The leader of both the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate Duma Boko brought the concept of Relational Intelligence to the fore when welcoming into and presenting Councillor Rre Michael Bagopi to the BNF and by extension the UDC in particular and the general public in general. While I caught the Advocate’s address on the Councillor on Botswana Television at the end whereupon I could not get the full context and relevance of Relationship Intelligence thereat, I nevertheless got interested in finding out what this concept is all about and whether the Advocate applied it to both institutions he leads given their challenges. But what is Relational Intelligence?
From a layman’s perspective, one could define it as that important relationship between the leader of an organisation and its membership with the primary aim of decisively dealing with challenges at their early stages such that they do not derail the organisation’s bigger vision and mission. As could be expected, this is a concept that would be defined in many ways as democracy is. Jeremie Kubicek defines it as ‘the ability to connect and be present in the midst of tasks’. Steve Saccone, on his paper entitled ‘Turning Big Conflicts into Smaller Conflicts’ says ‘Most of us do not enjoy relational conflict, mostly because in some way it creates discomfort or awkward tension. And although we often choose to avoid it, we ultimately cannot avoid the consequences of that avoidance. In many cases, we let small problems or tensions go unaddressed, and later they add up to cause a much larger, more uncomfortable conflict. When we avoid smaller issues too long, they soon become larger issues. Relationally intelligent people learn to address small conflicts head on, in constructive ways, and as a result they don’t have to avoid as man of the larger conflicts and all the awkwardness and discomfort that come with it.’
It would appear from those who invented the concept of Relation Intelligence and those who have elevated it to another level and are therefore competent to give direction that amongst others they apply it to inevitable conflict inherent in the political space in which the Advocate finds himself. Like other political formations elsewhere, the BNF and the UDC find themselves in some form of conflict necessitated by the presence of human beings driven by similar political destination but dissimilar road thereto. It is how these conflicts are managed to avoid manifesting themselves into situations where in the end, they become unmanageable with serious ramifications. These conflicts, I must add, obtain in other political formations in this country. In this instance however, I am dealing specifically with the BNF and the UDC.
To bring the foregoing into context, there was conflict in one of the UDC affiliates in the form of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which resulted in one group breaking away to form the Alliance for Progressives (AP). In the remaining affiliates of the UDC, there is tension-cum-conflict with respect to, inter alia, re-visiting the allocation of constituencies owing to the founding of the AP; implementing resolutions of the recent UDC congress/conference held at Boipuso Hall and the seemingly divided UDC in the Moshupa-Manyana Parliamentary by-election. In this regard, Relationship Intelligence seems to be putting the UDC on the firm back foot.
The BNF, on the other hand, is reportedly facing its own tension-cum-conflict which it would appear, is caused by the lack Relationship Intelligence. For example, the Advocate is reportedly planning or has planned to personally fund the upcoming BNF conference to be held in Rakops in July this year. The Botswana Guardian newspaper dated 8 June 2018 quotes the Advocate to have said that “My intention is to provide transportation for all delegates to the conference and to feed them while there without them having to spend anything.” On the other hand, the “Anti-Boko faction plans to interdict the president on the basis that this precedent is unlawful.” One would assume and expect the Advocate to have channeled the personal funds through the party treasurer such that no un-necessary tension and conflict is created by the otherwise noble gesture from him as it appears to be the case. The executive committee of the BNF would, for the sake of argument, have asked for the source of these funds given the brouhaha surrounding the National Petroleum Fund scandal. I am not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that the Advocate’s funds are blood funds. But given the instability in the political landscape the UDC and its affiliates find themself in, I would have expected him to have displayed his Relationship Intelligence by taking the BNF into his confidence by avoiding creating perceptions about personally sponsoring the upcoming Rakops conference.
Given the tension-cum-conflict challenges facing both the BNF and UDC, the Advocate seems to have fallen far too short with the Relationship Intelligence concept to avoid smaller issues which in turn have become larger issues and as a consequence, have brought instability in both the BNF and the UDC. An argument has been made, rightly or wrongly, that given the precarious state of affairs between some members of the BNF and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the UDC, chances of the UDC unseating the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are fast diminishing. A question could be asked: if the Advocate had walked the talk of Relationship Intelligence in both spirit and letter, would the BNF and the UDC be any better than they currently are? The answer is pretty obvious: they would have.
Firstly, and based on the ‘avoid smaller issues too long, they soon become larger issues’ as said by Steve Saccone above, the BMD wouldn’t possibly have split to result in the founding of the AP which in itself and by itself, has substantially or otherwise destabilised the UDC. Put differently, if the BMD problems were attended to and managed at their infancy or at the very least a proper congress re-run was ordered post UDC dispute resolution process, the BMD wouldn’t have arguably, imploded. Secondly, the deep-seated undercurrents afflicting the UDC could on the basis of Relationship Intelligence have been dealt with by the disbanding of individual parties to form a single political party under a single Constitution. The UDC is failing to manage itself let alone its affiliates who like I have said before, are more loyal to themselves given their historical backgrounds.
In the end, Advocate Boko, given the fractious state of both the BNF and the UDC he is privileged to lead, has regrettably failed to walk the talk of Relationship Intelligence. He has with the greatest of respect, seriously and painfully failed to ‘avoid smaller issues too long which have become larger issues. Relationally intelligence people learn to address small conflicts head on in constructive ways….’ I argue that relationally intelligent people set the agenda to lead their organisations and regrettably once again, the Advocate has not and perhaps against all expectations, succeeded in this regard. Like Steve Saccone says, he has failed to turn big conflicts into smaller conflicts. Judge for Yourself!