Why Africa Has Bad Leaders


By Theophilus Kehinde


As lettered as our crop of leaders are in Nigeria and Africa by extension, we wouldn’t be fooled by assuming that leadership to them is all about titles, positions and ‘big names’, nah. They sure know it entails more inclusive of its being consolatory to some for labouring in the vineyard for the masters. So, our real problem is miles away from the political structures that have failed us in many ways, it is the wounded psyche we all carry about. You wonder how that relates to this leadership menace?

History has it that our democracy which ought to have been the most wonderful thing Nigeria has ever had was ushered in at birth with so much compromise from the British government at independence. I believe very strongly that this singular act adversely affected the popular faith that would have been reposed in genuine democracy and many years down the line, we haven’t recovered from its horrific aftermaths. In fact, it’s gone deeper, extending to the intricacies of extreme interpersonal greed! Or how else would you describe a person who brazenly scoops trillions of naira and sometimes, dollars that may not be expended in a lifetime just for themselves and their families. In their heart of hearts, they say those gone past did worse things. Others left bereft of their basic needs cry and pray the heavens down until they are met and that’s if. They are completely disillusioned and feel they are responsible to themselves only. They become detached, hardened, lawless, brutal, survivors and only wish for that one opening–any opening–to have their pound of flesh. Now you see how everything is all messed up?

However, if leadership to you is all about titles, positions, ‘big names’ and all what not, it’s ok you know, at least that’s what the dictionary meaning captures. But in the real sense of the word, two distinct concepts clearly define it: service to humanity and responsibility. In Mk Gandhi’s ‘My Life is my Message’, it is explained that humanity is about building a bond among the people in a society with the help of sustainable values. It isn’t about empathy to one another in difficult moments only, nah! It is continually doing what is just with the use of one’s heart along with the mind in all the endeavours of mankind. Responsibility complements this. Its notion is evaluative and attributional which simply means being accountable for and answerable to oneself or others. If this breakdown made sense to you, try approaching the cleanest thing in government and you’ll get the shocker of a lifetime! Summarily, the only remedy to this two-way problem is absolute REBIRTH: the realization of the true essence of leadership (in the psyche of those leading and those being led).

Now, let’s look at this a little further. American newspaper commentator Walter Lippmann says leaders are ‘the custodians of a nation’s ideals, the beliefs it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals’. This simply means that their primary role is upholding what is best for all people and focusing on the task at hand even if it may not be in their own interest to do so (Michael McKinney). When this happens, it robs off on the emotions and subconsciousness of the followers. They become aware of the efforts and sacrifices their leaders are making and corroborate them with their own efforts and sacrifices too. If for instance, our lawmakers are human enough to sacrifice their huge salaries, allowances and make sure they are rewired into the economy, civil servants that continually clamor for raise wouldn’t mind ignoring that for the benefit of all as well. But if it’s otherwise, they wonder why they should be law abiding when those at the helm of affairs aren’t; they wonder why every single thing they do shouldn’t be about them and their own needs too.

So, here is the thing: Nigeria and Africa at large will continue to have bad leaders until there is genuine regeneration that completely defeats self and greed in our psyches and that peculiar African nature. Simply put, the change we so crave for revolves all around our mentalities.



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