History is a valuable tool for looking back at the progress humanity have made since the recorded journey of life began. It is quite tempting and easier too for most analysts to start the analysis of leadership problem in Africa by merely focusing on the contemporary events around Africa. This approach cannot do much good than to give superficial accounts of the issues under focus. Any type of analysis that focuses only on the present can only confirm what George Santayana said about the link between progress and memory. He said, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness… Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”1 A recollection of the history of the past is a sure antidote to thoughtlessness and foolishness. History is definitely a sure weapon if we desire to shatter the bliss that ignorance bestows on its friends.
In the ancient days, when societies were still simple and less differentiated, age was the main qualification for leadership position. The reason for this may not be too far fetched. The manner in which communities came into existence might be responsible. According to H. G. Wells in A Short History of the World, “Probably the earliest human societies, in the opening stages of the true human story, were small family groups.”2 It could be inferred that possibly a single family started most primitive societies. For example, the scenario could be as follows: when a prehistoric man comes of age he takes a wife and together they would move away to establish a homestead for themselves. They would have looked for a place where land, water, and games were in good supply. Depending on the blessing of nature, good luck and hard work, the family would multiply in time.
Sons would become fathers and fathers would become grandfathers and great grandfathers. Within five or more generations, the community might be numbering in the hundreds. Easily and without dispute, the children would accept the founding father as the patriarch and the last authority consulted whenever the need arose. If he was a good-natured man – kind, loving and a good manager of men and resources – he stood a good chance to become an ancestral deity after his death. At his death, without any contest, the oldest male child would step into his shoes as the head of the community. This was the natural progression of leadership in the ancient times. It was a universal trend found in every society before the spirits of ambition, greed, avarice and envy reared their destructive heads into the serene social affairs of humankind.
These vices led to a redefinition of the values of societies in the terminology of war. Communities began to move away from a ‘peacefare’ culture to a warfare culture. Ruthless and bloodthirsty men began to take control of communities and societies. The only claim they had to leadership positions of the community was premised on their conniving abilities and killing skills as they perpetrated dastardly crimes of patricide, regicide and the cold-blooded murder of all the legitimate leaders around.
A paradigm shift soon followed: whereas most communities were once open, communal, and built on a foundation of love-oriented relationship amongst families and friends, communities changed into hate-dominated, fear-oriented, clandestine, divisive, and strife-ridden hell on earth. As these ambitious ruinous characters seized power within communities, their insatiable innate nature rose higher and higher. They progressively moved to neighbouring communities to over-run as many communities as possible within their reach. This brief historical account was the genesis of all known kingdoms and empires in the world.
Naturally, it is customary for new power-holders in communities, kingdoms or empires to redefine leadership qualities and to determine leadership qualifications in terms of loyalty of the conquered peoples to whoever was on the throne of the kingdom. The most loyal subjects who can die for the king or emperor for good or bad causes were often held up as worthy role models for leadership positions. It was from these groups that noble men and the class of nobility emerged. In the real sense, the nobles of all empires and kingdoms were the lackeys, the lapdogs, the bootlickers and all other scallywags of the land. The nobles were those opportunists who readily sang the praises of the new murderous gangsters on the throne.
Case Study: Leadership Development and Practice
We have a ready-made example of leadership development and practice from the last known empire on planet earth. The British Empire, in every respect, qualifies for the title of an empire. The people of Britain even said so when the English patriots proudly referred to the international colonial institution they developed as ‘the empire where the sun never sets’. Let us use this empire for a study of leadership development in our present world. The British Empire was an archetype of all known empires that had come and gone before it. The historical materials on Great Britain confirm the hypothesis that it is the political gangsters of societies, which ultimately evolved into the leadership class of our world. Let us take a quick peep at the start of this empire when Duke William the Conqueror matched triumphantly into England from Normandy in 1066.
In the eleventh century, the profession of mercenaries was a well-established trade in mainland Europe. Soldiers of fortune roamed all over Europe looking for private or state commissions. The bulk of the people around Duke William of Normandy were soldiers of fortune. The moral wrong or right of a cause is of no significance to these lots. They fight and kill or be killed to earn a living and they ask no moral or ethical question whatsoever in the cause of duty. The Roman Catholic Church, as the spiritual and political head of the then world, was also a conniving patron that was ready to give spiritual and divine blessings to the soldiers before and after battles as long as they can pay the required penance to the church in cash or kind.
Therefore, William the Conqueror having obtained the support of the then Pope of the Catholic Church against the newly crowned King Harold of England sailed across the English Channel to dispossess cousin-in-law Harold of his throne. William killed King Harold at the battle of Hasting and automatically, by the law of barbarians of that era, the land and the people of England became that of William. He proceeded accordingly in the fashion of the time to award parcels of land to his trusted soldiers and allies as payments for their military services. The new landowners who became the Lords, Earls, Dukes, and Noblemen of England were, accordingly, the mercenaries, the assassins, the heinous killers, and the rapists from mainland Europe.
This new class of elites held allegiance to none but King William. They became, by default, the new leaders of the people of England and Wales. The legitimacy of the power of this type of leaders to rule was that accorded by military force and civil brutality. It was therefore a common practice for these leaders not to live among the people they governed but in heavily armed and guarded castles. The reason is obvious; they were aware that the people under their yoke hated their guts. This tactic sits well with one of the ingenuous advice of Machiavelli in The Prince, “A prince who fears his own people more than he does foreigners should build fortresses…” 3
However, the fundamental lessons of this history were: First, it confirmed the principle of the idiom, ‘might is right’ as the most essential determining factor on the legitimacy of anyone to rule over a country or people. In addition, it affirmed that it is only through the waging of successful bloody wars against one’s kith and kin or enemies that leaders of so-called progressive empires could emerge. Second, it laid the precedence that it is only through the patronage of the reigning King or power that any subject under the Crown or government can aspire to a position of honour and leadership. Therefore, for many centuries afterwards, the life chances of subjects to live or to have a modicum of decent life depended on his/her demonstrated loyalty to the king. For any subject to challenge the king on his immoral use of power, or on his inhuman rule, or on the corruption of his courtiers or on the suffering of the king’s subjects was enough to incur a death sentence from the king.
Certainly, most of those sentenced to death by the kings of this empire over time, were the subjects driven by moral truth to raise objection on the immorality of monarchical rule both in its conceptual form and in its practices. In the official history books written under the royal commission or warrant of these kings by loyal opportunist authors, such men and women of conscience were portrayed as traitors to the crown and to the fatherland. We can deduce that if we recall a host of these history books and have them reviewed by impartial editors, we might not be surprised to discover that those hitherto branded, maligned and persecuted as enemies of the people, were indeed the true leaders of our world.
Is it therefore right from the abridged historical facts to say that since the coming into being of kingdoms and empires on planet earth, the class of people who have been holding leadership positions in all societies are the heinous, despicable and detestable characters? Like many other perverted virtues and values of our world, it is obvious that the perversion of the concept of leadership that started with the warring hoodlums and that transformed hooligans and hired killers into royalties and noblemen, has stretched far and wide to corrupt the entire human race. The seed of this deadly virus has grown and like a deadly cancer, it has spread its tentacles into every cranny of our lives to corrupt every moral and spiritual value in human existence.
In our case study of the empire of Britain, we have found that those who emerged as political leaders were the military warlords of the king while the economic leaders were those drawn from the loyal group who got the royal warrant of approval from the king to sell and to buy in the kingdom. Understandably, it should be noted that only the trusted subjects in the good books of the crown courtiers could get recommendations to receive royal warrants to trade in the realm of the King. Similarly, the civic leaders were those subjects drawn from the turncoats or spies willing to betray the trusts of family and friends in return for royal titles and patronages. This is the history of contemporary leadership styles and practices in the world.
Therefore, we can infer that whatever we have in place on planet earth under any name – democracy or socialism or communism – is a mere disguise of the most unnatural, unethical and immoral practices ever created by the evil class of humankind. Hence, we can recognise that the fundamental philosophy of leadership in all the acclaimed civilized political ideologies of the world is one that came forth from a single evil vine. Simply, it is one cooked in the philosophy that believes in the ideology of ‘might is right’ and it is only under this barbaric belief that the scoundrels of the world can wield political, economic and religious powers.
The Age of Reformation
The above leadership arrangement was the commonly acceptable practice in Europe until the spirit of renaissance inspired creativity in science, architecture, poetry, sculpture, painting and political theory in the 14th century Italy. This epochal development paved the way for the thinkers of that period to challenge the status quo of power hegemony that was firmly and ingenuously established between the ‘spiritual’ church and the political state. The awareness created and nurtured by the renaissance spirit that sought alternative ideas on the meaning of life took the cover off the age-long dogmas propagated by the church. This new awareness exposed the people of Europe to the fact that the realm of knowledge was deeper and wider than the propaganda of ‘slavedom’ the church was dishing out. The burst of renaissance enlightenment contributed immensely to the ensuing reformation of civic and political institutions of governance across Europe.
Most importantly, the creative processes in artistic and intellectual engagements that ushered in the renaissance era led to the invention of the printing press in Germany in the 1450s. The invention of the press further succeeded in exposing and eventually dissolving the exploitative symbiotic relationship between the Church and the sovereign crowns of Europe. Before the renaissance, the crown used the Church of Rome as cover to claim a divine political right to rule while the church used the crowns as its subordinate partners in crime as she also claimed a divine right to spiritual leadership and political power of the world.
The gain made from the invention of the printing press was the long overdue proliferation of the hitherto jealously concealed sacred holy books of the church into many reading hands in Europe. This was the first successful battle against the holy lies of the Church and her lying priests. The simple access that the thinkers of the society had to see and read the contents of the ‘holy book’ instantly cured them of their blindness. For the first time the enlightened ones saw the holy lies of the church for what they were – a park of evil exploitative mechanisms instituted by the priests for the oppressive manipulation of the simple-hearted, the gullible and the ignorant people of the world.
However, according to recorded history the result of the above development was a mild revolution that successfully eroded and took away a sizeable chunk of the political power held by the Roman Catholic Church. The mushrooming protesters of the Christian world gained a breath of fresh air of freedom; particularly, the freedom to interpret the Holy Scripture and to worship their God as the spirit moved them. In those regions of Europe where the Crowns were clever, the reigning kings quickly sided with the protesters to usurp the leadership of the protesting local Christians against Rome. The Church of England and other Crown-owned churches of Europe were the fall-out of the schism that followed the renaissance experience. The history of the establishment of the Church of England, a very prominent missionary in the civilizing business of Africa, is a fascinating story. It will not attract our attention in this dialogue but it is worthy of a review by all seekers of the truth of life.
Although, the printing press tarnished the claim of the Church to a universal divine right and power to rule, it inadvertently transferred these same rights and powers to the various Crowns of Europe. It took another one hundred years of vigorous agitation by all kinds of enlightened people of Europe before the fundamental rights of the people to liberty, equality and justice became popular agenda issues. It was the popularity of this new evolving philosophy developed, nurtured and promoted by thinkers and pamphleteers all across Europe on the moral and ethical concepts of fundamental rights of man that informed the British Civil War (1642-1649), the American War of Independence (1775-1781) and the French Revolution (1789-1794). These separate but intertwined upheavals on the moral question of leadership were the principal political events that fashioned the present civilization of the world.
The above is the genesis of how and where the moral and ethical values that informed the institutions of leadership in the world evolved. The role of hoodlums turned monarchs and their cohorts turned noblemen in the standardisation of societal values and cultures cannot be over emphasised. It therefore follows naturally that the standards defined and set by these believers in the faith of ‘might is right’ could not be different from their own innate murderous and avaricious natures. Consequently and in actual sense, from time immemorial the hoodlums in every society have hijacked and captured the leadership positions of our world. Historical records showed that the colonialists brought this unnatural and heinous leadership practice to Africa. The colonial managers, schooled in the perversions established by their rulers, had no difficulty in transferring wholesale this kind of values and morality of leadership to Africa.
We shall now attempt to focus attention on Africa as we trace the contribution of the colonial overlords to the emergence of modern leadership practices in Africa.
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
22 APRIL 2001
1. George Santayana, The Life of Reason. Vol. 1 chapter 12, 1905 (Quoted from J. M. and M. J. Cohen, The New Penguin Dictionary of quotation. Penguin Books Limited 1992, p.337)
2. H. G. Wells (1922), A Short History of the World. England: Penguin Books (Reprinted Penguin Classics 2000)
3. Machiavelli (1513), The Prince. Translated by C. E. Detmold. Introduction by Lucille Margaret Kekewich, Great Britain: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature. 1997 p.82