By Ohemu Godwin Pius
To paraphrase Chinua Achebe, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the African character. There is nothing wrong with our land or climate or water or air or anything else. The problem with Africa is squarely and mainly the failure of leadership.
Africa is young, fertile and impregnated with lots of economic potentials. With 54 countries and more than 1 billion people, expanding labour force, a robust economy, extensive oil and gas reserves, a largely unexploited petroleum downstream sector, opportunities in strategic sectors as agriculture, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, energy and mining, Africa is a bright spot on the economic horizon of the 21st century. She is the hopeful continent, but amidst riches and abundance, Africa has been held back by the lethal cocktail of failed leadership and corruption.
Judging from the current state of the nations, one cannot but agree with Elder Adedeji that what African countries have lacked during most of their history, as independent states are leaders who are unifiers, chiefs in the true sense, who bind wounds, hold everything and everyone together, mobilize and motivate their people, pursue a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion and are seen by one and all to be of the highest integrity and beyond suspicion.
Everything starts and ends with leadership. The problem of armed conflicts and insecurity in Africa is as a result of the unwillingness or inability of African leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership. It is the lack of visionary, focused, effective and future-concerned leaders who are true democrats!
For decades, Africa has suffered from lack of enlightened leadership and a bad style of political and economic guidance. And if there’s anything that we need so urgently as a continent, it is visionary, future-concerned and committed leaders who are true democrats; leaders who would rise to their responsibilities and lead by example. Africa needs leaders with success mentality—men and women who will through faith and insight conceive a picture of a developed and safe Africa and would wisely employ the continent’s resources to realize this vision. Africa is in dare need of leaders who are trust-worthy; men and women of integrity, taste, track record and love for fellowmen.
As Wangari Maathai once says, “below the thin layer of racial and ethnic chauvinism, religion, and politics, the real reason for many conflicts is the struggle for the access to and control of the limited resources on our planet.” Africa desires, as a matter of utmost importance, leaders who would be accountable and responsible in the management of its natural resources and ensure even distribution of the proceeds therefrom among the various geo-political zones in their countries. Marginalization of one unit or group must never be allowed so as to avoid any feeling of alienation.
It is unbelievable that we sit on wealth as a continent but we are the greatest receiver of aid from Europe and America. The solution to our long standing problems of economic stagnation is not foreign aid. It is going back to the drawing board and fixing our leadership problems.
You cannot curb corruption by fighting corruption. It has so many children, and many people are pregnant with it about to deliver. You cannot address our issues of leadership failure by recycling the same set of leaders over and over again as they move from one political party to the other. Africa needs a new generation of leaders—a generation of servant-hood leaders who would love serving more than being served, empowering more than retaining power, giving authority more than taking authority and producing leaders more than maintaining followers.
A new concept of leaderships is what we need to bring about sustainable development in Africa. And the only way we can do this is when we commit ourselves to youth empowerment and development. Development not just in giving the youths positions in cabinet or government parastatals, but investment to raise a crop of enlightened and godly individuals who are equipped with the requisite knowledge of effective leadership.
We must go back to the home and get it right early with our children. Our young ones must not grow with a poisoned mindset. Through exemplary lifestyle, we must give them a foundation for unity, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence with one another. We must teach them early to respect other people’s culture and beliefs, honour the constitution, obey court decisions and help them understand that despite our differences, what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Children who have learned submission to authority in the home learn submission to the authority of civil government. And civic leaders who have grown up in homes where they have experienced a life of doing good to others will see their function as civil servants who must do good to others. They will not see their work as a position of power. They will see it as an opportunity to serve their communities and nations as humble civic servants. In our homes we mould good characters. With good characters we shape our society. With our society we build strong nations. And with 54 strong nations, we build vibrant and prosperous continent.
The development of Africa is critical for the development of the world. If Africa gets it right on leadership, then the world has gotten it right. As the cradle of early civilizations, fixing Africa is a giant leap to fixing the world.
“The fish rots from the head down” has long been the case of Africa. If we can fix our leadership deficiency and get it right from the home, we can enjoy true economic development and Africa would stand tall as the hopeful continent.