Students from the University of Technology will be travelling to different parts of the country to educate the people to make good choices during the 2012 General Elections. What follows is an abbreviated version of a speech I gave at a corporate dinner they organized at the Holiday Inn hotel recently.
Millions of people in this country have been crying out in pain, hopelessness and despair. They have heard a lot about all the natural resources which the Government has been bringing overseas investors to develop. They have heard a lot about the economic growth the country has been experiencing. They have heard that there is a lot of money in the country. They have heard of the many supplementary budgets the Government has had to bring down because of excess revenue. They have also heard that the banks are flush with cash.
But hearing is all they have done. They have not seen any difference in their lives. So they have been praying and crying out to God in heaven, since their cries to fellow human beings in responsible positions have fallen on deaf ears.
If we look at Biblical history, one lesson we learn is that God always responded to His people every time they cried out to Him when they were oppressed by their enemies. And God’s answer was a simple one: He just gave the people a leader and worked through that person. When the people of Israel cried to God under slavery in Egypt, God gave them Moses. When they cried out to Him during the period of the judges, He gave them leaders like Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephtah and Samson. Later He gave the people the prophet Samuel, and Saul, David, Solomon and other kings.
The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. What does that mean in the context of the prayers and cries that have been sent heavenward over the years by the common people of PNG? The answer is this: He will do what He did for the people of Israel. He will give the people leaders who will bring them out of slavery and poverty, and into prosperity and abundance.
But there is a major difference between the time of the Israelites and our time. Back then, God simply chose, anointed and presented leaders to the people. He didn’t ask anybody’s permission, not even the people He had chosen! (Remember Moses, and the excuses he gave to God, as to how unprepared and unqualified he was!). God didn’t call for a meeting with the elders or even conduct an election. He just chose one person.
In those days the nation of Israel operated under a theocratic system of government, which means that God was their ruler and He chose the human leaders.
The system we operate under is different and opposite. It is a democratic system, which means that men choose leaders among themselves through the voting process. God has therefore got to work within that system through the people to bring out the men and women He has appointed to lead at such a time as this. This means that the people play a big part in realising the answers to their prayers for leadership.
Our people need to be educated as to what constitutes good leadership, because today the majority of them equate good leadership to people who hand out the most cash and goodies such as rice and tinned fish, beer, lamb flaps, etc. Others define good leaders as people who shout the loudest (people who are very vocal but don’t necessarily talk sense) or those who help them make false claims against the Government, or even people who lead them in fighting with their enemies.
But these are not proper definitions of what constitutes good leadership. I would like to use this column to share with you my thoughts on what our people should be advised to look for in people aspiring to lead them.
The first thing they need to do is to pray and wait for God to show them the men and women He has appointed. I say pray and wait, because I have observed that many church leaders and their people do pray, but then they go around with lists of their members to various candidates seeking support for all kinds of needs and projects. In the process they end up voting the wrong people into power, and they suffer the consequences.
Apart from praying, here are three things to look for in candidates:
Character refers to the kind of person a candidate is. Some relevant questions to ask are:
• Is the person someone that is honest?
• Is he or she someone people can trust?
• Does he or she fear God?
• What is their marriage life like? Broken marriages, polygamous relationships or promiscuous lifestyles are a warning signs. (If people are unfaithful to their spouses, how can they be faithful to other people?)
• How are the lives of the candidate’s children? (Leadership starts at home. If candidates’ homes are in shambles, how can they lead other people?)
• Is the person generous and compassionate during normal times?
• Does the person get drunk or gamble? (People who engage in such activities will do so on a magnified level when they get into power).
• Is the candidate humble and teachable, or is he or she proud, arrogant and a know-it-all?
These are just some of the character indicators voters need to look for in people aspiring to be their leaders.
2. Qualification and experience
This refers to what the candidate knows. This is an important quality because we live in a knowledge-based and knowledge-driven world. It is especially important that leaders are highly educated and are conversant with issues affecting the world and the country. We need leaders who can think critically and independently; leaders who can think for themselves and not rely on so-called consultants and mainly foreign advisors to do the thinking for them. We need people who can analyse information and debate issues intelligently before making decisions.
Importantly, our people need educated people who have a heart for them. I am making this point because many times educated people live in the towns and cities and go home only during the elections. They don’t really feel the pulse of the people because they don’t live among them. When they win, they forget the people.
Another important point I must point out is that educated people who aspire to lead the people must have proven track records of using their knowledge and contacts to bring services to the people. Many such people may be high-flyers at the national level, but they may not have the ability to bring services to the small people. They may point people to their knowledge and contacts and make promises, but if they haven’t done anything for the people using their knowledge and contacts as ordinary citizens, what guarantee is there that they will do so when they become Members of Parliament?
Election time is a time when all kinds of promises are usually made to voters. Vision is what the candidate says he will do if voted into office.
If you care to listen to what candidates say, the first thing they will tell people is what others have done or not done. Candidates usually criticize their opponents more than focusing on what they intend to do. This is one sign that those people do not know what they want to do. They take their cue from the failures of their fellow candidates. They don’t have their own dreams and plans.
Our people need to be told to look for candidates who have a vision and a comprehensive plan as to how they will make the dream become a reality. And the people must see themselves in the visions and plans as well. The voters must see where they fit in.
Finally, when judging candidates, visions and plans must be related to educational qualification and experience. And the visions and plans and qualifications must be undergirded or supported by the character of the person.
PNG’s greatest need of the hour is leadership. Money is not a problem; leadership is the problem. Let me make it clear that I am not saying we need politicians. I am saying we need leaders, because not all politicians are leaders. We have many politicians, but not many leaders who are willing to become servants of the people. That is the problem. And that is why the 2012 National Elections are vital. The Election provides a once-in-five-years opportunity to have a say in who leads us. It is really a choice between progress and prosperity versus poverty and suffering.
The people of PNG are at a cross road. The country may have progressed, but the people have been stagnant as far as their quality of life is concerned. All in all, we can say that the country and the people have been going around in circles, in a similar manner to the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness. We have been wandering in the wilderness for 36 years now.
Our prayer and expectation is that the 2012 Elections will give us the Joshuas that will lead us into our Promised Land come 2016 and beyond, after the country reaches its 40th birthday on 16 September 2015. The fact that the export of LNG will start at the end of 2014 is no coincidence! The timetable is divinely set. God has a plan for this nation. He has a plan for each one of us, particularly the young people of this generation.
His plan is for prosperity and not disaster. His plan is for PNG to rise up and be counted among the great nations of the world, as we have been proclaiming every time we have sung our National Anthem in the last 36 years. That is the reason He has blessed the country with so many resources.
The prayers offered to God during the 1997 ‘Operation Brukim Skru’ prayer movement and others since then will be answered in 2012. God hears all prayers but answers in His own timing. I believe 2012 is when He will unleash the answers that have been piling up over the years.
But we the voters must be ready to become answers to our own prayers. We must pray and wait on God to reveal to us the men and women He has appointed as the Joshuas for PNG who will lead us to ‘the land flowing with milk and honey’.
If you are looking for someone who is part of a crowd, you cannot locate him or her easily by walking among the crowd. But you can easily spot him or her by isolating yourself from the crowd. In the same way, we will not spot God’s men and women by joining in the singing, the dancing, the long convoys, the giving of handouts and the euphoria that has come to be part of the election tradition in PNG. Our people need to stand apart and prayerfully judge aspiring leaders on the basis of their character, qualifications and visions before casting their votes.
Only then can we get God’s appointed people into Parliament in 2012. Only then will they make good decisions. And only then will our peoples’ years of wandering come to an end, and they will enter into their rightful inheritance.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.