The turning point for the world against colonialism came on the heels of the Second World War. The War unintentionally brewed the great idea that jeopardised the philosophy of colonialism along the initiative that prompted Britain to defend the rights of other European countries to govern themselves and to support the right to resist the forces of Germany’s military occupation. The reasons that Britain gave to go into war against Germany became the catalyst idea on which nationalists sowed the seed of freedom in the minds of Africans and other oppressed people of the world. This fundamental idea about freedom and self-rule found a fertile soil in the awakened minds of African students in Europe and other Africans who served in the military expedition against Germany and Japan.
In addition, the works of African intellectuals in the beginning of the 20th century – W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey – did so much fatal damage to the benign attitude of Africans to the colonial ideology of providing good governance and civilization to Africans. These enlightened Africans worked tirelessly to refute all the contemporary myths and fallacies created about the circumstances of Africa and of Africans. For example, Marcus Garvey organised ‘mass movement around the theme of black nationalism’; while DuBois did more than anyone else to raise the cultural and political awareness of Africans through the organisation of Pan African Congresses and Conferences in London, 1900; Paris, 1919; Brussels, 1921; London and Brussels, 1923; New York, 1927; and Manchester, 1945.11
Along this line, we cannot fail to mention the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi who had consistently mounted a non-violence attack on the injustices of colonial rule in India since 1919 and long before the Second World War started. The War actually gave international credibility to Gandhi’s relentless attack on the inherent corruption of the ideology of colonial imperialism. Coincidentally, South Africa lit the fire of enlightenment for Gandhi. It was in South Africa, while practicing as a lawyer, that he witnessed at very close range the unjust practices of institutionalised racial inequality between Europeans and other racial groups.
In addition, the 1936 unanimous vote in the Union Parliament of South Africa that ‘made the possession of a black skin a final disqualification for the privileges of citizenship’ gave the warning signal to every enlightened black man that the minority white men running the affairs of their countries could also pass similar laws sooner than later. In fact, Macmillan (1938) recorded that “White minorities in other parts of Africa betrayed the same nervous leaning to discriminatory legislation.”12
These interrelated social circumstances and political forces somehow bound together to fire the independence fever among enlightened Africans in the 1940s. The new crop of young three-quarter educated Africans who have lived among the Europeans and had come to realise the fundamental hypocrisy of the Christian beliefs and the faith exported to Africa could not help but to turn their backs on everything European. To these young Africans, equality of persons became a cardinal belief and they accepted it as an inalienable right of every man.
The knowledge and understanding of the fundamental truth of equality of life miraculously cured the psychological disease of inferiority complex that had hitherto dominated their lives. There and then, this fundamental truth removed the veil of ignorance and they were able to see that no European was of any significant racial superior importance to any other African. The discovery of the fundamental truth about the commonality of nature of humankind irrespective of colour of skin set this crop of Africans free from every hitherto mandatory subservient compulsion as it cured them of all the deep-rooted psychological complexes.
On their return to Africa, these reborn Africans stood tall, eyeball-to-eyeball and faced the colonial exploiters of Africa as they demanded in very strong terms a right to equal opportunities in the affairs of their fatherland. They fought for equal opportunities in the civil service, in business communities, in politics and in civil organisations and clubs. They waged relentless battles on all forms of segregation and discrimination based on differences of skin colour. They exposed and waged battles on every obnoxious colonial law and regulation promulgated solely to restrain Africans from free expression and free congregation towards self-rule.
The fundamental idea of the right of every nation to self-determination and self-rule that the Second World War threw up gave the impetus to the newly established United Nations and the United States of America to put pressure on imperial Europe to dismantle the colonial institutions under their control. As soon as India succeeded in 1947 to gain independence from Great Britain, the political floodgate opened for Africa. Libya was the first country to breast the tape of independence in 1951 among the North African countries while Ghana did the same for West Africa in 1957. Between 1951 and 1968, 39 countries successfully severed their unjust political umbilical cords with Europe. However, the sad news is the European countries, in one form or the other, held the last joker of this independence political game.
The outcome of the battle for independence tilted, more or less, in favour of imperial Europe. It was no longer a secret that the brilliant agitators among the Africans who canvassed for independence were carefully schemed out of the final project.
The Europeans ensured that the independence certificate and the staff of office were handed only to those Africans who had shown in the past that they preferred the good governance of Europeans to those being promised by their African brothers. These African pro-European groups made the project of political independence very difficult because of their intransigence and unwillingness to support the initiatives at every stage.
The African non-believers who refused to see the moral justification for independence became the last weapon of imperialism in Africa. It was on this group that imperial Europe placed its last hope and through them, colonial managers designed a foolproof plan for continued domination of Africa.
With respect to Great Britain and citing Nigeria as an example, the alternative political plan to colonialism started in earnest as soon as it became obvious that empire ownership would soon cease to be popular in the world. Britain designed crash education programmes for the group of unbelievers or the group of ‘not-yet-ready’ for independence.
Britain exposed this group of unbelievers to basic idea on the nature, importance and management of political power and governance.
The Europeans spent valuable time with this group as they plotted to hand over the political baton of the country to them. These are the people they had earlier carefully neglected and cordoned off from western education.
The imperial powers felt that the only way to retain their stolen properties and lucrative investments in Africa was to have in place pliable persons who they could manipulate from afar. They found this type of materials among the independence unbelievers who had no qualm about accepting covertly to front for imperial Britain as long as Britain assured them of protection from their progressive national neighbours.
Within 10 years of the commencement of self-government in independent African countries, military coups d’état had sacked almost all the governments. The independent government of Democratic Republic of Congo was not even allowed to take off properly while that of Togo lasted less than three years. The Federal Republic of Nigeria lasted six years while Ghana had 9 years of self-rule, and so on and so forth.
The young military officers that seized power from the politicians cited corruption as the popular reason for their unconstitutional actions. They listed among other things: bribery and kickbacks, nepotism, tribalism, abuse of official positions and power, aimlessness or lack of direction, lack of vision, wastefulness, stupidity etc.
Sadly, for another 20 years, the hare-brained military boys took a large part of African countries to the cleaners. Every moral and every ethical issue on which they crucified the politicians were broken several times over by these military bandits. These ‘boys’ wrecked havoc all over the continent. They sunk each country that fell under their management in massive debt and brought it into bankruptcy.
Without any unnecessary effort to paint a conspiracy theory but based solely on the available evidences, it is sufficient to say that African nationalists in their naivety played into the political and economic traps set by imperial Europe. The clamour for independence was not a bad idea, the inability of the then nationalists to dig deeper in the realm of knowledge before they embarked on the freedom trail was the problem. These foremost Africans of the 20th century were just too much in a hurry.
Again, with hindsight one can say they were driven by one of the vilest motives in human nature – jealousy. It seems these Africans were just envious, covetous and resentful of the largess of office the colonial civil servants and merchants were enjoying. It is obvious from the result of the independence adventure that the nationalist fighters never fully understood the bigger concerns of equality, liberty and justice.
As it were, this crop of emerging Africans seemed to have been emotionally captivated by the slogans flowing around from the likes of Marcus Garvey, Dr. DuBois and others. There is no doubt, they were captivated and inspired by the patriotic stories of the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and of course the then current Socialist Revolution of Russia.
However, these patriots of Africa did not exercise patience and allowed these ideas and ideals to form and recreate them fully before they jumped into the inferno of power and greed. They jumped into the political furore Mahatma Gandhi of India was championing before the rebirth in knowledge that Gandhi experienced had fully taken place in their lives.
The result is the alarming socio-economic and political tragedies that are currently facing the continent and the African race. It is on the need to find solution to these human calamities that we invite every African to rise up to the challenges ahead as we salvage together the African people everywhere in the world.
Like the famous English poet and writer, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) we cannot fail to imagine how it could have been ‘if’ only the very few enlightened Africans who were later sidelined by the imperial powers had concentrated most of their efforts, first, to the education and enlightenment of other Africans before they embarked on the independence crusade. Maybe, if they had given priority attention to social revolution (changing archaic ideas, superstitious beliefs, retrogressive values and customs, non-progressive attitudes, acquired inferiority complexes, etc.) probably the divide and rule strategy effectively used to sabotage the emergence of purposeful leaders of visions in Africa would not have succeeded.
It is obvious that the small-minded class that emerged on the national political scenes of these countries could not have happened if only the very few enlightened Africans understood fully the origin and nature of political power. If Africans understood, they would have realised that no incumbent power holder freely gives up power without a ruthless fight to death. They would have been suspicious of the haste the colonial government acceded to their request to dismantle imperial institutions as well as the benign cooperation that the Europeans freely offered to these so-called enemies of the Crown.
It is on record that on the eve of departure of the imperial civil servants from Africa, they ensured that all the national institutions of politics and of commerce were deliberately fitted with carefully selected African Yes-men. These were the Africans carefully groomed on a fast-track education and training programmes; and parachuted to the head of various essential departments – military, public services, businesses, government and commerce. They geared all efforts towards ensuring that Europeans could still guide these institutions remotely from abroad even after departing from Africa. It is now quite glaring that the considerations under which the carefully selected Africans were appointed and fast promoted to higher offices was not about developing or civilizing Africa; it was about maintaining and protecting the interest of imperial Europe in Africa. It was therefore imperative that the concerns of the colonial civil servants were not to look for intelligent, articulate, confident Africans but for imbeciles, lackeys, ‘likeable rogues’ and half-educated Africans. These were the group the Crown officials and representatives displayed and paraded before Africans at the independence handing-over ceremonies as they bellowed “Africans! Behold your leaders”.
We should remember that in spite of the visible sophisticated statecraft, the western world never built its logic of leadership on the elitist theory that accepts only the best men of any society should lead. From the recorded history of our world, we discovered that only the most ruthlessly wicked and brutally powerful men have the rights to lead. After securing power, this detestable class of humanity often camouflage their evil personality traits under elaborate outward civility and culture – big costume garments, excessively large jewellery of adornment around their persons, palatial residences called palaces, innumerable retinue of hangers-on or courtiers, etc.
Dr Thomas Stuttaford, in a medical briefing titled Telltale signs of a Textbook Personality Disorder gave an incisive professional submission on a British politician who was then in the news at the time this piece was being written. It is a fact that all politicians love to be in the news; it is a political aphrodisiac. However, this time around, the particular politician in focus was in the news for all the wrong reasons. The short article was definitely a revelation to me.
Dr Stuttaford writes, “The prominent personality disorders are divided into three groups, labelled A, B and C” and that the politician under his analysis “fits into cluster B, the group which includes antisocial, histrionic and narcissistic personalities.” The icing on the cake was this: “It is men and women of the cluster B personality disorders who are too often those who succeed and who will later crowd together, not amicably, on the green benches of the House of Commons, will dominate the senior messes in the Armed Forces and control boardrooms. In the past, they created the British Empire.”13This erudite submission emphatically confirmed the thesis of this essay that it is the psychologically sick or the spiritually ignorant people of our world who are lording themselves over humanity.
However, if only the innocent people of the world would listen to the ancient Sages who have consistently advised the sane people of the world to stay away from the “antisocial, histrionic and narcissistic personalities” on planet earth. The sages knew that the innate murderous instinct of these degenerates to defend and preserve their stolen powers knows no limit. It is as easy for this group of humanity as breathing is for all others to take the life of anyone as a precautionary measure against the threat or imaginary threat to their power. The sages advised, do not take their favours or patronages because everything these lots do is calculated to blackmail and to compromise the integrity and the dignity of their friends, subjects and enemies alike.
In short, the unfailing strategy of the monarchical hereditary practices that strive to maintain power eternally in one’s name and for one’s posterity is to continuously devise ways and means to entice, to ensnare and to enslave friends, neighbours and enemies by the use of all forms of carrots. Some of the traditional carrots are, the conferring of titles through the King’s or Queen’s honours list, the elevation of favoured subjects into grand social positions, and the granting of special warrant or licence to favoured subjects to make big money. In addition, when everything else failed, the merciless elimination of all known or imagined enemies is never in doubt. These strategies have never failed since these ruinous human kinds captured political and civic powers of the world.
There is no longer any doubt that since 1960 Africa has been compromised through the class of nonentities set over Africans as leaders. It is now clear that every national government established after independence was operating clandestinely from the deep pockets of the imperial majesties – Belgium, Britain, France and Portugal – of Europe. The men and women purporting to be in charge of Africa were nothing but mere puppets that could only dance when commanded by the puppeteers. A good number of the class of 1960 have now died but unfortunately, their spoilt and pampered children have since taken over where they left off. These are the children brought up, under unimaginable privileges by the African standards.
The sad ignorant parents who found themselves swimming in fabulous unearned wealth thought it was a good investment to send their wards to overseas private schools. They packed away these poor children from nursery age to university level into European schools and colleges. The children experienced unspeakable psychological hardships in the hands of their white mates who felt insulted having these uncouth African children in their classes. The parents thought they were doing these children great favours by given them special opportunities to rub shoulders with the children of established European upper class families or ‘toffs’ in Eton College, Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England and similar institutions in France, Belgium and Portugal. This was at the time when the age mates of these children in Africa, under the mediocre misrule of the fathers of the privileged children, had neither classrooms nor teachers to satisfy their educational needs and unprecedented eager appetites for knowledge.
The so-called African leaders nurtured their children to believe that they have inalienable birthrights to inherit the political establishments of Africa. Up until this moment, these children have not found the time to review the catalogue of errors of omission and commission committed by their fathers and mothers. In fact, these children are yet to see anything wrong in the leadership styles and practices of their ancestors. As at when necessary, they love to invoke the memory of their ancestors as a means to gain political attention and to secure electoral support. Just like their ancestors, they love money, high positions and power and their greed for the excesses of life knows no bound.
Sadly for Africa, the collection of these children drawn from African parents that served in top posts in the colonial indirect rule administration, in the military establishments, in the political administration of military coup plotters and in the notoriously corrupt public services have teamed up to become the new elites of Africa. As their parents were before them, these new elites are equally bereft of true knowledge on the meaning of life. Of course, they exhibit all the pretences of the educated, of the cultured and of the civilized but these elites of Africa are as hollow and as noisy as empty barrels.
These new elites are the current class of democrats in Africa whose interest in democracy is only on deals and dealership of power. They have no political ideals of any kind except the one that says ‘the end justifies the means’. As far as they are concerned, the end of politics is power. Therefore, whatever compromise one can make; whatever unethical deal one can broker; whatever lie one can get away with; and whatever murder of political opponents one can sponsor, as long as any or all of these things deliver the coveted political crown of leadership, then a good democrat should go for it.
These are the new crusaders of democracy in Africa. They have no time to study and digest the philosophy, the moral and ethical principles that informed the birth of the concept of democracy in the world. They throw around concepts and popular quotes from the Greek philosophy, Jewish ethics and Arabian theology but they are least bothered about seeking further to understand the culture and the nature of social forces that gave birth to these popular words of wisdom.
Dear Africans, behold the charlatans on the political stage of the African continent. Please, behold again the so-called leaders as they continue to foul the air of all divine sensibilities, to pollute the atmosphere of moral and ethical virtues, to block the window of enlightenment and to suffocate the civil and political institutions of Africa. These are not leaders; these are the pretenders, alias the Dishonourable Africans. They have no leadership qualities because these are not virtues found among robbers or their unrepentant descendants.
The foregoing reviews and revelations are the reasons for tracing the history of leadership from the western perspectives of our world. The close connection of global history is another veritable proof of the interrelatedness of values among humankind despite the wall of hate the supremacists have tried to build between racial groups.
I believe every living person needs to understand the meaning, nature and origin of leadership practices in the world and their negative consequent effects on global peace and welfare. Unless the enlightened souls can popularise the awareness of this knowledge among the people, most Africans would not realise that we cannot deal with the problem of leadership in Africa without taking note of the conventional global wisdom on power.
The contemporary leadership spirit, style and culture in the world is a global virus and like the treatment of any malignant cancer we must get to the root of the nature of the virus before we can find effective treatment. Nothing short of this fundamental approach to the prevailing fraud of leadership in Africa and in the world can go beyond a palliative solution, like covering a virulent skin problem with a beautiful garment.
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
22 April 2001
11. Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Unity (An Analysis of Contemporary Social Movement). London: Pall Mall Press, 1968.
12. W.W. Macmillan, Africa Emergent (Revised and Expanded Edition). Great Britain: Penguin Books Limited, 1949. p.11
13. Dr Thomas Stuttaford, ‘Medical Briefing: Telltale signs of a Textbook Personality Disorder’ in The Times, Monday January 29, 2001. [Italics is mine]