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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Columnist: Tay, Bismark

Open Letter From Bismark Tay To Africans

On 2015 African Union Day

Just a week ago, 16 heads of states of West African nations met in the capital city of Ghana, Accra; for an ECOWAS conference where a new chairman was elected.
Among the several issues discussed at this gathering was the issue of two term limit on all presidents in the West African sub region. As expected, the proposal was shot down and deferred for later discussion.
Africa, Africa, Africa.
A land of abundant natural resources.
A land of beautiful landscape and natural tourist sites.
A home to several of the world's most beautiful plants and animals
A land of strong men and women with abundant energy to supply the needed labour for any industry in the world.
A continent with more than half of its people below the age of 45, full of passion and energy to define their destinies.
A continent blessed with more than half of the world's natural resources.
A continent where the sun rises and sets everyday, giving life to a beautiful vegetation.
This is what we are blessed with. This is our beautiful Africa.
Blessed with all the best things of nature but with majority of its people living on $2 a day. A continent too rich for its people to be poor. A continent with too many talented, passionate and selfless young people for her to be crying of skilled labour to man industry.
From where I sit, I can't see any other reason for Africa's development dilemma other than leadership. My all time leadership mentor, John C Maxwell always says, Everything rises and falls on Leadership. This statement is perhaps more true today than it was the day it was first made.
The hunger, the corruption, the 3,4,5 terms in office of presidents, the conflicts, the greed, etc; are all the effects of the decisions and actions of our leaders and people.
For most of our leaders in Africa, greed and selfishness have replaced life on purpose, corruption has replaced common sense and the quest to remain in power has replaced the sovereign will of the people. We have leaders who are comfortable living in expensive mansions, riding highly expensive cars, travelling all over the world while sleeping in very expensive hotels, and all this time, their people are languishing in abject poverty. Yet, even if the people complain, our leaders have all the words to defend the indefensible. If they run out of words, they either tag you to an opposition party or better still, assault you verbally.
Where are we going? Where is our sense of compassion, care, love and sense of purpose. Where is our integrity with ourselves? Where is our commitment to the oaths we took to protect and work in the interest of our compatriots. Where is our heart of service to love and serve our people. Leadership is about service to the people.
There is a serious leadership poverty in Africa and all hands must come on deck to kick it out. Our leaders are losing their sense of purpose. Some of their decisions and actions defy common sense. And worst of all, they are grooming young people of their kind to take over from them. I ask again, where are we going?
Exactly a year ago, I wrote a similar open letter. Between 25th May, 2014 to today, the situation on this continent has seen little progress. The past year has been characterised by leaders seeking to bend their constitutions to allow them serve more than two terms. What better word can best describe this than greed. But for the courage of the people of Burkina Faso, their situation would have been similar to Togo, Guinea or Zimbabwe.
I wish to pay my deepest respect to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria for showing the way. His courage and humility is worth emulation by far too many African heads of state.
In my country Ghana, change of power is not one of our problems yet (not praying for it though. Our challenge here is the the corruption, the greed and the lack of common sense in some state policies. The mediocrity at even being mediocre. The politicisation of everything. The failed promises, promises that shouldn't have been made in the first place. The culture of arrogance and intolerance by public office holders. The list is endless.
So what went wrong? Why are we here? What did we do wrong to get here?
I strongly hold the belief that all our problems today are the effect of continental unconsciousness of developing leaders to lead our various nations. Till today, leadership development is not yet seen as a necessity in Africa but rather as a luxury. The conscious and intentional effort to raise a certain caliber of leaders with specific values, principles, attitudes and skills is absent in too many African nations. Money, degrees, and very surprising attributes are requirements into leadership in too many African countries at the neglect of a heart of service.
Our educational institutions are also failing us in providing the needed labour and leaders for industry because, while our politicians are playing chess with our educational policies, our educational authorities who should know better are seeking to raise more funds than raise more quality graduates. Where are we going?
What can be done to save the situation?
I strongly recommend a continental consciousness to raising a new generation of leaders whose weigh on the character and competence scale is balanced. Leaders who are not only competent at what they do, but also in possession of the good character of person to truly serve the interest of the greater good.
This process should start from the home to the very top. Every leader is a product of a home. And when the home is right, it is very likely the leader will be right. We can start with parents being good role models to their children by living their lives on values and also allowing their children to be part of the decision making process in the home. Parents should consciously raise their children to become good leaders. Most of what I do today as a leader I learnt from my parents. My values, principles and the respect for the humanness in everyone.
The churches and all other religious groupings should take responsibility of not only catering for the spiritual development of their people but their social and economic growth as well. Churches / religious groups should intentionally and consciously design, implement and monitor youth leadership capacity building programs in order to raise a new generation of leaders with strong values to lead their congregations and society in the future. Religious leaders also need to preach virtues and values through their actions and way of life and not by just words. Through this, they will become the right models for the younger ones.
Our educational system should be totally overhauled to allow for more emphasis on practical application of principles rather than the theoretical and 'examination passing' focus of teaching and learning. Since nobody can run away from leadership, I strongly suggest including a leadership development component in the curriculum at the basic level. Our educational institutions should as well reprogramme the African child to believe in his or her infinite potential and taught how to harness the power within to build extraordinary life..
The result of the absence of self reliance in the African is the deep seated belief of our leaders that they cannot fund their own budgets.
This might sound simple but if the self image, self worth and self belief are taken seriously in Africa, a lot of our continental issues would have been over by now.
We also need to develop a more practical entrepreneurship training component of the tertiary level curriculum
Finally, I believe Africa can chart a new course if the west drastically cuts down support to us. Too much money is being given to us. It's become the mental slavery of our day. The more we receive, the more we become dependent on it and lose our creativity and belief in our own abilities to cater for ourselves. I strongly advocate for African Leaders to be left to fund their own national budgets. We have enough to cater for ourselves.
So, is there hope for the future?
Yes there is hope for the future. I see a prosperous Africa.
I see a day when we are in charge of our destinies.
I see a day we make our own decisions and live by them
I see a day our young people are proud of their leaders and their land
I see a day when the conflicts, the hunger and the hopelessness are reduced to history lessons in Africa.
But I also see that that day will not come by chance. We have to work for that day and work must start now and by everyone, African and non African.
We are all need to ask ourselves, what single thing can I do to change things in Africa. You don't need a lot of money. You only need yourself and the will to make a difference in your small corner. Don't run away from Africa because of where we are today. Africa is the greenest pasture, it's only that we are yet to fully exploit it.
Let's all come on board to make Africa our home.
To you our leaders, Africa is too rich for her people to be so poor, and your people are to poor for you to be living so expensively. Come down, open your heart and truly serve your people.
As a President, Minister, Member of Parliament, Local Government official, etc, we are looking up to you and posterity will surely judge if you've really being a leader or you've wasted the time of your people. Be a mentor, serve with your heart and God's blessings will never depart from you.
God bless Africa, God bless you for reading.

The writer, Bismark Tay, is a Leadership and Personal Development Coach, Speaker and Trainer.
Mobile: +233 204 987592