Analysing The Crux of Leadership Challenge in Africa

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By Richard Odusanya

Leadership anywhere should be about serving humanity (the people). To put it bluntly, a lack of self-control, discipline, and foresight is the crux of leadership challenges in our contemporary African society. In highlighting the political and economic governance challenges and opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa (the focus of this contribution, and the point of reference when using the term Africa), engaging in some form of generalization becomes inevitable.

Essentially, ‘generalization’ is done with great caution, understanding that country-specific nuance should always trump monolithic narratives, and without implying that all African countries face the same issues. For example, Nigeria is a country that has not shown sufficient good governance attributes given the recent revelations in the parliament (NASS), the Executive branch, and the Judiciary arms of the government.

Nigeria runs a democracy where you cannot lock people up because they are undisciplined. Lawlessness in our society at all levels is such that the so-called leaders cannot but operate by the society from where they acquired the mandate. We need at least three generations to get the people into “Groove” because this requires training and indoctrination from kindergarten level.

Not to be misunderstood, although fueled by corruption, in a society where materialism and unequal distribution of wealth is the order of the day (there is no society in the world where there is equal distribution of wealth, no doubt there are welfare programs but even this is being challenged now) both in the economic and the socio-political realms, and indicates their principal driving forces or logic, namely economic discrimination and development-mindedness. But more worrisome is the emergence and pervasive spread of corruption-inducing social norms across all ethnicities and religious divides.

Most importantly, a leader should be able to plan adequately for the future. Yes, a leader from a society where people plan and patiently execute their plans – accepts failures as lessons and values those who don’t seek limelight or fame. When a Nigerian is published as having been appointed to a position overseas, you see our people reacting as if this is something out of the ordinary. For all intents and purposes if such people come to Nigeria to contribute, they are usually likely to fail. Therefore, it is about the ability to plan, based on current development, for challenges that are bound to occur occasionally. However, our leaders seem to have been unable to grasp this all-important aspect of their duties.

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More to the point, I have never seen a useless person who gets into a responsible position and starts being responsible. This is what we experienced with leadership in many African countries. It also happens in developed countries as well. Not to be misunderstood, please read the book “TRIUMPH OF THE AIRHEADS” authored by Shelley Gare. Many cannot fashion out any long-term plans for the development of their country. Many leaders only react to the present hoping that the future will sort itself out. They see politics as a business transaction. Many believe that they will not be in government forever. Therefore problems of the future should be addressed by governments of the future.

Likewise, genuine, authentically great leaders possess character. Yes, but as, drilled into them from an early stage of life. The word itself comes from a Latin root meaning engraved. In other words, a person’s character, etched with care and concern, shows their true worth. A character gouged or hacked out with recklessness might turn out wonderfully, but it might be a pile of rubble. The thing about character is it can’t be dressed up or cosmetically improved into something good. It must be intrinsically strong and positive.

Therefore, the crux of the matter is: should we subject our political actors to DNA and Psychological tests? Even at our humble level, we had to undergo psych tests before being entrusted with the management of people!

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Essentially, I would like to use some parts of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s letter to Prof. Samuel Cookey in 1986. Awo, eloquently posited: “At the threshold of our New Social Order, we would see for ourselves that, as long as Nigerians remain what they are, nothing clean, principled, ethical, and idealistic can work with them. This challenges the foregoing on leadership and Nigeria!

“And Nigerians will remain what they are unless the evils which now dominate their hearts, at all levels and in all sectors of our political, business, and governmental activities are exorcised. We must stop passing the buck!

“But I venture to assert that they will not be exorcised, and indeed they will be firmly entrenched, unless God Himself imbues a vast majority of us with a revolutionary change of attitude to life and politics or, unless the dialectic processes which have been at work some twenty years now, perforce, make us perceive the abomination filth that abounds in our society, to the end that an inexorable abhorrence of it will be quickened in our hearts and impel us to make drastic changes for the better”.

Following from the above, the question is why God and not individual Nigerians? The effort is for Nigerians to make by correcting their family, and neighbors and refusing to aid what we criticize.

What is more, as a country, we deserve the quality of leaders we have. We are expert noise makers, long on barks, short on bites. We have political businessmen and women, not leaders. They are ruiner just like we don’t have bankers but exploiters. Expectedly, we have lost out on many fronts because of essential elements of development vis-a-vis the essence of time and diligence. It’s sad and a pity that Nigeria continues to miss developmental milestones for the simple reasons of our attitude to life.

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In conclusion, it is important to mention that, the problem of Nigeria also comes from our abandonment of our cultures and traditions, and the ability to use religion to disguise evil. We are a confused people without realizing it. We want to live like other people in tune with their cultures and traditions; sorry, this would never happen. The cheetah is different from the lion, and so is the lion from the leopard and Tiger, though they are all big cats. They all train their young to kill for food, but in different ways and by their specific skills and innate characters.

Richard Odusanya

Richard Odusanya
@Richard_Odusanya is 9News Nigeria special guest writer on Politics, Africanism, African Emancipation and Humanitarianism
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