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Opinions of Saturday, 26 January 2008

Columnist: Al-Hassan, Osumanu

When Your Neigbour's beard is on fire II

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? The leadership in Africa has assumed this know-all attitude simply because citizens continue to see the position they occupy as some kind of God-given rights and their actions never to be questioned and are prepared to kill their neighbours and kinsmen in support of such a person.

On what grounds therefore would one stand to speak against cigar-supporting Chuck Kofi Wayo when he rants on radio that African electorates are gullible? Colonialism has left a terrible mark on the administration of African states and even though the white colonialist is thousands of miles away, the system they exposed the African to is being used by the leaders, politicians to be specific, against the citizenry.

The skin of the people in leadership may have changed, the intentions, unfortunately remains the same.

The white colonialists did things that would make their life comfortable without a care what happened to the led, provided they (the leaders) get what they wanted in the end.

In all, the outcome of any decision is for the colonialists to have their comfort, and the only thing expected from the African is to follow and do, without questions, everything that the white leader said.

Those who went against or refused to carry out colonial orders, especially the chiefs used in the indirect rule policy of the British, were disgraced in public and in most cases destooled as chiefs of their communities by the white masters. Should one therefore continue wondering why this country is drowning in so many chieftaincy disputes?

One thing is clear though, the colonialists succeeded in these grand schemes only with the collaboration of some of the subjects of these very same chiefs. These subjects could well be described as vampires whose only interest was not the welfare of their community, but the volumes of blood they could collect for their pots.

The scenario has not changed much with the African leader taking over from the colonialist. As one of the founding father's of Nigeria's Independence put it, "African leaders have learn nothing and forgotten nothing."

The colonialist, for instance, fed discord and hatred within the African society and pitched families and communities against each other. A perfect ploy to break all dissenting voices.

The African leader has done well learning from the white master and pitching the electorates against each other. The electorates fight and kill one another for reasons rising out of political innuendoes, tribalism or any other maneuver that the African leader knows could incite the electorates to go for each others' throat.

How many African leaders have ever expressed the willingness to resign their post to protest against citizens killing each other and shedding blood of innocent women and children?

Has the change from colonialism to self-rule changed the world of the common African man for the better? Way I see it, the environment has not changed much for the common man because he continues to suffer from the actions of the black leader.

What punishment could compensate the African electorate for the hardships, deceptions and deaths that the leader unleashes on the African society? Yet in the midst of the poverty, diseases, deceptions and deaths, the electorates shut their eyes to all the havoc that the leadership inflicts on society, anxious to please the master.

We are not concerned about the welfare or rights of others, provided the leader compensates this hypocritical loyalty with political posts or properties. Anyone who dares to recount the wrongs of the leader incurs the wrath of other country men and women who feel the leader is a god, infallible in his actions. A mentality that could have been handed down from the days of colonialism, no? Time and time again, leaders on the continent have appealed passionately to African descendants in the Diaspora to come back to the continent and invest or better yet, resettle on the lands of their forefathers to help develop it with their expertise, and of course their hard won wealth.

The political leader, however, expects these 'Diasporans' to behave like the African electorates, follow and do without asking questions and definitely without protest, which is nothing but impossible; especially for people who have lived their lives in established democracies like the United Stated or Britain, where dissenting voices against leadership has always been loud?

No wonder in all these years, the number of Africans from the Diaspora who have expressed their willingness to resettle in Africa or to even do business has been quite, I mean quite negligible.

There is this story about a group of African-American businessmen who were said to have come to Africa to invest. After experiencing the bureaucracies that the African has been forced to tolerate throughout this life, these descendants of the continent decided their investments would not be safe in this environment and backtracked quickly.

In the airplane back to the US, these African descendants began to sing. No, not God save our investments. Neither was it God bless the queen. But "God bless the slave ship."

And why not? The white slave master is no more, yet still the crackle of the whip is even bitter in the hands of the black master (the African leader). What perhaps makes the African leader worse in the history of bad leaders is that the evils he unleashes are directed at his own country people, the very ones who acknowledge him as a leader. Eg, Zaire's Mobutu, Uganda's Iddi Amin Liberia's Charles Taylor, Zimbabwe?s Robert Mugabe etc?

Today people sleep in queues at embassies, too anxious to vamoose from this continent, because they feel secure economically, politically and socially in other countries than in their own motherland.

The West see Africa's problem as infinite because our leadership can always be manipulated to do its bidding, but as the common people with the votes, can?t we effect the change we need?

Even though western countries refused to recognize Hamas, Palestinians sent a message that nobody could disregard them easily by voting massively for Hamas in their last election.

That is what Africans need to do. Let us recognize our differences because we cannot all support the same party in our various states, but in the interest of the nation and the continent let?s agree to vote in a certain way to send strong signals to the leadership that they cannot toy with the electorates anymore. If the African leadership is made to understand they can not depend on unquestionable support from the electorates anymore, things are bound to change for the better.

If we the electorates, however, continue follow the deceptions of our leaders and regard our political opponents as sworn enemies and everything they say as wrong, we are practically offering fertile grounds for the leadership to cultivate discord that would blind us further from seeing their mistakes. Would Africa be able to develop for the better if we go on like this?

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