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Opinions of Thursday, 24 January 2008

Columnist: Al-Hassan, Osumanu

When Your Neigbour's beard is on fire

It is quite clear from developments in African that lack of effective leadership is the reason for the continued poor status of the continent and its inhabitants. Listening and observing the actions of some African leaders and the different methods they apply when handling situations in their own countries and that of other countries, one cannot help wondering whether that leader is the same person.

For instance, is what started the civil war in Rwanda any different from what started the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire? Is what started the civil war in Nigeria any different from what fuelled what happened in Liberia or Sierra Leone? Africans can be described as most unlucky because with abundance of everything that has made other continents what they are today, Africa alone is still hungry for everything in the midst of plenty.

For example, which natural resource can any continent in this world boast of that Africa does not possess? Minerals, timber, fertile lands, oil, water bodies, you mention them. Oil for example, has made the Middle East the toast of the rest of the world with developed nations climbing over each other to make allies in there.

Fortunately, these countries have leaders who know how and what to do to get the best from the developed world for their people in exchange for their oil. In Africa on the other hand, this same oil has instead made people poorer than where it did not even exist, to the extent that they would kill their fellow countrymen e.g. Nigeria.

The African leadership appears not to learn nor do they see the good actions of others to emulate. Unfortunately, the best they do is not to even adopt the mistakes of others, they adopt the worse of these mistakes and go on to transform them into unimaginable proportions.

For instance, next door in Cote d?Ivoire, serious conflict flared up, simply because after being together for so many years, Ivorien President, Laurent Gbagbo decided that those from the north were not true Ivorians and therefore should not play any role in the politics of the country.

This makes you wonder whether the late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who fought for independence for the country did not know how to define who an Ivorian citizen was.

There is also this distinct difference between an African civilian government and a military government. Even though a military government is not recognized, no matter the developments it brings to a country, it still spends time putting up structures to return the country to civilian rule.

The civilian government on the other hand, even though is recognized as a legitimate government, spends time in power destroying all structures in the name of majority in order to perpetuate itself in power indefinitely. Losing sight of the fact that no matter how long a government stays in power, it would definitely fall one day, either through the ballot box or otherwise.

Development comes in stages and there is a stage that needs the politician to make sacrifices in order to make that development a reality. But is the African politician ready to make that sacrifice? The sacrifice I talk about has nothing to do with bloodshed, because I believe Africa should already have passed that stage.

That sacrifice is for African leaders to adhere to the democratic principles that they espouse when not in government and to work with the constitution and be ready to give up power after serving the mandated term as spelt in the constitution. Most countries on the continent have gone through traumatic experiences that have retarded their development and that of the continent as well.

One would like to believe that having adopted democracy as the best form of government and having gone through two and in some cases four elections, with or without political power changing hands would spell the beginning of a new era and the beginning of the end of the woes of the continent.

The greed that besotted the old generation of political leaders maybe dead, the ghosts are however at work, whispering into the ears of today's leaders, things that always bring the continent down. See how our elected leaders employ "democratricks" to change the constitutions of their countries to make them continue being in power.

For instance, why should Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo wish to change the constitution to make him eligible for another term? Is he the only person with the brains to make Nigeria better? Isn?t it a shame what is happening in Kenya today? There was no military junta, yet still Kenyans are being shot for protesting against rigged elections?

Shouldn?t that be of concern to every true Ghanaian who wishes to see a peaceful change over as witnessed during the 2000 elections?

This goes to reinforce the belief that African politicians only look at their interest when they assume power, else, there would be no reason to continue staying in power when a successor could easily continue where a predecessor left off.

But the predecessor knows well enough that there are no such plans for the country because the bottom line is to acquire wealth and any successor would only grab for himself what he is grabbing now, so this leader will do all he could to perpetuate himself in power. God Almighty has given some African countries the opportunity to begin on a clean sheet and one would expect a party in power which proffers to be democratic to stay away from all, I mean all decisions that could jeopardize the fragile democracy the continent has.

But as usual, the 'coat-coat' people who do not get satisfied with being in power for a term or two employ tricks to turn themselves into demi-gods who will rule till kingdom come. With their black suits, university mouths, executive pens and tongues that would dry stiff if they ever wag the truth, they manipulate all democratic provisions in order to continue being in power. The constitution that they worship when they are in opposition suddenly becomes an essay of a class three pupil that contains too many mistakes and needs to be corrected. And yet still they would proclaim they are the democrats who believe and live by the constitution of the land. What constitution, one would ask, when at their pleasure they would write off parts to suit the egocentric ideas that pop into their heads.

Our leaders don't seem to learn anything from the experiences of others and subsequently plunge their countries into throes being experienced by their next door neighbours, for which they even had to go and mediate for peace. However, half the blame for the greed and shortcomings of African leaders can be laid squarely on the shoulders of citizens, for giving their support wholeheartedly, even when they know the leadership is doing the wrong thing. What sort of defense would one put up against this assertion when in the name of supporting a ?myopic? president, reasons and common sense are thrown to the wind?

Can't the kind of loyalty we, the African electorates, ladle out to our leadership be described as political myopia or just plain ignorance?



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