Is African Leadership a Millennium Prize Problem?
For as long as memory serves, we have been inundated by facts and figures of Nigeria’s and indeed Africa’s leadership malady. Statistics have been reeled off by various publications and informed individuals of the monumental corruption and gross ineptitude of those at the helm. Vitriol has been employed in painting an apt picture of these black sheep usually accompanied by a bandying of curses and ill wishes in the face of these oppressors, with fingers snapped rapidly and grimacing faces mirroring deep seated disgust.
Only one who has been under a rock and impervious to the domino effects of governance in the region for the last half century can deny that we have strayed from the vision of our founding fathers (and mothers). This however is not the purpose of this article, for depressing encyclopedias have been written highlighting such matters in the past. The aim of this piece is to cast the spotlight on ourselves as individuals, sub units of larger society and pool from which these leaders emanate.
It was John Fitzgerald Kennedy who once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you -ask what you can do for your country”. On the surface, this may sound like an absolution, an approval even, of the years of waste and mismanagement by the entity we refer to as ‘government’.
It is certainly not. The statement however raises a plethora of pertinent questions worthy of deliberation.
Are we playing our part as citizens? What kind of relationship do we have with each other in our respective communities? Our homes, offices, education centres, places of worship are a microcosm of society. Have we successfully replicated that grand model we would rather see at the pinnacle?
The golden rule is a principle which holds constancy amongst virtually every religious school of thought across the globe. To what level of success have we entrenched that in daily living? Do we encourage or stifle contrarian views? How do we regard fellow human beings?
Is everyone worthy of respect regardless of station? Would we be pleased if the treatment accorded the people of “lower estates” were meted out to our own progeny?
Kennedy’s assertion further seeks a response to the following:
Are we sincere with ourselves? At various points in life, we speak about issues of varying complexities. Are our words borne out of conviction or by a sort of opportunism of a survivalist nature, consciously seeking the benefits accruing to such a stance?
At what cost must man ‘wack’?
The declaration by the 35th President of the United States, innocuous at first glance, really does provide plenty to ponder on. Chinua Achebe, that sage of African literature, provides an interesting quote in his book, Anthills of the Savannah, which reads thus, “while we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”.
Running along similar lines, an offshoot of the Broken Windows theory, if subscribed to, suggests that plugging leaks while still in a miniature state would halt degeneration, proving a more cost effective solution in the long run.
If we agree that that there has been a systemic failure of government over time at virtually all levels, then amongst other things, we may need to examine the societal hinges on which it was built and make changes as deemed appropriate.
If we are of an accord that the Shangri-La which we crave is still a great distance from our present position, then we may need to channel our energies into rebuilding our institutions, tangible and intangible. It is not all doom and gloom. We must also acknowledge whatever progress has been made so far, no matter how minuscule and build the Continent’s Lego blocks from these points.
Africa’s leadership woes are not exactly Millennium Prize Problems. However, like Grigori Perelman, we must make concerted efforts to arrive at a lasting solution. We must build sustainable socio-economic models of development starting from the very foundation.
We are a resilient people. We cannot afford to fail.