It is the dedication, the principle to improve the lot of the masses, with a genuine spirit for public service, that bring people into leadership roles.
But in Africa, leaders often fail to carry out the precise issues that brought them into leadership positions. What leadership role has the King of Swaziland, who lives in affluence like an American Governor, when unemployment and poverty are extremely high in his kingdom, when young women in his land take to prostitution in droves despite an exceptionally high rate of HIV/AIDS, and most men and women must seek job in neighboring countries to survive?
How do we describe the leadership style in South Sudan, where state funds went missing in billions of US Dollars barely two years of independence after a protracted 30 year war, with the majority of the populace in abject poverty, and the new rulers openly showing off elements of the nouveau riche?
Should Africa have outstanding leadership, there should never by now be poor and unemployed Nigerians, malnourished South Africans, or deprived and hopeless Congolese.
However, when leadership failed, poverty, illness, the life in the ghetto, becomes the order of the day for the masses in most African nations, while the elites cruise about town in expensive limousines, living in posh apartments with the good life.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was set up to encourage ethical governance and democracy in Africa, with an attractive annual award of US$5m (five million US Dollars) for exceptional African national rulers who must have led his nation with a proven record of improved living standard for the majority of his nationals, and respectable constitutional departure from office.
Why pay someone a tremendously fat extra to induce him performs the job for which he had been generously remunerated, you hasten to ask. Many people are equally bothered. That is the irony of leadership style in Africa. Yet, for the third year running, the award could not find a worthy recipient. Could the Mo Ibrahim Foundation have been wrong?
What leadership is!
“The meaning of a message is the change which it produces in the image”. (Kenneth Boulding).
Leadership is a process by which a person, the leader, influences other people and members of a group to carry out an objective, a purpose, a goal or dream of the group; with the leader guiding and directing other members cohesively and coherently towards the attainment of those dreams and goals.
To emerge as the leader, a person should prove the essential qualities, traits and attributes in terms of character, values, ethics, beliefs, among others. These will give him an edge within the group, and qualify him as the lead personae. These are the attributes that the Presidential campaigns, interviews, town-hall meetings and debates are geared towards, to find out the good qualities, the strong points and their weaknesses, out of each candidate in the United States elections before they eventually have their names on the ballot papers.
What he knows by education, and what he is able to do well in terms of ability, are crucial to his emergence as a leader. His character and ethics would stand him out, over and above his contemporaries, to qualify him for the office of the leader. (Surprisingly, it is whom you know that matters in most African situations). Wonder how many credible candidates fell in the primaries of the American Presidential and general elections because of shortcomings in their ethics and personal affairs!
Four Factors of Leadership.
The Leader: The leader needs to have a clear-cut knowledge of his role and his preparedness for the task.
Who truly am I?
What can I honestly do in this role?
How can I not be a boss but a servant leader, gaining the trust, confidence and true respect of the followers?
The Followers: A significant factor is to realize that the group is made of various people or interest groups who should be addressed differently while holding the group together. Each vital element within the group should be given a different approach of leadership style by the leader without disrupting the cohesiveness within the body.
Communication: Effective leadership is maintained through a two-way communication process in the exemplary lifestyle and role-model attitude of the leader. This will enhance his reputation and urge members to understand, trust and get along with him. Otherwise, there would be distrust and disaffection.
Situation: It is pertinent for a leader to understand that each situation requires its peculiar way of treatment. The leader needs expert judgment to chart the right course out of each logjam.
Africa’s Peculiar Mess:.
One would wonder why the leading lights of Africa were put out in their prime.
The killing of Patrice Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to the raging war that has refused to die till this day in that country breeding poverty and crime waves in its aftermath.
Thanks to Jerry Rawlings, Ghana went way down the drain in corruption, economic mismanagement, and poverty after the assassination of Kwame Nkrumah, until the recent awakenings that began with the leadership of Mr. Rawlings.
Whether you like him or hate him, the best leader Nigeria ever had was Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He ruled Western Nigeria with openness and probity, and would have transformed that part of the country into an African Switzerland, but was prevented by his own people and put away in prison. Despite her abundant oil wealth, majority of Nigerians are poor and unemployed.
What role did African rulers and elites play in the trans-Atlantic slave trade?
What kind of leadership did those rulers give during “the scramble for Africa”?
Were some of these rulers not the friends of the oppressive colonial regimes?
Most African rulers and elites collaborated, cooperated and befriended the colonialists under the oppressive regime that they were unable to join the struggle for independence. They suddenly became the de-facto benefactors of the post independence era, claiming the land and the natural resources under the aegis of royalty. They live ostentatiously on public fund while keeping their kits and kins in positions of power, denying the masses of the right to reap from the good fruits of the land.
June 12, 1993 Presidential election in Nigeria was adjudged the most free and fair, but the “leadership” thought otherwise, and the results of that free and fair election were cancelled. The nation has not fully recovered from the ripples and consequences of the unpopular decision.
June 12, 2009 Presidential election in Iran was tilting towards the way of the opposition, the ruling class intervened, and journalists reported that the announced results were doctored, the masses displayed their disaffection through demonstrations and boycott. The government lacked credibility.
June 12, 2012 was a day of serious protest in Moscow and other parts of Russian Republic in protest of the May 7, 2012 swearing into office of President Vladimir Putin as the winner of the disputed Russian Presidential election. The initially unconstitutional third term in office of Mr. Putin reduced the influence of Russia and dented affected her prestige as a leading light in the comity of nations.
Since most of Africa was colonized by the United Kingdom, African rulers and elites always like to rule as a monarchy, passing the baton of leadership from one generation to another either within the family or a select group of elites. Progressives that tried to fight for the right of the masses would be cleared from the way.
The Vote – Effective Weapon of the African Mass Movement.
It is sad that many Africans of voting age are passive and complacent about voting and election matters. This attitude must change if Africa would eventually put credible and competent leadership in place. There must be a clear departure from undue respect for rulers who lack credibility and the authority to lead. Africans should learn not to waste time to transform despotic rulers, but support the masses in the development of an intelligent electorate that will understand the immense power of the vote, and would peacefully vote out corrupt and inept rulers, putting outstanding leadership in their stead.
To have trustworthy and credible leaders in Africa, the eligible African voter should understand his role, the value of his vote, and the need to make sure that each vote count. the Mo Ibrahim Foundation should seek for ways, to educate Africans about the power of the vote, better voting attitude and culture, and non-violent movements into government transition.
Africa needs leaders, not rulers, not Presidents nor Field Marshalls. Africans are tired of wars and incessant fighting among each other, wearied of run-away inflation and incurable diseases. Africans want to enjoy life in peace and harmony like in other lands. There is no place like home, Africans in the Diaspora want to return to a peaceful and happy home in Africa. Therefore, Africa need servant leaders, not rulers anymore. The following principles are some of the essential principles of servant leadership.
- Know Thyself: To try to know yourself begins with a desire to know God. The time you begin to know God is the time you begin to discover yourself, your purpose in life, your true dreams and goals, and how to channel all of these to become a strong and effective leader.
- Qualification: Tune up yourself for adequate and ideal qualification in chosen career or business to be fit for consideration as a candidate for leadership.
- Integrity: Be a man who is above-board. Be honest with yourself, and thus be honest to everybody else.
- Responsibility: Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Be responsible and take charge, even when things turn out awry, as they sometimes do. Never try to pass the buck, people will respect you for doing so.
- Dignity: Be a man of dignity in your private life and public relationships. This principle, if well nurtured will set you apart from the crowd, and earn you true respect of friends and foes.
- Decision Maker: Make decisions quickly, knowing that by deciding quickly, you make the best decisions. Know what to do next using adequate planning and problem-solving tools.
- Problem Solver: Treat all problems as opportunities to be creative. Apply creativity in every endeavor and thus enjoy a position of growing leadership.
- Role Model: Be exemplary, doing what you have to do as examples for others.
- Man of the People: Successfully train others to do your work, giving those who help you their due credits. Make the willing support of other people essential to your success.
- Courage: meet all your problems and life challenges with extraordinary bundles of courage and bravery, and see yourself solve those problems quickly, while you overcome the challenges more easily and efficiently.