The leadership practice in contemporary Africa, as in every country under the new global order of unregulated market economy and globalisation of free trade, is now defined in terms of monetary success. Money now delineates the sole criterion for determining the eligibility of persons for political leadership positions. The global economic ethics based on the slogan, ‘greed is good’ that started with Reaganomics and Thatcherites in the 1980s have supplanted every other ethics of human relationships. It is an acknowledged fact that under modern democratic practices the support a candidate enjoys is often directly proportional to the size of the purse or wealth under the control of the candidate.
In every nation of the world, the richest men are also becoming the best men for political office and leadership role. Jeremy Hardy a columnist for The Guardian Newspaper of Britain put this across clearly in his analysis of what he saw as a sign of lack of moral principle in the New Labour Party of Britain as it continuously offers ministerial appointments to moneymen and women. Hardy says, “in New Labour’s scale of values, an achiever is a person successfully driven to attain wealth and power above all else; and such people are clearly suited to running everything.”14
The history of contemporary African leaders is a relatively new development. In fact, we can time the beginning of this history to the 1960s when the agitators for political independence collected the illustrious prize of independence from imperial Europe. The class of 1960s and the military vandals that came shortly after them have since gorged themselves senseless with stolen money from their respective state treasuries. Perhaps, in their warped mentality the Dishonourable Africans felt this is a just price that fellow nationals ought to pay them for taking up the fight against colonialism. Because of their banditry, Africa can now boast of wealthy millionaires but without any supporting evidence of the means or source of procurement of the wealth. These African millionaires cannot point to any production outfit through which they created the wealth. As it were, we can only hazard some guesses: maybe these millionaires harvested their money from money trees planted in the back gardens or maybe Father Christmas deposited the loot through the chimney. However, without much ado about the obvious, every intelligent African knows where the mammoth wealth of these jesters came from.
The consequences of unearned wealth in the possession of African so-called leaders have done irreparable damage to every value hitherto held sacrosanct in Africa. The new crop of political leaders imposed on Africa jettisoned and degraded the value of hard work, the cultural ethics that abhor stealing, the divine principle of equality of persons, the noble decency in moderation and several other moral and social values. Since the advent of the Arabs and Europeans in Africa, the group of Africans that emerged as leaders are indeed the undesirable Africans. These special breeds of Africans have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that they are truly the dishonourable kind of Africans. There is no iota of nobility in the whole lot of them.
However, it is important to mention that a very few men, such as the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, could be counted as notable exemptions. He was one of the significant few that demonstrated a contrary proposition that it is possible for a society to have a leader and still failed to progress. The theme of the essay is that Africa lacked leaders and that is why Africa is in despair. But here was Julius Nyerere, a truthful and selfless leader who sacrificed all he had for his people and yet Tanzania is not different from all the other African countries. He led Tanzania by a moral example of simplicity that chose to live a life of noble moderation and that bravely refused to worship at the altar of mammon, yet Tanzania has nothing to show for his exemplary life.
President Nyerere’s vision for Tanzania died on the drawing board because his lieutenants listened to and got drown under imperialist lies. In short, they sold their lives to the devil while they pretended to be going along with Nyerere on his ujamaa (“familyhood”) political philosophy. Tanzania is therefore a classic case of a country in Africa that had a leader but lacked followers. The digression on Tanzania is necessary to demonstrate the other side of the coin that leadership needs followership too before it can become effective as a catalyst for change and progress. It is no good putting the blame of Africa’s woes on lack of leadership without understanding that leadership without articulate and well-informed followers can never produce a fruitful result.
Travelling around Africa today during political party elections will testify to the assertion that money has debased every moral and ethical code in Africa. The role of moneymen and women as they swing the votes through money power that deliberately play monkey games on the ignorance and poverty of fellow nationals cannot but shame the enlightened. With money playing a dominant but pernicious role in the political affairs of the continent, Africans have readily sacrificed philosophical ideas, ideals, principles, honours, beliefs, convictions, ethics, morals etc. at the bazaar of mammon. Take away these virtues in the life of any people, any society, any nation, or any race what will remain is a shell of soulless beings. Aristotle once said, the difference found between beast and man is the result of the positive impact of education or philosophy. Therefore, without education, without a formulated logic on the purpose and the meaning of life, man is not different from beast or even worse than beast. “For man when perfected is the best of all animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.”15
The awakened and the redeemed souls of Africa cannot help but shed tears of shame for Africa. They can see Africans as they swim in their vomits like pigs in dirty puddle, yet the majority of Africans are unable to see the state of their pathetic wretchedness. It is like one of the songs that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a popular Afro musician, once sang about Nigerians in Suffering and Smiling. He noted that even though Nigerians are suffering untold hardships in the hands of their prodigal leaders yet they kept on smiling. Some enemies of Africa called this trait African resilience but it is nothing of that kind; it is simply African foolishness and depravity. Despite the unacceptable state of Africa, the African dishonourable leaders still glorify in ignorance and seem unperturbed by the low level of life around them. They have no time to fathom out what is wrong with Africa. Ignorance and gluttony seem to have blindfolded these misleaders of Africa and have stifled their mental capacity for both rational thinking and logical reasoning.
Nigeria is a classic case study of a country where ignorance and gluttony have been crowned as diarchy or dual kings. This country have natural riches and wealth in abundance but due to mental laziness, the nationals have allowed swindlers and con artists of all shades and characters to deprive them of the benefit of this good fortune. Yet, some of the nationals who participated in the rape and plunder of this country as spineless, brainless middlemen haven’t got any clue and therefore have no shame about what happened and what is still happening. The sane people of the world watch and chuckle in amazement when they see the Dishonourable Nigerians presenting and introducing themselves as leaders of the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’ in international forum.
It is understandable why most enlightened Africans who have closely followed the story of this nation often feel ashamed as Africans when the case of Nigeria is under the searchlight. They would ask themselves in umpteenth times, how could these prodigal sons and daughters of Africa from Nigeria be lacking in shame. How could they have the gut in any international forum to be seeking leadership role or opportunities? What example do they have to show and to convince the world that they are capable managers of resources when their national resources and wealth were recklessly wasted? It beats the imagination of all and sundry how any Nigerian so-called leader can still stand tall and proud when all the human calamities of that nation are put together. A host of nations with serious leaders of vision have lamented their ill luck and could not resist wondering what would have happened to their country, if only they were able to lay their hands on one-tenth of the resources of Nigeria.
However, Nigeria is not different to other nations in Africa, her case is only significant because of the volume of resources and wealth at the disposal of that country. Every other nation in Africa has exhibited similar profligate tendencies even with the meagre resources at the disposal of these countries. What amazed observers of Africa is the careless and callous manner the so-called leaders of Africa have treated and abandoned the affairs of their people. The impression of a palpable lack of feeling and love shown by the elite of Africa for their own kind is a serious indictment. It is a testimony of an endemic paucity of spiritual enlightenment and development. This is the most incontrovertible evidence that demonstrated the fall of Africans from a position of spiritual grace to a level below the animal forms. The result of the spiritual fall is the overwhelming physical calamity visible all over the land of Africa in the 21st century.
Can you remember what Beull said about the African clerks and traditional rulers that the colonial government employed to do their dirty jobs? I will repeat it again. Beull says, “In many of these cases, the educated natives showed that they had lost all sympathy for the group out of which they came and that they had no compunction in abusing their power for personal ends.” Can you remember how the Arabs and Europeans bandits dethroned and sidelined the authentic indigenous leaders since they arrived in Africa? Do you remember the kind of people and the type of characters the Arabs and Europeans attracted to their religious cults and ‘civilized societies’?16 Do you remember the weaklings of Africa that the imperialists favoured and elevated over and above better Africans and who they later imposed on Africans as leaders.
Do you remember the personality types – the uneducated or half-educated – that the departing imperial powers preferred and schemed into office to take over the rein of government after independence? Do you remember the types drafted into the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) and other colonial forces that were later parachuted into officer cadres to staff the military institutions of the new independent countries – the Idi Amins of Uganda, the Bokkasas of Central African Republic, the Mobutus of Congo etc.? Do you remember how these thugs with the prodding and connivance of the agents of imperial powers later succeeded in taken control of the independent countries from the equally ignorant politicians that failed to perform to the ‘standard’ expected of them by their puppeteers?
If we put all these facts into consideration, why should Africans expect the seeds of these wretched evil vines to produce anything but sour fruits? This writer will like to challenge all protagonists of contemporary leadership practice in Africa to present one honourable or noble person among the lots occupying or jostling for leadership positions in Africa. It is the contention of this writer that we cannot find any honourable person participating in politics or practising in business under the prevailing evil climate in Africa today.
The seeds of ignorance, hatred, callousness and of divide and rule planted by the imperialists have germinated and their roots have now deepened to a dangerous level. The chronic, catastrophic and volcanic rumbling from the trees of hate planted amongst Africans are almost at the edge of eruption to tear apart a host of countries. It was bad enough to force and bound different nations together under one flag but to play one ethnic group against another for the sole purpose of ensuring a perpetual imperial domination of other people without any thought or concern for the happiness and well being of the people was cruel, immoral and a complete mockery of life and civilization.
What is incomprehensible is that the nationals of these divided countries cannot up till now, fathom this ingenuous evil machination. They are therefore yet to understand the genesis of the problem tearing their poor countries apart. This blatant ignorance among Africans beggars belief.
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
22 April 2001
14. Jeremy Hardy, ‘A Better Class of Snacks’ in The Guardian Newspaper, Wednesday 7 February, 2001, p.19
15. Aristotle, The Politics. Ed. Stephen Everson, Cambridge University Press, 1988. 1252 no 30
16. Sam Abbd Israel, The Hypocrites in Africa. Wales: The Paradise Press. 2000. https://samabbdisrael.com/2013/05/04/religious-hypocrites-in-africa/