Africa’s leadership failure

21 Jan, 2015 - 21:01 0 Views
Africa’s leadership failure

The Herald


Raila Odinga

Regardless of the indisputable meddlesome machinations of the imperialist West, the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah cannot be entirely divorced from the fact that at the material time many Ghanaians were bewildered, if not disappointed by the outcome of self-rule.Up to today, the post-independence African has found little around him to instil the confidence that as a people, Africans can manage the affairs of their own countries. Under colonialism our people dreamt that with liberation would come the opportunity for the African to prove his worth.

If there is one thing that African leadership has succeeded in doing over the years, it is to consolidate the persistence of the theory of African dependency. The other success of the contemporary African leader has been the overplaying of the blame game, fluently explaining away every leadership failure by simply highlighting the evils of the colonial legacy, and particularly that of its offshoot — neo-colonial Western imperialistic hegemony.

It is neither advisable nor helpful for anyone to ignore the external factors leading to the woes of the continent today, but it is simply pathetic when our leadership chooses to overlook the internal factors that have stalled or derailed development in post-independence Africa, and only for the sole reason that they are cowards incapable of coming face to face with their own weaknesses.  Like most of the founding fathers of African independence, Nkrumah’s vision for Africa was grandiose, but we have this sad reality that our collective nobility of purpose has not always translated into exemplary leadership.

Africa’s economic malaise is not the result of lack of opportunities or resources. Rather, the continent suffers from the affliction of dishonest leadership, and this is not to demean the efforts of a few exceptional leaders who have shown commitment to duty, among whom young leaders like Uhuru Kenyatta can be counted. But these are the few of the few.

Our leaders are often so removed from the people that they end up looking like foreigners to the very people they purport to lead.

Stripped of political rhetoric and the impressive chants against imperialism and neo-colonialism, the self-interests of our leadership are hardly different from those of the colonial masters.

The catastrophe of bad leadership has created the impression that the African is incapable of finding African solutions to the problems affecting the continent, and this is not exactly a product of racialism or the supremacist attitude of the former colonisers.

Rather, it is a widely shared view towards the continent by many other peoples of this world, including many of us Africans.

Our leadership has for long been defined by indecisiveness and inaction, and this is why we are eminently known as illustrious back-seaters in international affairs, leaving the driving to all others, especially to the Western world. It really does not make much of a difference for us if the matter of concern is of immediate concern to Africans: we always want to look up to the superior beings from elsewhere to rescue our situation. We can bring up the issue of Ebola or HIV/AIDS, civil conflicts or even climate change; our attitudinal stand is always to surrender the driving seat to the western world.

Soldiers in West Africa became notorious for coups in the 1970s and ‘80s, and whenever they took over power they cited corruption, economic mismanagement, high cost of living, among other many things; just like today’s post-independence political parties will often do as they style themselves along the illustrious image of “pro-democracy movements”.

But we have this disheartening political reality where, like the military men before them, our contemporary opposition parties have almost always ended up doing the things they preach against, every time adopting the chart left by the ousted governments.

When Kenya and Zimbabwe played around with the idea of inclusive governments between 2008 and 2013, one thing that came out clear was the unequivocal consensus for self-aggrandisement across the political divide, characterised by unanimous resolves for better packages for parliamentarians and for the executive. The song of overspending normally heard from opposition circles was replaced by united silence over the public service payroll.

With incumbency taking its toll on the honesty of the opposition maverick, perhaps more accurately to be described as the zeal of the novice; we have seen spectacular somersaults of fiery politicians instantly transforming into docile conformists to the corrupt system that continues to afflict us from one generation to another, all in endless perpetuity.

With the backing of the marginalised and poverty-stricken rural farmers, Jerry Rawlings seized power in 1979 but during his governance the same rural farmers became poorer than they were in the Nkrumah days. His priorities changed once he got into power.

The indictment of corruption is not excluded in the performance appraisal of Morgan Tsvangirai and Raila Odinga, after the two spent five years in inclusive governments for Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively.

Like every one of the vote-soliciting opposition politicians, the two had previously portrayed themselves as the well-intended ones, in the process commanding near majority support bases.

After blowing their own myths, the support bases for the two have been fast drying up in their post-government political careers.

Although Rawlings carried out his threat to deal with people he suspected to be involved in corruption and all other perceived malfeasance, his own post-power indictment does not exclude corruption.

When a country as well-endowed agriculturally as Zimbabwe becomes a recipient of food aid, or has its name missing on the global mineral traders list despite the rich mineral content under its surface, there must be something fundamentally wrong.

Despite our impressive resoluteness in repossessing our colonially stolen farmlands in 2000, we have sadly not shown equal willpower in supporting the new farmer. To the contrary, we read about unscrupulous businesspeople that have elected to dishonestly profiteer at the expense of the struggling poor farmers.

We hear of a scam run by a company going by the name Lasch Investments, and media reports suggest that the owners and directors of this dishonest outfit premeditatedly duped poor farmers of their hard-earned little cash; promising to provide farming inputs, which the company never bothered to source.

Our land reform and indigenisation programmes could easily be our revolutionary monument as a nation, and perhaps the lasting legacy for President Mugabe, if managed and developed properly, but as things stand at the moment, it could also end up as our Waterloo.

Our leaders are smitten by the demon of individualism, itself the poison that kills every beautiful dream and hope of a community. We define success wrongly: teaching our children that success is a good job, or a loan from a bank to buy a car or a house, and we believe doing impressive donation-soliciting proposals is success. We have a short-term mentality that has effectively stalled development for the continent.

South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was meant to get South Africans to acquire nation-building skills, but in all reality the programme has only developed a hustler mentality among the few that have benefited from it.

People have set up IT firms with no programmers; construction companies with no engineers.

The pre-occupation has never been service delivery, but tender acquisition — the use of the black skin to get the gig, only to pass it on to the white supplier, of course after heavily inflating the cost for the job.

This is the mentality that defines the mindset of post-independence African leadership today. There is next to nothing in terms of stimulating African trade, and just about everything to do with allowing better exploitation, dependency, and shameful puppetry.

Of course South Africa is the land of the legendary Nelson Mandela; that highly-honoured man whose indisputable proof of dedication seems to be the time he spent in an apartheid prison, now a national monument. Obviously time in jail is not immunity from critique, and we have to judge Mandela’s post-prison legacy, not solely by when he relinquished power, but what he did with his time at the helm of South Africa’s leadership, especially for the poor majority of South Africans.

On the eve of South Africa’s independence, there was need for a type of hero that essentially did not exist, but was desperately needed as part of the terms of handover to the ANC.

The branding policy in the West was to force a rainbow that did not exist, that does not exist even today, and in the political monstrosity of apartheid, a hero was needed — a name and a brand the world could associate with cheek-turning reconciliation, coming hand in glove with Western style liberty and democracy.

Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu were instantly elevated to make the grade, and they did not disappoint.

Tutu has even betrayed his own God in pursuit of conformity to Western values, including the gay culture.

The tradition that created Mandela, and to a lesser extent Desmond Tutu, defines the culture the West is too keen to have Africans adopt.

The tradition is good for Western businesses, and excellent for trade, much as it is indisputably unhelpful for the African cause.

This is what Winnie Mandela had to say about her ex-husband Mandela’s legacy:

“This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died. Many unsung and unknown heroes of the struggle, and there were others in the leadership too, like poor Steve Biko, who died of the beatings, horribly all alone. Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a burning young revolutionary. But look what came out.”

Our leadership must know the tools in the leadership toolbox, and they must have the expertise to choose the right tools for the right tasks. You do not tighten screws with a hammer, or dig trenches with a spoon. Africa we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

•REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.

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