Leadership in Africa: Patriotism or Greed?

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Leadership in Africa: Patriotism or Greed?
Nwolu Obiajulu

Africa is home to some of the longest serving national leaders in the world. Prior to the Arab Spring in 2011, Africa had about 8 Presidents among the list of top ten longest serving national leaders in the world. It is however not surprising that up till this moment the continent parades the longest serving President in the world – Paul Biya of Cameroon. He has been in power since November of 1982.

Teodoro Obiang is currently the President of Equatorial Guinea, a country in West Africa. He has also been in power since 1982 and currently has his son as one of the Vice Presidents.

There is also Denis Sassou Nguesso who has been in power in the Democratic Republic of Congo since he was elected in 1997. He had previously served as the President of the country from 1979 to 1992. Returning to power 5 years after he left office.

Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda has been in power since January 1986. Some others have at one point amended their constitution in order to prolong their stay in power. The most recent is the late Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi who amended the constitution to be able to contest for a third term of 5 years in 2015. This move led to widespread protest and violence in the country which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of her citizens.

It took a lot of protests for the then and now late former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak to resign his position in 2011. It was that same period that the late Libyan Leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi was shot and killed during hostilities following his strong refusal to vacate office despite massive call for his resignation. His offence wasn’t that he wasn’t doing well; it was that he had overstayed his welcome.

Can we say such about some of these African leaders that have stayed for decades? Is there continuous stay borne out of the need to serve and deliver quality and progressive governance or simply because of the need to stay relevant, powerful, and to enrich their pockets through the national treasuries?

These are questions with obvious answers. These leaders have a lot of corruption charges hanging over their necks. Some have been accused of committing war crimes. Cameroon for instance has been having a cold civil war owing to the government’s inability to unite the South and the North, and to deliver quality governance to all concerned.  Despite being praised at the beginning for his role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda, Museveni’s government have widely been accused of gross incompetence and massive corruption. Do we go to Equatorial Guinea where the government has become a family affair?

Leadership is something that anybody with a good plan, idea and the will can deliver. No one in the world has a monopoly of good governance.

Many of these long serving leaders take full control of their respective nations, armed forces, media and other institutions through which any form of opposition can be staged.

Africa has to come of age. There is need for resolute, direct and functional constitutions that give a defined period for political office holders. People should be able to come up with their own ideas of leadership. The story would have been different if Africa is experiencing massive economic and political growth and development under these long serving leaders it parades. The continent remains the poorest, most reliant, and most corrupt in the world. This is to show that its leadership has failed and calls for a total change in the way of doing things. The best way to institute change is through free and fair election.

However, some of these countries do not have definite, functional and well-defined constitution on the expiration and duration of each of its leaders. Some that do are easily manipulated by whoever is in the corridors of power to suit their whims and caprice. It is time African citizens take bold stand and hold leaders accountable. Indeed, power resides with the people, this must be reflected in the African continent for her to make meaningful progress and join the league of progressives.

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