THERE are very few authoritative books in Zambia especially those written by journalists, who are traditional chroniclers of history.
Unlike academicians who repeat works written by their predecessors, usually micro waved to suit the rigid and usually academic templates, Zambia's Fall-Back Presidents: A Curse for Fear of Succession has the freshness that can come from a chronicler who has witnessed unfolding events first hand.
I would straight away recommend the book as a must read for historians, academicians, students, politicians and even ordinary readers who want to understand the events that have shaped the butterfly-shaped country called Zambia.
While the book is not a historical account of Zambia, it chronicles the six presidents (three who are dead) who have influenced both political and social landscapes of the country.
The controversial book will challenge anyone who boasts to know what shaped the ascendancy of all the six presidents who have ruled Zambia.
For example Mr Sikazwe commandingly states that all the six leaders who have led Zambia have been pushed to presidency unexpectedly.
The author controversially argues that another common denominator of all post-independence Zambian leaders is their foreign shadowy origin.
Again he backs this seemingly controversial charge with evidence that would make any historian research his erroneous earlier findings.
Divided in 14 chapters starting from the introduction entitled Transition in a continent replete with dictators, the book examines the leadership of the first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda under the chapter Kaunda factor: The absolute ruler, United Nations Independence Party (UNIP) sole candidate and chronicles the leadership of the second Republican President Frederick Chiluba of Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) covered under the chapter Chiluba storms in: the ruler not a leader democrat that never was.
The third Republican President Levy Mwanawasa also of MMD is covered under the chapter Mwanawasa woken up at night: Angry lobbyist right man of the right time.
The incumbent President Edgar Lungu of Patriotic Front (PF) is covered under the chapter Lungu: Another lucky man at the right place and the right time.
Under chapter 10 titled Fall-Back Legacies, Mr Sikazwe objectively weighs the merits of and demerits of all the six Presidents who have ruled Zambia.
His impartiality is enviable and authoritative since he speaks from a point of a detached commentator who knew almost all the leaders closely yet refuses to be tempted in praising one and criticising the other without evidence.
Mr Sikazwe who boasts a journalism career spanning almost half a century also devotes chapter 11 entitled Journalism under Fall-back presidents debating how journalism has fared under all the six leaders.
Always never shy of courting controversy, he debunks one of the most written and most asserted myths that the press became freer after Zambia reverted to plural politics in 1991.
To the contrary, Mr Sikazwe rubbishes this falsehood jettisoning it with the contempt and unworthiness it deserves.
On the political front, again the author charges under chapter 12 entitled Nothing has changed since UNIP bowed out, political arrests, thuggery, corruption persist.
The author argues that Zambian politics has been marred by corruption, regionalism, tribalism and other ills throughout the tenure of the six presidents.
Mr Sikazwe takes this argument to another level under Chapter 13 titled Zambia's opposition has never been inspiring since 1991 arguing that Zambian political parties have in most cases been breakaways united by frustration with the status quo.
He argues that despite criticising the mother party for undemocratic tendencies, most opposition parties fall in the same trap of not brooking any challenge to the leader's authority.
Here the author cites the Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC) whose leader the late Dean Mung'omba clung to the party presidency despite losing several times, while the late Michael Sata spent 10 years in opposition as the PF leader despite being old and sick.
Other leaders the author cites of exposing undemocratic tendencies is Edith Nawakwi who became the president of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) following the death of the party founder Christon Tembo who died on March 6, 2009. Nawakwi has remained party president for 12 years.
Mr Sikazwe also cites the leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema who has been the party president for a record 15 years without holding any convention until in 2021.
Under chapter 14 titled HH should have been president before Sata, Rupiah Banda and even Lungu, the author discloses how the UPND leader failed to take advantage of chances that could have taken him to plot one early.
Mr Sikazwe argues that HH missed this chance with the MMD and later with the PF long before other political players like Rupiah Banda, Sata and the incumbent President Lungu came on the political scenario.
Well, to deliberately avoid taking away the juice from this minefield of unknown information, Zambia's Fall-Back Presidents: A Curse for Fear of Succession is a must read for every progressive Zambian since it is not only a political book but an incisive history of the Zambian media written by a man who has witnessed events first hand.-AK