State vice-president Everton Herbert Chimulilenji now appears to be capturing the limelight and stealing the momentum from his opponents in the epic battle for the presidency of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
President Peter Mutharika confers with Chimulirenj-(c) Abel Ikiloni, Mana This could soon be first couple: Chimulirenji and his wife at the rally Royalty already shifting: Veteran politican Brown Mpinganjira greets Chimulirenji MG 2: Vice President Chimulirenji motorcade First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and Vice President Everton Chimulirenji Chimulirenji receives a gift from the World Leaders Association President, Bishop Steven Nash at Scenic events Centre in Blantyre-(c) Abel Ikiloni, Mana
Just six months ago, Chimulilenji was a virtual nobody whose name could only be seen as a footnote in peripheral politics in the DPP. Few people knew him, even in the rank and file of the party, such that when his name was mentioned as running-mate to President Peter Mutharika in February this year, so many people went aghast in disbelief.
His name was met with furious skepticism( including in the DPP) because so many people thought the now Malawi second-in-command was a rank outsider of DPP politics and did not have the abilities to be among the few equals who particularly moved things at the apex of DPP politics, and indeed on the country's body politic.
As a result, the Vice President has been at the receiving end of a deluge of negative vibes from the people since he was chosen. He has been mocked; chided and made fun of by anyone learning how to joke. His inability to be articulate especially in the queen's language is often the butt of jokes on the social media by mostly the youthful audience.
He has often been paired and compared with previous Vice Presidents such as Justine Malewezi; Cassim Chilumpha; Saulos Chilima, Khumbo Kachali most of whom are very educated (Some with PhDs) and the conclusion is often that Chimulilenji is the weakest of them all in terms of scope of education and depth of personality.
However, as they say politics has a way of flipping things in your face when you least expected, Chimulilenji has remained admirably calm under a barrage of insults and sharp mocking. He has so far closed himself from the chiding of his detractors and has been discharging his delegated duties with a focused sure-footedness that is beginning to pay dividends.
The insults have also almost died down and Chimulinji has gone to work (the detractors are getting back to their seats). He is now increasingly cutting a confidential stature and beginning to look presidential in his well cut and fine suits. His command of the English language has improved substantially and he is increasingly stepping up to the plate and to take his rightful place at the political vortex of the ruling party.
For example, when President Peter Mutharika made a triumphant entry into Blantyre soon after returning from Russia with a full parade of DPP supporters, Chimulilenji also conducted his own mini-parade in town where he toured some structures in Blantyre accompanied by a horde of DPP supporters, including dancing women. This was obviously a show of force to send a message that he is Vice President and he is in town.
The Vice President has also been pushing his weight around, receiving high powered international dignitaries here and presiding over important government function(s) there where even presidential hopefuls like Bright Msaka would call him 'bwana'. He is by far gelling into the vice presidency groove in a way that no one expected. This is the reason that even those who initially dismissed him as a serious contender in the epic 2024 presidential battle for DPP are beginning to have second thoughts.
His detractors now realize that as much as they would want and try to water down his presidential chances, Chimulilenji still comes down as the top most presidential contender they cannot just dismiss. He is the man to watch in the DPP and if they are not careful, they are about to watch the whole presidential contention profile flip in a way reminiscent of how the Vice President arrived on the presidential political scene in the first place.
To beginning with, Chimulilenji is the constitutional Vice President of this country who enjoys the power of incumbency. It means despite what his detractors think or how they regard him, he is the recognizable second person in the country's chain of command and that in the event of anything happening to President Peter Mutharika (and they must pray it does not happen), Chimulilenji will become the top dog even before people will start talking about the constitution.
Chimulilenji also enjoys the support of two very powerful people in the ruling elite of the DPP administration: Fist Lady, Gertrude Mutharika and Chief Bodyguard to Peter Mutharika, Norman Paulos Chisale.
In case people have forgotten, it was due to the power of the First Lady that little known Chimulilenji was catapulted to the echelons of power as running-mate to President Peter Mutharika in the May 21 General Election, when many people were talking about 'gurus' in the party. Remember the Ginnery Corner 'lift' to nominations for the presidency?
Things like these don't usually happen in politics without a powerful hand, or a 'godperson' working behind the scenes. The First Lady is Chimulilenji's godmother with a very powerful hand in the DPP's internal politics. The bad news for Chimulilenji detractors is that that powerful hand looks set to repeat itself.
Chimulilenji also comes from Ntcheu which is regarded as part of the central region in the geopolitical profile of Malawi. The script is already been written for President Chimulilenji, with him as Presidential candidate in 2024, and someone from the south as running-mate. Already, in an act of 'if you can't beat them just join them, we are now seeing some hitherto presidential hopefuls silently dropping and joining the Chimulilenji camp in a quest to become his running-mate in the next election.
Now it looks like the grooming for Chimulilenji is very much on championed by none other than First Lady, Gertrude Mutharika. In the first round, she demonstrated her stamina and won by a margin, which is why we are talking about Vice President Everton Chimulilenji now. The second round is here and it remains to be seen whether there is still electricity in the four walls of Peter Mutharika's bedroom.