to deliver benefits to the public. More importantly, to gain political power he must first, persuade and influence the Zambian electorate to vote him into office.

In their books Robert L. Dilenschneider’s ‘Power and influence’ and Rudy Giuliani’s ‘Leadership’ both stress that seizing the power of governmental organizations and using it appropriately differs greatly in contrast to private sector companies.
Giuliani offers the following advice;

i) prepare relentlessly for the day you become boss
ii) Under promise then over deliver.
iii) Surround yourself with good and effective performers.

Rudy Giuliani who recently lost the Republican Party nomination might have been the greatest beneficiary of his own advice, had he prepared relentlessly for the Presidential campaign, sharpened his promises and surrounded himself with good people he might have gained the ultimate power of leader of the free world.

Yet, Giuliani has now devoted his efforts to influencing government policy through his lobby firm Giuliani Partners. Think tanks like American Enterprise and lobbyists have become more brazen and effective in influencing government policy, it now appears political power has lost some of it’s clout.
In a way Giuliani’s case illustrates the influence versus power dynamic, does power guarantee influence or is influence that gives way to power? Like the chicken and the egg, the two are interdependent; therefore it is folly to attempt or seek a political career/power without influence.
Would Prof Chirwa therefore, be more effective and beneficial to the average Zambians by creating a policy influencing think tank or lobby firm that would influence the Zambian government to allocate resources more effectively, to make and enforce decisions that are pro poor?.
Prof Chirwa has vast aviation technology expertise and has formed important relationships with leading global companies, investment firms and leaders, he would use this influence (which is widely unrecognized in Zambia) on these players to derive benefit for Zambians.

Presidential office may provide the ultimate power to get things done, however it also confers absolute responsibility. The probability of Prof Chirwa’s international influence been enhanced by political office is significant but also real is the possibility that it may be scared.

Prof Chirwa must therefore weigh heavily, whether he prefers influence or power over Zambia’s current political system, I would that he would choose influence!