I was actually very curious to look through the FDC’s manifesto as well as ANT’s for one simple reason: given that the latter is an offshoot of the former, are there any discernible differences in their party platforms as presented in their manifestos? Or is the difference between the two merely a personality clash between their top leadership as so many believe? That personality clash is very much evident from the covers of the respective documents – the FDC cover is adorned by their barefooted Presidential Candidate while ANT’s features some abstract art.
The very first impression I got from the FDC manifesto was that that the FDC as a party is clearly much more of a team organisation than the NRM. Whereas the NRM manifesto introductory pages only featured a message from and about its Flagbearer/Chairman, the FDC one features four messages – from its Flagbearer/President, Chairman, Secretary General and Leader of Opposition respectively. I found that rather interesting. But let’s dive into the meat first.
The FDC manifesto is far smaller than the NRM one, weighing in at just 70 pages. Structurally, it presents its plans in the form of 3 pillars:
- The Transition
- Livelihoods Post-Covid
- Medium and Long-Term Development
“The Transition” is a clear recognition of the fact that, were they to win, they would be taking over a very entrenched system whose ills (injustice, state capture, coercion, partisanship in supposedly independent bodies etc) have grown very deep with longevity in power and that changing course would be a very daunting task. As such, the party proposes a 5-year, all-inclusive transitional administration to restore the rule of law and democratize governance. Interestingly, it appears that this section was drafted as an alternative to holding elections during the prevailing pandemic. In the circumstances, I personally think that would have been a whole lot better but the ruling party would obviously never acquiesce to such a request. A summary list of the undertakings that would be carried out during the transition is presented.
“Livelihoods Post-Covid” acknowledges that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a once-in-many-generations life changing event that requires special attention and measures in order to combat it and return life to normalcy. Again, this really showed me that the FDC team is acutely aware of the real issues facing the country and they present very pointed arguments as to why they think the current government was found wanting in the fight against the virus. They also present details of the impact of the pandemic and proposed solutions for each sector/area mentioned. I found this section very impressive for its extremely focused approach as opposed to the NRM that only mentioned COVID-19 in multiple places but didn’t dedicate a specific section to it. In a sense, the FDC’s manifesto conveys the message that the pandemic is still a clear and present threat and the impact on society will continue for a long time while the NRM’s would have you thinking that the danger is over and life is back to normal.
“Medium and Long-Term Development” is the third pillar and it spells out a number of issues and the party’s pledged undertakings. Again, it is difficult to summarise them all as succinctly as the space on this page would require. The issues presented include improving the quality of our politics, decision-making devolution, rolling back of “special region” categorization, limited access to justice, the national debt, stealing of public resources, gender issues, responsive education and skilling, quality healthcare, decent/affordable housing, land issues, farming and more. The presentation of the issues follows a consistent format – the issue, why it matters and the party’s undertakings.
Upon going through it in full, I realised that it pretty much matched the NRM’s in terms of breadth of issues covered but it was written so much more concisely and was therefore much easier to read and digest. Obviously, the NRM manifesto features a lot about its claimed achievements but after reading the FDC one, it became clear that the former could have been a lot more succinct and thus smaller without sacrificing much in way of quality content. There are also issues that the FDC manifesto tackles a lot more comprehensively (albeit in fewer words!) such as deliberately supporting single mothers and the sports and creative arts and these show quite a higher level of imagination. The FDC document is also way more consistent and attractive in terms of layout and the passion in the content seems to jump out at you. One could say that the FDC writers really wanted people to read the document and they set out to make it as engaging as possible for a political document.
To say I was impressed by the FDC manifesto would be an understatement. I fell in love with it after a few pages and I suspect it may be the only one I’m able to quote in the long term. As mentioned, the passion that went into creating it is actually perceptible while reading it and it is also obvious that extra care went into the formatting, typography and general editing. Whereas anyone can get a team to write the kind of manifesto that the NRM came up with, it is a far harder proposition to get that team to write in such a way that their conviction shines through every page. I’d really love to see what other people who have read the two documents truly think of them. I love attention to detail and consistency in design and this document struck me as very well done in those respects. I kept contrasting it with the NRM one (which was the only other one I had read at the time) and the mental product picture that formed in my mind was the NRM publication was a typical committee led creation (which was ironically the case for it) while the FDC one was one created by a handful of master craftsmen. It is a pity if not an outright tragedy that so many of the people that continually attack the FDC for not being “issues based” will probably never read it. If we were a bit more advanced in socio-political terms i.e. if we were actually an issues-based electorate, this manifesto would warrant a lot of support for the party. Alas – I suspect we are not yet there.
In fact, after reviewing the FDC manifesto, I realised why the incumbent administration prefers to keep the electorate focused on violence and the spectre of “much worse if it lost’ as opposed to the “issues” that many elites claim the opposition doesn’t have any grasp of. It is easy to see why they go out of their way to achieve this including via tactics like RDCs switching off radio stations. If the battle was purely based on issues, they’d be in for a hiding.