Friday, August 3, 2012

Power Drunk African 'Leaders'

Thus far, Africa virtually has no real leaders. Most, if not all, African presidents lack guidance and completely depend on the power conferred on their office to get their mandates enforced. They have no vision for their respective countries, and as a result can't decide what direction to take to ensure political stability and economic success. It seems all they are adept at doing is looting their country's coffers, creating political strife and meting out punishment to anyone who dares oppose them.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to stay in power till thy kingdom come, especially since ruling a nation is a tough job bearing tremendous responsibility to the people? Sure, the notion of being in power for life is tempting due to the clout, unlimited power and perks associated with the office, but, then again, didn't Lord Acton say, "All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

In other words, the longer one remains in power, the more likely one is going to lose touch with reality. A befitting example (or victim) of the axiom would be Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, who has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe started out promisingly, but has inevitably gone downhill. The country has become a byword for hyperinflation and is a poster child for money supply policies gone awry in virtually all Economics classrooms. A combination of sanctions, failed economic policies and political upheaval has transformed the country from a food basket to a basket case. One would think that the current situation in Zimbabwe and the plight of Zimbabweans would make Mugabe consider stepping down to allow a more capable person reverse the dire situation. Unfortunately, it seems the status quo has only made him dig his heels in deeper.

African leaders are seemingly tone-deaf to public opinion concerning their leadership, be it in the form of elections or protests. Common sense dictates that if citizens are truly happy with their elected leaders, they wouldn't be out in the streets protesting or casting their ballots for the opposition.

Constituents loathe it when their leaders stubbornly refuse to heed public sentiments to step aside, especially when they claim to be democratically elected, which in most situations isn't true and fair. It's like they’re saying to the people, "You can't possible know what's good for you or the country." Perhaps this was the thought Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire and Ben Ali of Tunisia held until they were all ousted.

African leaders should borrow a leaf from Nelson Mandela's book, who arguably is a quintessential leader. He was democratically elected and won majority of the votes in a free and fair election. And if he'd run again, he would have easily won a second term, but he stepped down at the end of his first term demonstrating he wasn't power drunk. Within the short time he ruled, he worked to unite South Africa which could have evenly fallen into chaos as a result of pent-up emotions stemming from the apartheid regime. Instead of relying on the divide and rule technique most African leaders seem to thrive on, he chose the path of peace and unity. Also, he never viewed the presidency as his birth right despite being imprisoned for 27 years for being a freedom fighter.

This is the lesson that African leaders need to learn - just because you found your way to the presidential palace doesn't mean it's your right to remain there until hell freezes over. Hopefully, citizens would realize they're the real owners of their country, and that it's their prerogative to vote out elected public servants who are under-performing.