From slavery, through colonialism, to today’s meta-colonial order, Africans have been humiliated enough to root for and stridently place demand for leadership that can restore power, respect, and prestige to the African humanity.
Democracy, by definition, grants power to the people, directly or through their representatives, to recruit political leadership, and is expected to respond to this demand.
Paradoxically, and with the mass of the African humanity starved of the capacity to make informed choices on leadership, even free and fair democratic elections are very unlikely to yield the cast and character of leadership which Africa requires to reclaim its full stature, moving forward in the 21st Century.
Africa’s politics is conducted ferociously on the altar of the classic asymmetrical warfare: the politician wins if he does not loose, as Vivian Esume, a political analyst, has critically observed.
The impotence, of Africa’s political class, on the core issues of economic growth and development – as indeed on Africa’s exclusion and despair – threatens in time to radicalize domestic politics as it continues to enlarge the space for domestic and continental terrorism.
A point that is sorely missed is that the capacity to discharge the onerous responsibilities which are imposed on and demanded from the political leadership is indeed awesome, and is a gift that is uncommon in the majority population.
The bar of entry to political offices, therefore, needs to be raised to restrict access, to only the capable and competent: those few that are specially endowed with the genius and graces required to execute the audacious demands of these offices. Africa has for too long, and to its peril, promoted or exalted people beyond their levels of leadership competency.
Incompetence of the leadership in most African countries is not only the problem of people who occupy the positions in government, but a reflection of leadership culture. Their pitiable qualification can be best understood in the context of lack of clear economic direction, policy and initiatives that are appropriate for developing societies.
Leadership provides the organic software for remaking society; it is the organ that converts a mob of citizenry into a nation, and human efforts into performance. With renewed power and boundless-sovereignty, even over nations, handed over to transnational expertise and industry by the forces of Globalization; with the search for harmony and balance between individual ambition and national aspiration; with the growing tension between Business’s needs for perpetual innovation and the Community’s need for stability; between the rapidly changing nature of knowledge and the limited capacity of the human mind; between Business’s need to compete globally and Society’s interest in the common good, transformational leadership that is steamed in critical thinking and judgement is needed in the continent.
With a purpose to unleashing the powers of markets and hearts to ensure that no African child or person is abandoned in the march to modern civilization, Africa must raise the bar on eligibility to hold public and political offices.
The raised bar should reward not just educational accomplishments, but also character (using a measurable barometer) and integrity — fidelity or commitment to the cause of growing the continent.
With the new quality of leadership infrastructure, Africa will be better placed to satisfying the economic and political aspirations of the distinct peoples within its borders without tearing itself apart.
This is the essential force required to bind Africa’s wounds and confront the hard issues – threats to continental, national, community, and personal security, the food and unemployment problems, and the challenge to modernize infrastructure across the continent – before these challenges abbreviate Africa’s common future.