The Dishonourable Africans VIII : Lesson From History on Leadership 

We have used history in this discourse mainly as a guide to signpost the point of the fall of Africans from spiritual grace and as a tool for intellectual exploration and analysis of the reasons for the fall. This writer does not claim to be an historian and will plead with experts in history to please put their professional swords back in the sheaths. Please forgive my errors, in case, if in the course of the analyses I broke all the rules in the rulebook of history. I will like to confess I am an ordinary user of history and will never knowingly abuse history.

History should attract the attention of any seeker eager to understand the origin and nature of humankind. The very beginning of humanity may still remain in obscurity but there are ample materials since records began to give a seeker enough information from which to draw relevant conclusions for his/her own use as each of us navigate the many pitfalls in the journey of life.

What Sam Keen said about history in his book, Fire in the Belly when he writes, “History offers us the chance to take responsibility and change what we previously considered our fate.”19 guided my historical exploration. My primary concern is about how best to draw out the essential lessons that history is supposed to teach in order to help readers and seekers of truth to come to a better understanding of the nature of the problems facing Africa. I am also concerned about the quickest method by which to remove the blindfold that the sins of ignorance and forgetfulness have placed over the eyes of Africans all these years.

However and more importantly, the effort of this work is to bring to the remembrance of all Africans the gory essentials of Africa’s past and to help each other to draw out and pick up the pertinent lessons we needed to learn from this shameful history. As Santayana once said and quoted above, unless we can remember the past, we run the risk of repeating the same mistake again and of missing the opportunity to make some progress.

However, if the hypothesis of this essay holds true then we can conclude that the class of humanity across the globe that are holding and occupying leadership status of our world are indeed the depraved of the human race – the scoundrels, the low lifers and the bloodthirsty miserable species. Now we are being told “an achiever is a person successfully driven to attain wealth and power above all else; and such people are clearly suited to running everything.” 

Can that be true? How can the possession of a special aptitude for material accumulation of money and property be the sole yardstick for the measurement of human success and achievement? Does the human ability to create great wealth synonymous with human excellence or great virtues? It is necessary now to answer some of the questions we raised in the introduction. What is leadership and who is a leader?

Leadership in the ‘civilized’ or make-believe world is about power – how to capture or seize power; and how to use or abuse power by an individual within a commune or society. It is about the legitimacy of power – about the question of who has the right to exercise power in a community. This is the bedrock of all conflicts in every society and the terrain of political scientists and politicians. Leadership is squarely at the centre of political life and the tussle for power has been with humankind since the burst of consciousness.

The desire to own and to exercise raw power is one of the instinctive natural tendencies of the unenlightened humankind living in darkness. Niccolò Machiavelli and other protagonists of power are keen to argue that the possession of power by an individual – prince or king – will ultimately enhance safety of life and provide innumerable life choices and life chances for the power holder. They even argue that it is in the interest of peace and progress for a society to have a strong person or a tyrant holding the rein of political power as an absolute ruler, notwithstanding the manner and method adopted in acquiring the power.

However, the history of the world does not support this fictitious assertion. We know that when the ambitious people captured power after using any of the callous and despicable strategies recommended by Niccolò Machiavelli and others, to keep the power under their belt often entails another more serious dastardly vigilance, brutal preventive and bloody protective measures. This is the expected consequence since an adage says he who kills by the sword does not allow anyone to carry a sword behind him. There are always similar ambitious people like the current holder of power who would not resist the temptation to seize power at the slightest opportunity.

The unnecessary turbulence that accompanies a power holder before and after capturing power is not a situation that any sensible human being should consciously desire. Nevertheless, it is obvious as day and night that only the senseless and the psychopath will hunger and thirst after power. It is like the case of the adage of the chicken that jumps on a thin line-rope, the continuous pendulum-like swinging of the thin rope can never give peace of mind to the chicken as it ceaselessly tries to keep and maintain its balance. This is the life of all power holders of our world.

Now modern political and economic practices demand ruthless competition as a necessary condition for attaining leadership positions or for selecting, electing and appointing political and economic leaders. Through this conventionally acknowledged and supposedly justifiable competitive processes, legitimacy is handed to all those who emerged as victors and they therefore have absolute rights to occupy the elevated political or economic thrones of their societies. The society in which they emerged as winners automatically adjudged them as the super-qualified persons to enjoy kingly privileges over and above all their contemporaries. The society would also find them worthy to exercise the constitutional rights as private or public office holders, to wield absolute power over law and order; and to exercise absolute control on public policies, public finance and the implementation of socio-economic projects and programmes.

As occupiers of the economic and political thrones of their countries and coupled with their innate self-centred traits, these so-called leaders would pragmatically institute lacklustre checks and balances to deter abuse of power held by themselves or held on their behalf. They would commandeer important political and economic offices for themselves, their friends and their own flesh and blood; and they would offer to themselves juicy material perquisites and obscene, over the top salaries. For example, these hoodlums turned kings and queens or political leaders would gladly encourage national debates on setting a minimum wage for low-income workers but would keep a treacherous and deadly silence on the moral or ethical need to set a ceiling on maximum wage for the fat cats in the polity.

The group of people that emerged, as the winners in the competitive processes, are the ones society calls the elites or leaders. A leader by the elitist theory is supposed to be the best and under this neoLiberal belief, only the best should have the right to rule. However, it is the definition of what/who is best or the criterion for identification of what/who is best that often leads to problem.

How do you measure what is best in another human being? Is it the physical endowment – beauty, brain or brawn? Is it the moral endowment – virtues, excellence, a civilised taste, the love of justice, or an impeccable character? Is it the possession of a blue blood – born into nobility, royalty or wealth? Is it personal material achievement based on the most crooked skill of accumulation of fortune, property, money, etc.? From these leading questions, it is becoming obvious that the ‘best’ will have as many interpretations as the number of people defining the concept of what is best.

Judging by the state of Africa today, it is glaring that the eminent personalities grazing the political and economic landscape of Africa are definitely not the best materials of Africa. The relevant evidences of gross incompetence, senselessness, stupidity and utter ignorance amongst the so-called leaders of Africa are shockingly disheartening. A cross-sectional survey of the social and political institutions in Africa left nothing much to be desired when critical attention is focused on the group of scallywags who are claiming the leadership positions in these institutions.

Although, the military thugs or prodigal sons and the politicians or political gangsters have convincingly demonstrated that no other class of elites in Africa have the right to contest the supreme leadership crown of Dishonourable Africans. Yet, they are less worried about the irreparable consequences of their disastrous partnership. Even when the unorthodox diarchy of power relations between these two groups have successfully ruined the social values, mores and cultures of Africans and have forestalled any hope of economic prosperity in Africa in the foreseeable future, still they are less bothered.

However, since the military thugs and the political gangsters are bereft of common sense, they are yet to see either the human carnage they have perpetrated or the economic damage they have caused in Africa. Hence, it is very difficult at this stage to expect repentance and restitution from these lots for all the losses they have caused Africa. These two sets of clowns are still very cocksure of their inalienable rights until eternity comes to continue with their pauperisation programme of Africa.

However, this is where they are wrong because they lacked knowledge of the divine timetable of programmes set up from the foundations of the world for spiritual intervention on behalf of Africa. This writer will advise all the enlightened souls to leave the buffoons of Africa alone. Let them be since the spirit of truth shall soon put them to shame at the time appointed.

We must not lose sight of the roles of other African leaders in the other sectors of the economy. How have these other African leaders performed in education, in the press, in other various professional bodies – law, accountancy, banking, insurance, finance, business, commerce, industry, manufacturing, architecture, construction, engineering, medicine, civil service, etc.? What type of contributions can be associated with these other categories of African elites that have helped in the development or underdevelopment of Africa?

Perhaps, these illustrious elites of Africa will pretend that they were unaware of the evil practices going on all around them, under their noses and with their signatures. These elites might also claim that these shameful political events and calculated economic sabotage that have wrecked and ruined Africa were totally outside their official purview and intellectual jurisdiction. Therefore, they might claim the recorded foolishness was totally beyond their erudite interventions. However, the truth of the matter is, our professionals and scholars were terribly short-changed in the course of their training and education.

Historians have amply demonstrated that the Colonial Administration deliberately exposed these erudite men and women of Africa to a seriously watered down form of education.20 Consequently, they have been exhibiting the classic case of those who passed through school but whom school never passed through. This is why our educated elites have all the phoney pretensions of the men and women of letters or of scholarship but in all honesty, these are shams.

The African educated elites have not been recreated in the fire of true knowledge. They are still the unbaked or half-baked, the uncooked or half-cooked and popularly called the half-educated. Every enlightened soul can easily see the shallowness of the pretences of the African ‘educated illiterates’. Their superfluous claims to education are hollow for it is a lie and they know it too. As a result, this is the singular reason why the African educated elites have failed to yield the bountiful fruits of knowledge, excellence, virtues and creativity expected of them. It is a simple law of nature that whatever you sow is what you will harvest and harvest bountifully too. It is a fact that the colonial lords sowed seeds of ignorance all over Africa and the continent since has reaped a bountiful harvest of dunces and ignoramuses.

Am I being rude? Not really but I am sincerely full of moral outrage at this particular revealed insight into the woes of Africa. I am very unhappy that our elders and my contemporaries have failed to discover this moral truth about the situation of Africa all along. May be they did discover but were too frightened to lose their privileged positions in the society if they raised the issue as an agenda item.

There is nothing more to say at this stage than to advise all Africans to strive, through the cultivation of proper knowledge, in order to put this ignominious history behind us. We must individually and collectively seek a rebirth in education. And after attaining a true rebirth in knowledge, we must carefully begin the task of uprooting the seeds, the creepers, and the shrubs of lies and the cutting down of the trees of ignorance disguised as education that were planted in Africa.

Furthermore, this writer will like to invite all the sons and daughters of Africa who have seen the light of enlightenment to begin today the articulation of fresh ideas on how best to prepare the people for the great sowing and planting of the seed of truth and knowledge in Africa. I truly believe that our successes in planting the true seed of knowledge, in painstakingly watering it and in carefully watching over it as it grows on the soil of Africa shall definitely yield the bountiful fruits of true knowledge.

It is necessary to emphasise that only the fruit of true knowledge has the power to sharpen the senses, to awaken the mind, and to quicken the rebirth of the soul. The predictable signs that will manifest in the life of every African when the seeds of true knowledge have taken root in Africa are the following: an unprecedented outburst of creativity in all spheres of human endeavour; an unquenchable desire for political, economic and social freedom; a sacred respect for all creations based on a divine understanding of the principle of equality; and an uncompromising desire for political harmony that is rooted on justice and on the principle of “loving one’s neighbours as oneself”.

As an excited farmer would feel when he has just taken delivery of a proven high-yielding seeds and could not wait to see the seeds planted in his carefully prepared farmland, this writer is also feeling the same way. Every enlightened African should be eager to plant the seed of true knowledge in every field of Africa because we are confident it is a highly recommended, high-yielding and lie-resistant proven seed with a natural capacity to produce bountiful harvests in tens, hundreds, thousands and millions of re-born Africans.

This is the mission we shall recommend to the awakened Africans and our farms are the newly rebuilt, spiritually modified, divinely cleansed and exceptionally fertile hearts of African men and women.

SAM ABBD ISRAEL

22 April 2001

(To be continued)

NOTES

19. Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man. Bantam Books, 1992.

20. John D. Hargreaves, ‘The Idea of a Colonial University’ in African Affairs, vol. 72, No. 286, January 1973.

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