It is a shame to be in a continent with leaders who worship and praise their colonists. And the question that raises eyebrows is then, what are they (African leaders) exactly telling Africans about the independence of Africa? The behaviour by some Francophone members of the Pan-African Parliament was mortifying while they remained quiet on the issue of human rights as well as the heart-throbbing crisis the Democratic Republic of Congo faced.
On 22 May 2021, the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo which melted mains water pipes and damaged a huge 5 000m³ reservoir, killing 31 people and destroying homesteads, left the Congolese people fighting their own battles. However, we have seen African leaders be very swift to address the European Union (EU) and United States (US) issues, and remain ambivalent with African issues. This proves to say there are serious levels of ignorance from those who claim to care about the prospects and future of a United Africa. There comes a point in time to decisively call out and deal with poor leadership, and direct how leaders are set to behave. Thus, I believe the time is now.
In most African national anthems, ultimate praise is directed to those who fought for independence. In Burkina Faso, their national anthem talks about a single night against the humiliating bondage of a thousand years, whereby rapacity came from afar to subjugate them for a hundred years. Additionally, many gave in while others resisted, and as a result of victory, that single night has brought together the people of Burkina Faso.
Therefore, it is from that perspective where African leaders should begin to rightfully behave as overcomers that they are, both on a continental and a global level. A good leader is the one that has empathy, good communication and comprehensive skills, and a high level of emotional intelligence, who is also able to effectively delegate and solve problems.
Although one can be a good leader, one can also come off as hubristic, of whom Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the Republic of South Africa is a perfect example. However, we cannot deny the fact that his arrogance is exactly what fuels getting the job done. To be heard and keep the government accountable, he challenges the norms of politics. On the other hand, his deputy Floyd Shivambu is not so much of a social person. He is calm but stern when addressing matters, compared to Malema. Thus, we can conclude that they make a great pair working together, despite their great differences. People react to the kind of energy one serves; they say you get served what you ordered, and one thing about energy is that it really does not lie. Politicians need to be careful; times have changed, and the people are an intuitive and self-aware generation. We no longer have puppets to be tossed, impressed by breadcrumbs of achievements, nor manipulated or deceived by long campaign speeches.
While we cannot dwell so much on the current leaders’ behaviour, we can only assume that they are battling the past side-effects of the pre-independence struggles and traumas they went through. The question should then be, what can be done in the immediate? Could we perhaps suggest emotion-focused therapy? Because there is an urgent need to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow do not only understand people’s skills, but they are well- equipped with the best leadership skills for the betterment of society. It is unacceptable to be a leader at a national stage, yet play household rules with people’s lives. It is a continental catastrophe that Africans have been facing. Having robust debates and political differences between different leaders of different political parties is allowed within the political spectrum, but diverting from the debate in order to serve personal agendas is dismissively wrong. A good example is the behaviour of some members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leadership in the National Assembly, which is certainly uncalled for when a national matter is reduced to a personal agenda. National leaders will have you think and question why political parties do not have a leadership policy which clearly stipulates the type of leadership skills and behaviours that are permitted within the structures of political parties. With the greatest of concerns currently, the majority of political leaders (when accorded the opportunity to lead) in Namibia misbehave, and they tend to quickly forget who they are representing and serving. They simply lose purpose.
Good leadership and good behaviour go hand in hand. One of the reasons why there has been a crisis in Africa for some time now is because of poor leadership and the awful behaviour of those in positions of power and authority. It is even disheartening to know that currently, there is no African head of state who can pose as an exemplary leader for other leaders on the continent to look up to. Poor leadership and bad behaviour also contribute to the slow pace of development on the continent. What is flabbergasting is that the continent still has dictators as heads of state, and our apparent “good” presidents who stand for “good governance” are mute and doing absolutely nothing to advocate for those to step down or to distance themselves from those dictators. People like Paul Biya of Cameroon, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda are still heading states, and considered as “leaders” to those countries. It is because of these types of people that the prospect of a United Africa will remain only the dream of the founding fathers of Africa.
Africans have a tendency of waiting to get orders from the Eastern and Western worlds without knowing that those orders will first benefit the Easterners and Westerners before the Africans. The only solution that Africa has is for the African Union (AU) to grow teeth that are strong enough to bite every African leader who is failing to comply with his or her national constitution and policies of the AU. The AU must take drastic measures; sit down member countries; and keep them accountable with the aim to rightfully influence the removal of long-serving presidents on the continent. As a result, only then will we as Africans know that this African institution is ready to come up with orders that will be adhered to, and ensure that all African leaders are leading their respective countries in the spirit of good leadership and good faith, and especially within the confines of their laws. Good behaviour by African leaders stands a high chance for positive change and it will fall in place once the adherence to national laws and AU policies is strictly enforced. We might as well like to suggest retirement age for leadership one day. They need to rest; after all, decades of fighting for freedom sounds pretty much exhausting to the human brain.
Terms such as patronage, clientelism, nepotism and neo-colonialism do exist because of poor leadership and bad behaviour by leaders in our society. As Africans, we ought to ask ourselves on an individual basis, am I happy with the type of leadership and behaviour exhibited by my country’s leaders? If not, then one should further ask what or how the current leadership can change in order to ensure effective leadership and appropriate leadership behaviour. Moreover, I suggest a simple answer: vote them out. Once each of the 54 countries engage in such an activity, Africa can rest assured that there will be good leadership on the continent.