Leadership has posed one of the most daunting challenges on the Continent of Africa. Its inability to develop and expand as rapidly as it should is also blameable on this challenge.
In contrast, the developed continents of the world have succeeded in overcoming this challenge by the way and manner they have conducted their affairs.
The major dilemma facing the African Continent is how to navigate through the intricate and turbulent challenges of leadership, more so now that the global world is faced with new challenges premised on the need to build closely-knit societies that would withstand the enervating and troubling task of stemming off wars and conflicts. The war of words between the United States and Russia over Syria exposes the world to greater danger of nuclear conflict.
The bombing of Aleppo, particularly humanitarian convoys and hospitals, has aggravated the conflict in Syria and opened up a new vista for clash of interests by the world superpowers.
Should the Syrian War have escalated the way it did if African leaders had demonstrated sufficient restraint and acuity in leadership? I have asked this question to underscore the deficiencies of Africa leadership.
The attitude of African leaders of recent has been both myopic and egocentric. This new attitude underscores the direction in which leadership and following in Africa are going. Indeed, leadership has become such a topical issue globally such that Africa is expected to remain on the alert and work consciously to reinvent itself more pragmatically in international politics and diplomacy.
The new awareness among the developed economies is a product of the synergy among them to build a thoroughly retrospective world devoid of the usual acrimony that had stalled the effort to bring the world together. The various global workshops on climate change, security, economic growth and development, and other divergent issues are all geared towards building a more peaceful and secure world. But have we been able to make reasonable progress in this sphere?
But these laudable objectives will not produce the desired results without a credible and responsible leadership. It is painful that out of the 7 continents of the world Africa has occupied the lowest part of the ladder, because of the absence of articulate and God-fearing leaders. The leadership problem in Africa, which spans several centuries, has continued to get more and more complex by the day, without any visible sign of abating. Rather the situation has been exacerbated by the odious and perilous craze for materialism and ostentation among our leaders who are bent on having their way at the detriment of the poor masses.
The truth of the matter is that the strength of any nation lies in its leadership. The United States and other superpowers are respected today because their leaders showed resilience, commitment and valour in the face of adversity in defence of their nation’s sovereignties – both in times of war and peace. The backwardness of Africa in comparison to other continents finds its root in the obsessive and dictatorial inclinations of our leaders.
There is nothing good God did not bless Africa with. It is not disputable that from north to south of Africa there is unquantifiable abundance of raw materials which when fully and judiciously explored will leave the rest of the world green with envy. Yet little is done to uplift Africa and exploit these resources to the benefit of the poor and suffering.
I find it quite ironical that while international companies and tourists have found a safe haven in Africa, many able-bodied Africans seek refuge in Europe and America. The situation is compounded by the greed and avarice of our leaders who spend more time acquiring wealth than serving the people.
Only last year alone over 2,000 illegal immigrants lost their lives in the tempestuous and ferocious waves that laced the path of their deadly voyage on the high seas in search of better life. Those who managed to reach their destinations were inhumanly treated – leaving them worse than they were before they left home.
Who can explain why Africa, which used to command so much respect in the international arena, suddenly became a pariah continent and an object of opprobrium and caricature? We will be wasting our time as a people if we failed to provide an answer to this question. Africa boasts of all that is needed to make it compete favourably with its global counterparts.
Apart from the insensitivity of our elected leaders the policy of its colonizers contributed to the aggravation of its leadership dilemma. The infiltration of our culture and the erosion of the foundational morass of Africa by a cocktail of foreign culture and milieu are fundamental problems, which require prompt and methodical approach to fix. Even our people’s style of leadership is predicated on the influence of foreign cultures.
All over Africa, unfortunately though, there is a recurring and familiar trait that tends to vitiate the collective effort by several countries to institutionalize a functional framework to tackle their own problems bearing in mind their respective peculiarities. But little has been achieved in this regard because of the lack of will on the part of leaders to pragmatically confront the challenges of growth and development.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is one commendable effort designed by the international community to give Africa a development plan to enable it to reposition its economy as a first step towards self-independence. This plan can only work if our leaders can take the lead in denouncing self-glorification, greed and disorienting shenanigans that have held them hostage to their conscience.
There is no doubt that there had been many international summits on leadership crisis in Africa; but little progress has been made. Have we ever paused and pondered what is responsible for the lethargy and obtrusion militating against the attainment of leadership goals in Africa? Just as I mentioned earlier, leadership in Africa is characterised by hedonistic and oligarchic disposition of the top echelon which devotes more time to ego-massaging, cult-worship and acquisitiveness.
In all honesty, the people of Africa have been very unlucky with their leaders so much that it has continually become difficult to produce genuine and selfless leaders. We were and are still witnesses to the highhandedness and excesses of some past and present leaders such as Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sese-Seko of Zaire, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Equatorial Guinea, and Eduardo dos Santos of Angola. These leaders have left a sour taste in the mouth of leadership through their dictatorial and egoistic tendencies in the exercise of their mandate. Up till date, some of these leaders have constituted themselves into a big terror to their people, particularly the opposition, who are daily maligned and intimidated with the paraphernalia of power to coerce them to dance to their whims and caprices.
I recall with pain when some time ago the Angolan Parliament amended the Constitution to give President Eduardo dos Santos access to power, without necessarily engaging in competitive elections.
The same situation obtained in Kenya when it joined the league of nations in the throes of despotism. The thousands of lives and properties lost to the uproar that trailed its botched presidential election a few years ago are a tale-tale signs of the growing disquiet and brimming animosity among the people. Indeed, it is like a bomb waiting to explode.
It is a question worth asking why our present leaders cannot take a cue from the exemplary and visionary leadership qualities of great Pan-Africans such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, etc. These leaders jettisoned their personal interests to work for the peace and progress of their countries. This is why they are treated with so much adulation and respect by their people – long after they had died.
There were many other individual politicians who distinguished themselves throughout their political enterprise. They loathed bitterness and rancour and preached peace and reconciliation. One of such men was the late Malam Aminu Kano who died without a roof over his head. He lived and died for the poor whose cause he pursued vigorously until he breathed his last. Today posterity has immortalised him as he is globally remembered as a distinguished activist for political decency, gentlemanliness and gait.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Nigeria’s stunted growth and development have their roots in poor leadership. This has remained a canker in the social, economic and political life of the country. To fast-track the process of developing Nigeria requires first a concerted effort to redirect the focus and energy of its political class towards selfless and purposeful leadership. The United States, Britain, France and other developed economies are where they are today because they succeeded in overcoming this initial obstacle. It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that almost every African country experienced this recurring barrier. Countries such as South Africa, Egypt and Seychelles have advanced considerably, beyond the imagination of the entire world, because they have some form of focused leadership. This underlines the argument that the progress of any nation is predicated on the kind of leadership it enjoys.
It is regrettable that Nigeria is waddling through persistent, fierce economic and political upheavals as a result of poor leadership. Definitely, this was not the dream of its founding fathers who sacrificed even their lives to fight for its independence.
It may be right to argue that Nigeria, and indeed Africa, would have made better progress in every facet of its national life if it had been blessed with good and responsible leadership. The continent is substantially undeveloped because of the absence of quality leadership. In my thinking, therefore, the focus of the international community should centre on how to achieve this objective.
No amount of aid the world sends to the continent will be meaningful if it fails to assist it to institutionalise people-oriented leadership. This has become imperative because there cannot be development without the elimination of corruption that has continually eroded the very foundation on which it was founded.
It is unfortunate that the enormous resources on the continent of Africa could not be judiciously exploited because of the inability of its leaders to chart a sustainable course for development. This has exposed the continent to undue foreign exploitation and neo-imperialism. I am pained that the people of the continent have remained generally poor, ignorant and diseased, making them concentrate little on what is done to improve their well-being.
I believe that if Africa succeeds in solving its leadership problems it will be better placed to compete favourably in the comity of nations. Rather than donate aid to Africa the world should think about assisting it to entrench the culture of sustainable growth and development epitomised in a well-structured governmental structure and deepened by a desire by its people to cooperate to make it great. The idea of Africans seeking solace outside the shores of their continent is also largely responsible for its backwardness.
As I stated earlier the risks involved in this perilous adventure increase as their desire to travel out heighten.
What kind of leadership does Africa need? In all sincerity, Africa needs the kind of leadership that possesses the skills and qualities relevant to solving its peculiar problems. The kind of leadership that suits Europe my not suit Africa. That is why the search for leadership for Africa should go beyond the general qualities and glittering track record. It is inadvertent that proper distinction is not made between operational contexts of leadership and the turf where the leader is called to play. The peculiarity of the environment where the leaders is expected to serve determines the kind of leader that is suitable for that environment. Both must enjoy a perfect mix.
Individualising the qualities and principles of leadership is of paramount significance since leadership centres on the ability of the individual to bring these qualities to bear on the leadership of his people. Indeed, it takes just the effort of one person to change the fortunes of a people.In essence, Africa needs leaders who understand the problems of the continent and can apply their professional skills and personal attributes to solve them.
It also needs visionary leaders. A visionary leader is one who has the wherewithal and mental capability to grapple with the intricate problems of development. This is in consideration of the fact that Africa is steadily heading for deeper crisis if nothing pragmatic is done to arrest it. It is feared that the continent, within the next decade, will be overwhelmed by its growing problems, especially poverty, diseases, and decay of vital institutions if nothing is done fast to produce altruistic and realistic leaders. Is it not worrisome that 18 out of the 53 independent nations on the continent are statistically regarded as the least developed? This is aside from the fact that about 70% of its population lives on 2 dollars daily, with a tangible number afflicted by wars and famine.
Trustworthy and honest leaders are scarce products in Africa. Trustworthiness is built on self-conviction, honour and integrity. This is why corruption has virtually been institutionalised. Corruption has destroyed the fabric of the continent. And to fight corruption requires leaders who are upright, morally-firm, urbane and thorough. A combination of these qualities has become imperative if we are to get over the present crisis of leadership threatening its continued existence. Leadership is easier if the leader can command the trust of its followers.
I wish to observe that electoral fraud and treasure-looting, which have vitiated the march towards sustainable democratic practices in Africa, have constituted the death-knell of its growth and development. The consequence of this unfortunate situation is capital flight and impoverishment of the continent.
In summary, it is my intention to urge all well- meaning persons to take a more serious look at the problems of leadership in Africa. Africa is one continent that cannot be allowed by the international world to continue to falter when something can be done to save it from self perdition.