A PRESENTATION ON
“DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN AFRICAN COUNTRIES:
PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES”
ON THE OCCASION
COMMISSIONING OF MUSTAPHA AKANBI FOUNDATION COMPLEX
5TH NOVEMBER, 2009
Your excellencies, Royal fathers, your lordships, and most in particular Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the man of the moment who we are honouring by our gathering here and who by public acclamation deserves all the honour we can muster to pour upon him.
I thank Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the Wakili of Ilorin for honouring me with the invitation to deliver this public lecture on the occasion of the commissioning of the building of The Mustapha Akanbi Foundation. May the peace of the Lord be with you all.
A salaamu a laikum.
The Ancient Greek Example
It is generally agreed that the best form of government that man has ever practiced is democracy. This consensus is of recent provenance and it is not universally accepted. Democracy is derived from the Greek word Demos meaning “people”.
One of the hallmarks of Greek civilization was the polis or city state. These city states were small, independent communities which were male dominated and bound together by race. Slaves, peasants, women and resident aliens were not part of the body of citizens. The scale of the polis was indeed small. When the philosopher Aristotle (384 -322 BC) came to discuss the origins of the polis in his book POLITICS in the 4th century B. C. he suggested that “it is necessary for the citizens to be of such a number that they knew each other’s personal qualities and thus can elect their officials and judge their fellows in a court of law sensibly”. Before Aristotle, another Greek philosopher, Plato (427 – 347BC) had suggested that the number of citizens in a city should be 5040 adult males. In essence they should know one another. The Greeks did not distinguish between private and public life. The meaning of this is that what is bad in private life will be bad in public life and what is not acceptable in private life will be unacceptable in public life.
The citizens in any given polis were related to one another by blood and hence family ties were very strong. As boys they grew up together in schools and as men they served side by side during times of war. They debated one another in public assemblies usually located in the agora which originally was a market place but eventually became the heart of the city’s intellectual life or discourse. They elected one another as magistrates. They cast their votes as jurors for or against their fellow citizens. In such a society all citizens were intimately and directly involved in politics, justice, military service, religious ceremonies, intellectual discussion, athletics and artistic pursuits. Greek citizens did not have rights but duties. To shirk one’s duty was not only rare but reprehensible in the eyes of the Greek citizen. A citizen who did not fulfill his duties was considered useless. At the polis of Sparta, such a citizen was called “an inferior” At Athens a citizen who held no official position or who was not a habitual orator in the Assembly was branded as idiotai. These poleis differed from one another and there were hundreds of them in the Greek world. There were however two city states that typified generally two distinct typologies of Greek city states. These were Sparta and Athens.
Sparta located on the Peloponnesus was made up of five Dorian Villages which later conquered its neighbours and imposed political domination on them and created a society of citizens and subjects. As the number of subjects increased through conquest it became imperative for the city to develop extreme militarist state for the maintenance of its citizens power over subjects who out numbered them. The constitution of Sparta was mixed containing elements of monarchy, Oligarchy and democracy. In short the Spartan ideal was austere, severe and limited. The Spartan ideal was later elevated and celebrated by Plato in his book the Republic.
Athens on the other hand controlled the areas of Attic peninsula to the east and North east of Sparta. The people conquered by Athens were not reduced to servitude like in Sparta, so Athens never faced the problems of trying to control a large population of angry and sometimes violent subjects. Pericles one of Athenian leaders around 460BC brought into being what has now come to be known as Athenian democracy by which it is understood equality of citizens, jury system, equality of opportunity and career open to talents. This periclean democracy is the foundation of western liberal democracy. But even then women, slaves, merchants and aliens were still forbidden from voting which was based on property qualification especially landed property. This democracy was still direct democracy in which decisions were communally debated and agreed upon and implemented. This kind of direct democracy is today not possible in modern cities not to talk of modern states.
Representative Democracy: The British Example
Representative democracy then came into being first in Great Britain, then in the United States before spreading to many parts of the World, particularly to France and the Anglo-British commonwealth. Wherever it spread the seeds did not normally fall on fertile land but most times it fell on rocky soil. The European continent which today seems to be the bastion of democracy was a hard nut to crack. The British began experimenting with democracy and party government from the time of the Whigs and the Tories back in the 17th century. Democratic governance had a long gestation before one can really talk about democracy. The first steps began in real form in the 18th century when there was a semblance of distinct parties and some form of elections. Even then franchise was strictly restricted to the landed geantry and some members of the commercial class who became wealthy as a result of owning plantations in America and the West indies or those involved in the East Indian trade. These latter class used their money to buy “rotten boroughs” from where they entered parliament. “Rotten boroughs” were constituencies where over time people had moved away and were virtually empty but were retained as electoral constituencies at the mercy of those with money to buy them. It was not until the so-called great Reform Bill that this practice was severely restricted if not out rightly ended. Even After the Reform Bill the franchise was still restricted to land and property owners. The vast majority of the working class was excluded on the basis that the ruling class as a matter of noblesse oblige was bound to take care of the interest of everybody. Thus most of the leaders of political parties were noble men or those with money who later bought their way into the aristocracy.
United States Example
In the United States which severed its ties with Britain in 1776, the same class of people predominated the political scene. In spite of the revolutionary statements contained in the American declaration of independence, that “all men are born equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights among which are the rights to liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness”, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. The point to make however is that once the ideal of liberty and equality was accepted the trajectory to egalitarian democracy was clear, it was only a matter of time before democracy in deed and in truth became a reality. Besides, gradualism in reform is one of the hallmarks of democratic rule.
Service Deserves its Reward
Thus through peaceful agitation, pressure and industrial strikes the working class gradually gained the franchise and after the First World War women were given the vote in England because of their role in the home front and in industries while the men went to fight. Pressure was also mounted by the suffragettes on the ruling class which was invariably male before concession of the franchise was accorded the female folks. The same kind of path was taken in the United States. But there, because of slavery and racism it was a see saw affair. Abraham Lincoln who defined modern democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people had to fight a civil war (1860-65) before slavery was abolished and the black man was given the right to vote. Even this was gradually withdrawn over the years until the civil rights Act of 1965, a century later made civil rights enforceable and justiceable in the United States.
The Example of France
The Third Country associated with the early development of democracy is France. Before the French revolution of 1789 France was at best a royal despotism. Its Bourbon monarchs ruled with absolute power to the extent that one of them Louis XIV openly said “L’etat, C’est moi” “I am the state” signifying that the command of the king was law. But the cup of the Bourbon monarchy became full in 1789 when revolution broke out and eventually swept off the monarchy. After trial and error, extreme Jacobin democracy finally ended in military dictatorship and empire of Napoleon Bonaparte. Unlike Anglo-American democracy French democracy from 1800 to the present has alternated between democratic instability, military dictatorship and extreme centralism of power and administration.
The Spread of Democracy
The point to make however is democracy has become the political credo of most countries in Europe, the Americas and most of Asia, at least in the Indian subcontinent and Japan since the second world war. Many parts of Asia has experimented and experienced what at best may be called “guided” democracy especially in places like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore. Some form of democracy or the other has taken roots in central and Eastern Europe and even in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The only dark spot for democratic penetration is the Middle East particularly Arab Middle East where its culture and oil money have kept democracy at bay. Where there is an efflorescence of democracy in Persian Iran and to a certain extent in Egypt the democracy practiced there would be unrecognizable to democratic purists.
The collapse of European dictatorships in Greece. Spain and Portugal in the mid 1970s. and the collapse of dictatorships in Latin America in the 1980s. followed by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the incipient democratization of Taiwan, South Korea and the entire South East Asia convinced most policy makers in the West that the age of democracy has arrived. With this trend firmly established the United States of America became unequivocal in its support of human rights and democracy around the world. Francis Fukuyama, an historian famously predicted the “end of history” as nations began to embrace liberal democracy. George Bush proclaimed that spreading democracy should be the main aim of American diplomacy. It is in this “democratic” environment that Africa has operated since 1990. Africa has therefore faced the question of democratic governance willy-nilly. Compliance or non-compliance with democratic norms has had ramifying consequences.
The principles of democratic governance were well captured in a declaration in a meeting in Singapore in 1971 during a summit of the Commonwealth of which many African countries are members.
The declaration said inter alia that
- We believe that international peace and order, global economic development and the rule of international law are essential to the security and prosperity of mankind.
- We believe in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights of all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief and in the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which he or she lives.
- We recognize racial prejudice and intolerance as a dangerous sickness and a threat to healthy development and racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil.
- We oppose all forms of racial oppression and we are committed to the principle of human dignity and equality.
- We recognize the importance and urgency of economic and social development to satisfy the basic needs and aspiration of the vast majority of the peoples of the world, and seek the progressive removal of the wide disparities in living standards amongst our members.
Democracy in the Third World
Before the 1980s the question of democracy in the so-called third world had attracted a lot of attention. There were those who favoured the Socialist or Soviet type of “peoples democracy” meaning equal economic opportunity, centralized and dirigist planning while political control lay in the hands of the Central Committee of the Communist party in each state. The stupendous economic strides taken by many of the countries in Eastern Europe including the then Soviet Union convinced people in the developing countries that the soviet path was the path of true economic development. Thus we had coinages such as “guided democracy” “one party democracy” and of course “people’s democracy”. Over time the justification of rapid economic development replaced demand for political rights. Unfortunately the rapid development of the so-called Tiger economies of Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea that paid little regard to democratic rights of their citizens undermined the justification for democracy. From the far left to the far right could be found reasons to denigrate democracy as being unsuitable in certain circumstances. The universality of democracy however reasserted itself with the collapse of the various totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the Authoritarian regimes in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and in the countries of Latin America. Africa presented its own challenges of authoritarian regimes in racist South Africa and other parts of Africa as well as the phenomenon of one party states and military regimes all over the continent. While the world was polarized between the East and the West, authoritarian and military regimes in such countries as Nigeria, Ghana and Pakistan could maneuver through the wide political space provided by East/West rivalry. The situation was so exploitable that some East African leaders under pressure to adopt multi-party democratic system claimed they were already practicing “one-party multipartism” The removal of Communism as a rival system to the capitalism of the west and the almost universal embrace of market determined economic regime under the wide rubric of liberal democracy made untenable the positions of non-democratic regimes in the World and Africa in particular.
Democratic Consolidation in Africa
The installation of a democratic regime in South Africa was the beginning of a long process of democratic consolidation in Africa. The contradiction of having democracy in South Africa and the lack of it in the rest of Africa became crystal clear. While Mandela was being sworn in as president, Sanni Abacha had Nigeria under military jackboots and the situation in the rest of one party regimes and military dictatorships in Africa was only slightly better. It was in this circumstance and perhaps with mixed results that the Western World especially the Commonwealth began to apply pressure on African member states to democratize. The military regime in Nigeria presented the Commonwealth a formidable problem. The importance of Nigeria lies in its resources, its population even if vitiated by the multitudinous ethnic composition and the nuisance value of what would happen if the country were to disintegrate. The leadership role of Nigeria in Africa, especially its successful anti-colonial campaign against racist settler regimes in Southern Africa made it mandatory that persuasion was the best option facing the Western world in dealing with Nigeria. It was not until Nigeria overplayed its hands when on the eve of CHOGM in New Zealand it hanged Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995 that the Commonwealth decided to suspend the country.
Just as in the case of South Africa, the internal dynamics for change was aided and abetted by the external forces of change of which the Commonwealth was a significant factor. The Commonwealth has also been involved in the difficult political transformation in East Africa, notably in Kenya and in Tanzania particularly in the much more troubled Island of Zanzibar. There have also been elections in Zambia and Zimbabwe which in the latter case has attracted a lot of attention. The issue in Zimbabwe is connected with redistribution of land to the landless African supporters of Robert Mugabe. Because of the inability or unwillingness of the British to buy up land from the largely white landowners as agreed to in the Lancaster House agreement of 1980, the government of Robert Mugabe began seizure of land without compensation and distributing it to his supporters. This has led to agrarian chaos and political violence in the country. Because of these internal problems exacerbated by external pressure the Zimbabwean economy has collapsed. A new political movement perhaps externally supported if not externally guided to remove Mugabe and led by Morgan Tswangirai emerged in Zimbabwe. This movement is mostly centered in Harare, Bulawayo and other towns whilst it seems Mugabe still enjoys support in the rural areas. The upshot of the struggle is that Mugabe’s electoral victories have been widely challenged as fraudulent. Whether Mugabe likes it or not his biological time is ticking and he is fighting an unwinnable war. Sooner or later freedom will triumph over tyranny in Zimbabwe. His refusal to respect his peoples right has brought him international opprobrium.
This led to the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. A similar Commonwealth observer Group in Lesotho in 2002 succeeded in seeing a peaceful restoration of democratic rule to a troubled mountainous state with very little economic resources and operating under the political and economic shadows of South Africa. Over the years the Commonwealth had sent out about forty observer Groups to many parts of the Commonwealth. This began in 1989 when Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed that election observation could help strengthen democratic institutions and processes in member countries. Heads of Government reinforced the commonwealth values two years later and set the context for the activities of the commonwealth observers when they adopted in the 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration to promote “democracy, human rights, the rule of law and just and honest government”. This commitment has been reinforced at subsequent Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings, most recently that held in Kampala in Uganda in 2007. In other words it has become obligatory for the Commonwealth to monitor when invited, elections in member countries. The recent Commonwealth election observers in Nigeria’s general elections of April 2003 and May 2007 was further supported by monitors of the E.U, African Union and ECOWAS. Their reports were not flattering at all and constitute a permanent scar on any pretension of democratic governance in Nigeria. The important thing is that most African countries now seek the stamp of approval and credibility by inviting Observer Groups to monitor their national elections. The fact that African countries suffering from democratic deficit can be put on notice pending good behaviour has also imposed some irreducible minimal democratic credentials on African countries. The recent involvement in rebuilding of Sierra Leone and Liberia by African countries either acting under Commonwealth auspices or as part of the United Nation’s Organisation has brought succour to these troubled countries and people. Democracy ironically at the point of the gun has had to be imposed on these troubled countries. The situation in Somalia has proved much more difficult to contain. Internal chaos and violence there are being exacerbated by external terrorist involvement of the al Qaeda. This has brought in other interventions from the United States of America or Ethiopia acting as a proxy for the west generally.
Even when there appears to be normalcy democratic system is unduly expensive, especially the presidential system. This is why there is a yearning for parliamentary democracy which with the privilege of hindsight is cheaper and more efficient. It does not carry with it the baggage of possible presidential dictatorship and the dishing out of innumerable appointments of presidential aids. Sometimes the Legislatures create parallel bureaucracies thus leading to duplication and waste in a situation where there is crying need for development and equity especially in the sharing and management of resources.
It is particularly important to sustain consensus in multi ethnic societies and to reduce the risk of conflict especially in countries with rich natural resources. The incendiary situation in the Niger-Delta is a pointer to what can happen when a certain section of a country feels it is not getting its dues.
Many have argued for the need of political and economic decentralization sometimes called fiscal federalism in Nigeria. Decentralization must be accompanied by transparency of resource flows between different levels of government and improved financial management at local levels. Without this, there is a risk that decentralization will worsen over all financial management and effectiveness. There is need for total commitment to poverty eradication which is a sine qua non for democratic consolidation. It is no use for the west to upbraid and harangue and harass poor countries as corrupt when in fact the countries of the North are the greatest beneficiaries of the corruption of the countries of the South. The more resources the developing countries have through repatriation of looted funds, increase in ODA, debt write off, equitable terms of trade through fair negotiation at the WTO the more the chances of success of democracy in the developing world. A just and equitable global economic regime is a prerequisite and necessary condition for world peace and democratic ascendance. Democracies generally do not go to war with each other. And in a globalised world where the economies are intertwined and interlocked and where ownership of major corporate bodies cuts across international frontiers equitable distribution of ownership will ensure that all stake holders work towards a common goal of global peace. But the obverse of a few owning all the wealth of the world would create a situation of hopelessness anger and the samsonian tendency of bringing the roof down on everybody.
Current Situation in Africa
Every time one reads about Africa there is always a sense of ennui especially when the state of political instability, economic and social hopelessness seems to be a permanent feature of the continent. One would have wanted to say that this chaos characteristic of Africa is limited to a few isolated places. But it is not. From the Maghreb to West Africa and from Central Africa to East and Southern Africa the continent suffers from fissiparous political tendencies leading to internal implosion and occasionally to full scale civil wars in which Africa’s neighbours and outsiders are directly or indirectly involved.
In the case of the Maghreb especially in Algeria, the local Muslim Jihadists are aided by the “Al Qaeda in the Maghreb” to wage a war against the Maghribian State of Algeria. Some decades ago, the religious party known as F.I.S (Front Islamique du Salut) was about to win an election when the military intervened to stop the process. Since that time, there has been no peace. The government of Abdulaziz Bouteflika the eternal president of Algeria has not helped. There is no legitimate method of changing the government except through armed struggle. This is why in spite of the charade of elections, nothing will change until the regime allows the will of the people to triumph over the will of those who have cornered state resources and have control over state organs especially the armed and police forces.
In West Africa the situation in the Ivory Coast is not better. The country is now effectively partitioned into the largely Muslim North and the Catholic South with elements from Burkina Faso pulling strings in the North. Thus a country built up by President Felix Houphouet - Boigny to one of the most prosperous states in Africa is now prostrate and divided without any end in sight. Guinea-Bissau is doomed to failure. It is too small and too resource poor to survive. If there were no vested interests in its precarious existence it should federate with Guinea-Conakry which herself, in spite of being resource rich, is also now distressed. It is only the strong but oppressive and violent military government of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara that is keeping the poor country afloat. Even Senegal is not spared the fissiparous political secessionist manifestations of a section of the country. The Casamance province has been in armed rebellion against the authorities in Dakar since the 1960s. It is a low intensity violent manifestation which is taxing the ingenuity and resources of those in power in the country. Abdoullaye Wade Senegal’s eighty five year old president is too old, detached and distant from reality. Mauritania has had too many Coup d’états that one has lost count of them. Even the apparently stable countries like Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria and the Cameroons have their problems. Apart from Ghana and Benin few have managed to hold transparently free elections. That is why peaceful transition of power is so crucial to the development of Africa. Because in the absence of peace there can be no development. Nigeria in particular needs to internalise and embrace this fact because if Nigeria were to be plagued by instability and chaos West Africa would not survive it. There are too many Nigerians and they are more than all the populations of the remaining ECOWAS States put together. If the state were to collapse, the population movement from it will overwhelm and overawe the rest of West Africa.
The Sahelian States of Africa stretching from Mali to Niger, Chad, the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somali are in a State of permanent distress. Nature is already hostile to them. Perhaps because of this their politics is afflicted by instability and chaos. Mali and Niger’s authorities are being challenged by Touaregs aided by shadowy forces probably sponsored either by al-Qaeda or Libya. In fact there are wars going on in the Sahara as of now and Mali and Niger are being supported apparently by the C.I.A which sees the situation from the perspective of the life and death struggle with al-Qaeda and extremist and fundamentalist Islam. Chad faces daily threat from internal dissension and external infiltration from the Sudan. Sudan itself before long will break apart just as Ethiopia and Somalia have already done. Even whatever successor states that emerge would again face the same problem. Already the largely Christian and animist South Sudan is wracked by tribal warfare leading to worse refugee problem than Darfur. If Darfur were to secede, there would be tribal war between the various clans just as we have had in Somalia. Somalia is the worst case. It is also the saddest. It is a country where everybody speaks the same language, and everybody is a Muslim. Yet this state has the unique situation of “disappearing” from the Map. The Somali people have now become a nuisance to the international community and they now constitute themselves into pirates threatening international shipping in the horn of Africa and in the Red Sea and the gulf of Aden. This phenomenon is causing the international community billions of dollars in naval patrol and policing, a thing that most nations thought was history. This has forced the international community to begin to think about how to put Somalia together. This will involve the difficult and sometimes futile process of nation building with all the headaches usually associated with it in other parts of the world.
Neighboring Kenya which hitherto was a paragon of development in east Africa is ravaged by tribalism. The coalition government dominated by the Luo and the Kikuyu is apparently coming apart. If this happens it will create unfathomable crisis in East Africa. Kenya is the economic power house of East Africa occupying the position which Nigeria occupies in West Africa. If this “humpty-dumpty” of a state were to collapse it will have ramifying effects in Uganda and Tanzania as well as the rump of Somalia and Ethiopia with which it shares borders.
Central Africa is not better. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been in a state of civil war since 1960. The situation has worsened in recent times. The country, the size of western Europe, is too large to be governed as a unitary state from Kinsasa. The Hutu – Tutsi problem of Rwanda and Burundi has been imported into the Eastern part of the country. War Lordism is a major problem in the country. All her neighbours are feasting on the carcass of the dying state. The country is too rich for its own good and it is unlucky to be surrounded by poor and hungry states like, Congo (Brazzaville) Uganda, Central African Republic Rwanda and Burundi and even the Sudan. There was a time when forces from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Angola, Zimbabwe occupied big chunks of the country. In spite of the deployment of the largest United Nation’s peace keeping operations in recent history, there is no peace to keep. More than two million Congolese have perished as a result of war and its collateral damage of disease and displacement.
Southern Africa, with the exception of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia is reasonably doing well economically. This is either because of their resource endowment as in Angola or because of developed infrastructure inherited from colonial and settler regimes as in South Africa, and Namibia or because of good management as in Botswana. Mozambique in spite of its sad civil war has now settled down to peaceful albeit slow economic development. Southern Africa, in spite of the sad situation in Zimbabwe caused by human greed and external manipulation, is an “Island” of peace on the continent. Of course the future of South Africa lies in sensible leadership that can bring economic equity and justice to the black majority without driving the whites and Indians away.
What is to be done? Our fate is in our hands. We must find a way of peaceful transition of power. The situation of states remaining for decades under an autocrat as in Egypt, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Libya, Congo (Brazzaville) and the Cameroons should be deprecated and done a way with. Peace has become a scarce commodity on the continent, we must find a way out of this. We must resort to constitutional device to harmonise disparate interests through the federal system which interestingly is a rarity on the African continent. The point that must be made and clearly understood by our leaders is that the international community is tired of African problems. One cynic was heard to have said that Africa would have been the best continent in the world but for its people. If we Africans do not shape up we may be shipped out in order to preserve the exotic flora and fauna of the natural African environment.
The problems of Africa are legion. Corruption is killing the continent. The “politics of poverty” where by leaders steal more than they can spend in a life time has become a curse on the continent. The Babel of languages and the indigestible multitudinous ethnic groups and tribes have remained a permanent feature usually exploited for financial and political aggrandizement by selfish leaders. The poor infrastructure and lack of technological know how are also constraints to economic development. Political instability arising as a result of lack of opportunities for the masses of the people constitute a vicious cycle. But at the end of it all, good governance, transparency, democracy in its liberal form have worked in other climes and with sincerity, they should work in Africa.
Leadership is everything in Africa and in most developing countries where institutions are weak and where the states are themselves fragile. It is public knowledge that most countries in Africa are artificial creations of western imperialism. These states are in most cases multi-lingual and plural in nature with very rudimentary sense of nationalism to hold the disparate ethnic groups together. The anti imperialist nationalist agitations leading to independence from colonial rule were not strong enough to provide a cement to hold the countries together after the departure of the commonly hated colonial masters. The result in most cases was the development of fissiparous tendencies culminating in political instability if not out right civil wars. But in countries where there were leaders with foresight and vision such as in Ghana and Tanzania transition from nationalist leaders to post independence leaders was seamless and without much trouble. But where the loyalty was to the ethnic group rather than to the nation civil dissension and sometimes civil war erupted leading to needless loss of lives. This has been the experience of most countries especially of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic The Sudan, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Guinea (Bissau), Guinea (Conakry) Senegal and even Nigeria. Instability has been the rule rather than the exception. There are very few African countries with selfless leaders and yet it is in Africa that incorruptible and selfless leaders are sorely needed. These leaders are needed to help institutionalize good governance and the rule of law characteristic of much settled and stable countries. Africa needs to go beyond personalities to the rule of law and to functional institutions.
Once these are in place then it would not matter if we have bad leaders in the future because these leaders would be constrained and restrained by the established institutions and if they go out of order the institutions will be strong enough to deal with such erring leaders. But Africa is still at the rudimentary stage of establishing solid institutions and until this is done there will always be a need for strong leaders. But the ideal we must all aim at is a regime of rules and laws not a regime of Africa’s “big men” whose rule have brought disaster, corruption and distemper to most African countries. This is why the Mugabes, the Ghadafis, the Muhammed Bashirs, the Musevenis, the Mubarakhs, Kagames, Kibakis, the Biyas, the Bouteflikas and Nguemas of Africa must leave and yield their places to younger and new leadership. There needs to be a renewal of leadership. This renewal must not lead to dynastic renewal as in the rumoured plans of a younger Ghadafi or a younger Mubarakh taking over from their old fathers. This has unhappily happened in Gabon where a young Bongo has taken over after forty years of corrupt rule by Omar Bongo. Until Africa solves its succession problem the continent will remain dark not only physically but metaphorically. The challenge of development needs more than political leadership. Africa needs to be able to harness her resources, attract massive foreign investments, develop and mobilize its own people through massive investment in education in order to develop the quantum of knowledge required in the twenty first century where brain power is a sine qua non of development. Having raw materials and natural resources would not be enough without appropriate technical know how. But after all is said and done, Africa must “seek first the political kingdom” in the words of late Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, of Ghana and “all other things will be added unto us”. This should of course be interpreted to mean Africa must get its politics right because it is when there is peace, law and order that there will be a friendly environment necessary for development.