THERE is a sense in which the forceful change of government via coup d’état in the Republic of Gabon last week makes a stark statement about the state of health of leadership in Africa. The current putsch was preceded by the ones in Burkina Faso and Niger Republic. A plethora of others had taken place since 2019 in Guinea, Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia, CAR, Togo amongst others.
Two deductions present themselves for critical consideration. One, the preponderance of these unconstitutional change of government happened in the Sahel region countries of the West African coast as well at the Horn of Africa. Two, the raison d’etre advanced by the coupists are, as usual, failure of governments, disaffection between the government and the people, high cost of survival and the fallen standard of living of the people. Perhaps it serves a brighter purpose to also state that the age of the leaders of this unconstitutional change of governments fall within the youth age bracket of 35–45 years.
Meanwhile, a peep into the inaugural speeches of these young leaders reveal a set of mostly angry, uncoordinated and highly exuberant declarations, many of which indeed ask more questions about the readiness of the African youths for high leadership, than provide answers. Now that the nose of the goat is poking into the garden, in these arguably small, economically almost insignificant African countries, where corruption, poverty, unemployment, anger, frustration, crime and paranoia, are like the second skins of the people, pundits are wont to ask whether the pattern of what is to come across the African political space, has not started emerging?
The seemingly choreographed timing and sequence of these unenviable change of governments further resonate the openly asked questions about the quality of leadership as well as the relevance and credibility of members of the ruling elites in Africa. There is a saying that “kings rule, peasants don’t” but there is also the corollary to that assertion. It warns that kings must rule well, with fairness, vision, compassion and courage.
In point of fact, the quietude and the apparent mummification of the ECOWAS and AU cooperation faculties raise a critical question about their relevance as a driving tool for regional and continental revival. It begs the question of whether there is indeed a centre to behold at all, talk less of holding it upon an anchor?
These insufferable military operations of usurpation of governments silently emerging unremedied in Africa is a clear indictment on the leadership credentials of the current ruling elite in Africa. It is important to point out a position earlier canvassed elsewhere, about the lack of clear ideological conviction or pursuance, identifiable with the cross section of the high men in power in Africa. Unlike in the medium past where clear cut, robust and renowned (though sometimes contentious) ideology of domestic and foreign policies of countries in Africa identify the continent’s leaders and also offer predictability for their actions, the mentality of African leaders of today seems like “everyman for nobody and nobody for everybody”.
In the glorious past described in the foregoing, we hear of the foreign policy of many African countries, most resoundingly Nigeria, as: Africa first before the world, regional trade integration for joint prosperity, cultural aggregation, regional partnership for growth and security and the ambitious concept of medium world power collegiate. Today and sadly, only few discourses or definitive pronouncements that are committal to any ideological beacon emerge from the state palaces.
The point must be made again however, that the peoples of countries in Africa are heavily harangued. They are under the pains of stinging poverty, economic stagnation, environmental degradation, social inequalities and general political instability – all caused by mindless, visionless and ineffectual leadership in the first place. Apart from the privileged few who are in the political class and their dance partners in the other tangential sectors, the future seems bleak for most Africans.
Today, our youths, as evident in the production and consumption of globalisation seem to be racing to be lost in the multifarious uncertainties which surround them in form of modernity and economic survival. Though uncharitable to the elders who should know, the youths today prefer a westernised, even basterdised identity, solely for commercial prosperity and comfort rather than being an African with a cause and responsibility.
Many commentators have asked why our young musicians in Africa prefer dressing and talking like American rappers and the western hip-hop performers while deliberately subjugating and subverting their own African languages, existential codes and modes? Is it a reaction to or a form of protest against the inertia of Africa or simply a response to globalisation? The answer cannot be far-fetched. It is simply in order to gain trans-border popularity and achieve global commercial prosperity.
Unlike before where the canonical codes of societal values are entrenched in families values, today, lewd coinage, elevation and justification of crime and criminality, sexual perversion, drug abuse and trafficking, robotic dance locomotion and obdurate fashion expressions, present more acceptable cultural curriculum to the society. Succinctly put, poverty and loss of self-confidence due to inequality and failed leadership in our nations have boxed out into smithereens, the teeth of sense, value, and confidence from the mouths of the general people of Africa.
As the pandora box of this unfortunate scenario is opening gradually, it appears the most expensive “gifts” in the box is the emplacement of these much talked about regimes of the military in African nation – states.
Recent experiences of the illegal and illegitimate regime changes in the African countries indicated earlier show the possibility that many more of such occurrences may still happen in the days to come. The fear of more putsches and forceful installation of armed leadership across West Africa, should be the beginning of wisdom for the leaders of thought in the continent. It should be the signal that a bigger threat of retrogression looms large in the shadow.
One point to also note is that the immediate and eventual effect of this wave of military coup de tats in Africa is that it may produce unintelligible, weakened or decentralised versions of multilateral relationships among African countries on the one hand, and with a fast-growing homogenous world on the other hand. It will also indicate the recurrence of crude and rudderless regimes, as happened in the darker days of Africa -in the post-colonial and neo colonial years.
As President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria steers the wangled ship of the ECOWAS, the thesis of this intervention therefore is to blow the bugle of an early rise to the Nigerian political elites across all institutions of leadership – politics, governance, academia, economy, trade unionism among others – to rise up to their responsibilities of engaging development, interrogating history and confronting their conditions respectively.
The leadership structures in the African states must be deliberate in redefining our philosophy of existence, create progressive landmarks, peer review activities, ideological renaissance and other conscientious efforts, capable of inspiring, orientating and mobilising the peoples of Africa towards their true Africaness and its unique advantages.
Instead of mollifying a combustible present for the sole purpose of self-preservation and control, we are arguing that African leadership should, as a matter of urgency think out quick win items of prosperity, self-confidence and hope in order to recover, particularly our largely growing and impatient youth population whose anger and frustration is qualifying in the blight of COVID 19.
Instead of accumulating ill-gotten humongous personal wealth and building individual paradise in the air, African leaders are called to action to activate a doer mentality with clear cut agenda of hope. It should be an agenda devoid of high sounding but ineffectual action words and market place acrobatics meant to confuse the people more. It ought to be clear now that the greatest dictate of globalisation is integration as a condition for survival and sustenance. Simply put each African political leaders must begin to see the effect of each decision taken for or against the people in the corners of their provinces as a decision taken for a generation of people beyond their shores and tongues.
Our call therefore is for a well-thought out authentic, missionary and restorative, development policies of governance which mobilise the people of Africa to believe in Africa, think Africa, love Africa, work for Africa, live for her growth and transformation.
In conclusion, for the loud and grandiloquent African leaders whose answer to the question of “when will it all begin” is the rote “..time is now”, the critical question to then ask them is, “when is the nowness of the now?”. A stitch in time saves nine.
Adekunle Adebayo writes from Lagos, Nigeria.