Our elders said, “It is the one who lies by the fireside who feels the heat”.
Democracy has taught us to vote and elect leaders who would look after the resources in a country. The resources are (un)limited — it includes everything in the country- natural, human, financial etcetera. It means the leadership of a country is no joke and the citizens have elected leaders because they trust them. The citizens have entrusted their whole life to the hands of the leaders to captain the “ship” to the right destination. Leaders! Don’t let your people down.
The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Motley, in her address to COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland made a passionate but forceful appeal to the world leaders gathered at the climate event. She said, “Leaders must not fail the people who elect them”.
Her speech was filled with emotions as she looked intently at the world leaders in the auditorium. The world leaders shook their heads either in agreement or in a reflective mood musing on what she told them. I think the leaders left this event with the statement that they must not disappoint the people who elected them to power.
What PM intimated at the COP26 was not just for the climate event, but it goes beyond that. It’s an appeal to our African leaders not to disappoint their citizens.
A swathe of leaders in Africa have positioned themselves in such a manner that immediately they ascend to that leadership position; they develop immediately the mindset that they are the repository of all knowledge and hence they can’t be questioned or faulted. Thus, any divergent or contrary view is seen as abhorrent and they have to either bring you down or make life uncomfortable for you wherever you find yourself.
Leaders are not immune to mistakes and therefore accepting mistakes and correcting them make your followers feel that their voice matters in the governance of the nation. Abraham Lincoln succinctly said, “democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. If there are no followers there are no leaders, nonetheless, we can’t run a system where there are no group of people at the helm of affairs. And making sure that the future generation does not suffer the same challenges and problems that bedevil a current generation.
In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” However, in most African nations we are jeopardising the present and even ruining the future generation. This has made the youth, especially, to lose confidence in those at the helm of leadership. This has driven the youth to seek greener pastures elsewhere even at the peril of their precious lives.
Africa has huge potential but Africans themselves don’t see it or our leaders have made us not see it. According to the United Nations Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of Sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. The only way to spur the continent’s growth is when the youth are fully empowered to realise their best potential. But what precedence are the leaders of today setting for the youth of tomorrow to follow? Are we going to continue this way? Only time will tell!
If you know that you can’t lead; don’t stand for election. If you know that you don’t want to be constructively criticised, don’t stand for elections. If you know that you don’t want to be a generational thinker for your country and continent, don’t stand for election. Period! We need a new crop of leaders who would carry on from where our great leaders like Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Samora Michel, Abdel Nasser, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara and other freedom fighters who in their age fought for the freedom and independence of our African continent.
If citizens can’t speak up to the rot in the society, who will and who should. Our elders said, “It is the one who lies by the fireside who feels the heat”. Only Africans can talk about the problems that confront us and no one else. No one can develop Africa, but Africans.
We are sick and tired of leaders who only want the power to enrich their pockets and family to the neglect the masses. We can’t go on like this. We don’t want our unborn children to hold their cups in hand begging for aid. We need to also let people come to us and beg for aid. It takes the willpower, commitment and dedication of all of us, most especially, our leaders who are paid with taxpayers’ money.
All hope is not lost in Africa. The only thing that we need to do is to change our mindset and attitude to make sure that our unborn children will sit at the dining table as diners and not the eaters of crumbs fallen from the table of the diners. There should be a paradigm shift in leadership that will seek the collective good of our continent rather than the individual good which prevails currently. Julius Kambarage Nyerere once said that on our way to being independently free; we would make a lot of mistakes but the only mistake we shouldn’t make is the mistake of despair and the mistake of giving up. It can be done.