Diescho’s Dictum – the Crisis of Leadership in Afrika – Part 2 [analysis]

In 2004 Robert Guest published his book: The Shackled Continent, wherein he chronicles the myriad of maladies impeding Africa’s move towards its highest potential.

Amongst these is the culture of backwardness, corruption in government structures, despotic political leadership, misaligned foreign donations, an inability to deal with diseases such as HIVAids and a lack of an honest ethic in law enforcement echelons.

In 2006 Robert Calderisi authored The Trouble with Africa, pointing out that Afrika’s reliance on foreign aid and the unending corruption and incompetence of African governments were the causes why Afrika was going nowhere very slowly.

liRevolutionaries came, liberated their countries and proceeded to run Africa into the groundli
liSoldiers came, promised redemption, and hastened to run Africa into the groundli
liCivilians came and keep coming, better equipped at running Africa into the ground.li
liThere have been moments of great rhetoric about the bright future for Afrika:li
li1960 was called Africa’s Yearli
liThe 1980s were described as Africa’s Decadeli
liThe post-1990s was heralded as Africa’s Century – yet Africans continue to suffer, this time at the hands of their very own people and liberators.li

That great dreamer who delivered independence to Ghana, Kwame Francis Nkrumah cried out loud: Seek ye first political kingdom and the rest will be added unto you.

Political Kingdom came, yes, but very little was added. Nkrumah went as far as saying Africans must be given the opportunity to manage and mismanage their own affairs.

Nkrumah’s curse is that of mismanagement because Afrikan leaders excelled in mismanaging their nations’ affairs, and continue to do so very well.

The tale of this great but not altogether happy continent is long, endless.

Political independence, which was welcomed by all, has become saddled with major problems, such that the pain of the ordinary citizens across the continent deepens. Many people even look with nostalgia to the days of colonial oppression and in some countries in West Africa people started to ask: When will this independence be over?

The starting point must be the acceptance and acknowledgement that before colonization, even slavery, there was Afrika with people and cultures and political systems and kingdoms. That is to say, Africans managed their affairs before European potentates renamed their habitats.

This we ought to know without the aisements of graduate consultants or aisers from outside. Afrikans had great imaginations as they tilled the earth to sustain themselves and their mortgaged future for generations to come.

The mastery of life was going on in Africa long before the European invasion and domination.

There must come a time when we have to name the wrongs of the past and determine what must be done to change the situation.

We must admit that often we just do not know enough about ourselves, and the less we know the less likely it is for us to succeed in taking the road less travelled. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other, said John F. Kennedy at a business trade show in Dallas, Texas just before he was assassinated in 1963.

Something went wrong, very wrong in Afrika. Yet, the last fifty years or so of Uhuru politics had seen Africa experience a leadership style which was good in taking people out of oppression but Not into the Promised Land, and no milk and honey for everybody followed political independence.

Imagine if Moses was the only Israelite in the Promised Land who had access to the milk and honey.

Moses understood the distinction between freedom from and freedom to. He understood that it was NOT good enough to tell people to get out of oppression.

He went further to persuade his people to be free from oppression and free to do things for themselves as they wished.

What went wrong? What happened to the caring, compassionate Africa such that it turned into an uncaring, uncompassionate Africa with leaders who constantly eat on behalf of their people? This is a fundamental question for us if we are ready to move into the future wherein we shall be meaningful contributors to better life for the greatest number of our people.

We need to learn about ourselves first.

We need to learn about the situations which make our leaders.

We need to understand the strides and types of mistakes we made in the past. In order to know where we are going, we need to know where we are coming from. One of the most universal truths of our time is that there is a genuine hunger for compelling, creative and transformative leadership.

Our knowledge of Africa is critical in the way we ought to do this differently.

One is instructed by that old African proverb: “Until lions have their own historians, all stories about hunting will glorify the hunter.”

They say that if you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there. In his book, The Black Man’s Burden, Basil Davidson reminds us of how Africans have been shortchanged by colonialism and the subsequent imposition of the European nation-state upon the African people.

He argues that when Africans inherited the nation-state from their colonial masters and without transforming it to suit the circumstances of the African people, the new rulers, the post-colonial African leaders became imitators of the very abusive and oppressive practices that drove them into becoming fearless freedom fighters in the first place.

In so doing the very people who led the liberation struggle against foreign oppression became invariably the worst oppressors of their own people.

The celebrated Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, writing in 1958, in his The Man of the People warned poignantly: The trouble with our new nation … was that none of us have been indoors long enough … we had all been in the rain together until yesterday. The handful of us, the smart and the lucky and hardly ever the best … had scrambled for the one shelter our former rulers had left, and had taken it over and barricaded themselves … . And from within they sought to persuade the rest through numerous loudspeakers … that all argument should cease and the whole people speak with one voice …

There are paradoxes, which are part of our realities of post-colonial Afrika. In as much as we can claim that we have democracy and even though life is arguably better now than before, and that society still demands powerful, popular leaders to solve the nation’s problems, there is more suspicion of g and centralized leaderships and abuse of power.

In other words, even though society is hankering for democratic and common person types of leaders, the same society wants leaders who are uncommon, charismatic, heroic and visionary.

Even though we want a decent, caring and compassionate leader, yet everybody’s admiration goes towards the cunning, guileful, and even ruthless and manipulative leader.

Even though we admire a leader who is common, approachable and predictable yet we respect more the effective politician who is creative and masterful in the game of politics.

Though we desire a leader who can unify diverse people and interests, yet we hanker for an effective leader who can take a firm stand, as if to say that society needs divisive unifiers and unifying dividers.

We all hanker for bold, visionary, innovative, programmatic leaders who are pragmatic in their response to public opinion.

We all yearn for leaders who are self-confident and g-minded, yet we are suspicious of leaders who are self-convicted and decisive.

Even though the majority of our populations are female, yet those deciding on their behalf predominantly prefer males to lead them.

One paradox that leads to mediocrity is intellectual in that as we claim to know much about our leaders, we know very little about leadership. We continue to fail to grasp the essence of leadership that is relevant and required for our time. Hence we cannot agree on the standards by which to recruit, measure, and reject leadership. Leaders are cultural and political innovators. Leaders are inspirational. Leaders are about mobilizing others who become followers. Leaders are about goal setting and goals are about fulfilling dreams of a collective people. Leaders are definers andor defenders of values. Leaders are satisfiers of collective needs. It would appear that there are more managers in our world than leaders. We must understand that leaders lead and managers manage – most of the time.

There is a problem of leadership in Afrika generally and Namibia specifically. As Chinua Achebe opined in his 1984 book, The Trouble with Nigeria, when he said: The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of the leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigeria character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge’

Elly Twineyo-Kamagusha, in his 2012 book Why Africa Fails concludes that Africans must accept that its current malaise is due to the failures of Africans themselves that result from greed, poor [planning] policies and lack of leadership.

In sum, the main challenge LEADERSHIP. The problem of leadership in Namibia is real.

Denying it will not help us.

We have an abundance of politicians, not enough leaders. We might even have enough political managers, not leaders.

Namibia is the most stable and most peaceful country on the African continent due to the quality of leaders this nation has had during the struggle for freedom and in the beginning of our Republic. At the moment, however, the signs are not very encouraging.

Now the nation is at a crossroads, especially in the course of 2014 as we prepare to usher in the next crop of leaders, both in the legislative and executive branches of government.

Namibia needs and deserves good stewardship of the people, not just a good Swapo or any other political party politician. Namibia needs and is crying for leaders with the ability and fortitude to take the nation into the next decade, next century as people that are at peace with themselves, their neighbours and the international community.

We need leaders who believe in skill, knowledge and expertise. The fact that the management of the affairs of the nation has been entrusted in the hands of mostly unelected individuals, some of whom are the semi-literates and who owe their status to someone who picked them not on the basis of merit, but unargued-for loyalty, is very troubling.

We need an education system that is able to inculcate in the minds of the Namibian children a common philosophy and a socialization that in this country you are rewarded not on the basis of race, skin colour, tribe, language, ethnic group, religion or political party affiliation (loyalty) but on the basis of what you contribute to the general wellbeing of the society where you are and the nation at large.

We need a leadership that serves as the custodian of the values and norms that keep the nation together in times of peace and in times of desperation.

We need a leadership that is able to inspire confidence in us when we are doubtful.

A leadership which is able to rise above the pettiness and point to greater goals, able to make see possibilities out of impossibilities, able to make us extraordinary out of our ordinary selves, able to unite us when we splinter, able to talk sense into us when we flounder, able to whisper love into our ears when we are mean spirited and self-righteous, able to give us all a sense of security when we feel vulnerable, able to console us when mourn, able to comfort us when we despair, able to pull us back to the centre when we go astray and when things fall apart, able to charge with a sense of purpose in the context of one single loyalty to One Namibian State and not party or tribe or ethnic group – a leadership that is able to assure us that we are indeed One Zebra Nation in the Land of the Brave!

Source : New Era