Bad leadership is NOT the problem in Africa

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tired old man 300x260 Bad leadership is NOT the problem in Africa

Last week, Joyce Banda became the second female head of state in Africa. This kind of development is significant for the continent. Not only is Banda female, which accounts for progress in more equally gendered leadership, but she’s also got a solid background which should help get Malawi out of the economic and political mess that the late Mutharika has left it in.

However, Banda’s, or any other good leaders’ skills are insipid if they are used to lead a nation of bad citizens. Citizenship, not leadership, is the concept that we more urgently need to examine. Good leaders can be in charge of bad citizens namely and as a result achieve little long-term solutions, but good citizens can”t elect, accept or rejoice bad leaders.

By good citizens, what I mean are citizens who are connected to their environment, its systems and structures, its cultures, contentions and divisions. A good citizen seeks to improve her surrounding not only for herself but for others as well. She seeks to know history, to understand where things have gone wrong and to reproduce knowledge to the benefit of her society, not to copy other societies. A good citizen defines her vision of success as one that benefits others as well as herself. As a leader in their own right— as a manager, a father, or a civil servant—a good citizen seeks ways to make things work more efficiently. A good citizen does not lazily accept that their fellow citizens are of lower status due to their gender, sexuality, age, class or ethnicity. Nor does she agree to be treated with lesser status for any such factors. She asks how she contributes to what she sees around her and she finds ways to reflect on improving herself, to aim to be at peace, because she has seen that order never comes from conflict between the deep and the superficial. In a nutshell, the good citizen does not need a good leader to tell her to take citizenship seriously.

The caveat here is first and foremost that poverty and lack of education are obstacles for good citizenship, the individual who is in despair is not similarly equipped to meet these demands. Bearing in mind, however, please, that riches mainly have their origin in the mind and that education comes not only in textbook form. The Dogon in Mali, for example, had very richly developed forms of citizenship which had nothing to do with material wealth or formal education.
Secondly, we must never, never, analyse any African nationalist problem, without rooting it in the history of the occupation of Africa and colonial dictatorship. Poverty in Africa cannot be detached from this history and the power structures it generates still. In fact, it is when analysts fail to discuss this fact, that they tend to conclude that the problem with Africa is bad leadership, a simplistic view at best.

It is us who are privileged with education who should question and debate whether the state exists for the individual or whether the individual exists for the the state. As we expand in awareness, we become better citizens. As the number of good citizens grow, eventually more leaders will arise from this pool. And to be a good leader, one must first be a good citizen.

How do you think leadership and citizenship are connected? There is no doubt that good leadership fosters progress, but is good leadership the answer to all our problems? Is it all that is necessary, and if not, what else do we have to focus on?

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  • http://www.mwanabaafrika.blogspot.com/ MbA

    You are absolutely right! People ask me why I have never voted and I say it is because I am more worried about the people on the street than the leaders. Presidents come and go, but citizens stay. In order to take advantage of Africa’s growth and take it to the next level, we have to empower citizens at the grassroots level and we have to find not only African but national and cultural specific solutions that are borne from within and not influenced primarily from sources that have no interest or understanding of what is best.

    And more importantly it’s not that we educated folk aren’t having the conversation, WE ARE. The problem is finding the power and means to affect change.

    • MsAfropolitan

      That’s true, and I think we increasingly are finding the spaces to find the power if that makes sense. Thanks for sharing thoughts

  • Joachim

    Back to this question again: where does change start: bottom-up, or top-down? The answer is: both directions. The example of a good leader is extremely powerful, and frankly, irreplaceable. Likewise, good citizens are needed to speak truth to power when need be. There is no conflict between the two.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Joachim, Thanks.
      Actually, I’d say change starts within not from below or above. If we could all take more responsibility individually for the societies in which we live change would be noticeable. A good leader can teach us to do this but they can never do it for us.

  • Omoruyi Aigbe

    The article is well written, but the heading is misleading, one great challenge in Africa is with leadership and institutions, Africa does not have recession, but corruption and weak governance.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the compliment. I stand by the heading… we need to question citizenship more urgently than leadership then our ideas of leadership too will change..
      Either way, we’ve been questioning leadership for a while now and see how far it has taken us! ?

  • http://egbesu.blogspot.com Egbesu

    ummm what on earth are you talking about???
    what country? not nigeria the british colonial creation….have you even seen your independence document????exactly the sad thing it does not even have the words independence on it…..dont believe me read it for yourself http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/8-9/55/body

    “On the first day of October, nineteen hundred and sixty (in this Act referred to as “the appointed day”), the Colony and the Protectorate as respectively defined by the Nigeria (Constitution) Orders in Council, 1954 to 1960, shall together constitute part of Her Majesty’s dominions under the name of Nigeria.”

    or is it the irish missionary school system that brought you up assuming you go to school for naija….. you sound like a female idiagbon that is using feminist nonsense to attack the very people she claims to be fighting for….my sister make you go lounge for ajegunle and see wetin our people dey suffer instead of using an inverted “pull your self from the bottom” to deride the poor who are the real victims here…whats next its black peoples fault that katrina happend….or its trayvons martins fault he died right???

    to act as if the imf, world bank, u.s state department, shell, chevron and the useless colonial leaders did not create the damaged nigerian citizen we see today is very myopic…. but again im not surprised you are a feminist ( more western intervention in africa, these fools act as if, if gays had rights in africa, women had feminism, and our children were educated in european rationalism then we would no longer be under the thumb of the world bank, u.s state department, british crown, monsanto etc its a shame because men like joseph stiglitz and immanuel wallerstein ( who actually worked for imperial power) will say that you are dead wrong however let us leave them alone i will allow baba 70 to flog you

    “Make you hear this one
    War against indiscipline, ee-oh

    Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
    Dem dey talk ee-oh
    “My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people lack discipline”

    Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
    Dem dey talk be dat
    “My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people lack discipline”

    I never hear dat before- oh
    Make Government talk, ee-oh
    “My people are us-e-less, My people are sens-i-less, My people lack discipline”

    Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
    Dem dey talk be dat
    Which kind talk be dat- ee-oh?
    Na craze talk be dat ee-oh
    Na animal talk be dat ee-oh
    Na animal talk be dat ee-oh

    of course you can blame the citizens i dont blame you na condition nain make crayfish bend your bourgeois arrogance is sickening
    ” It is us who are privileged with education who should question and debate whether the state exists for the individual or whether the individual exists for the the state. As we expand in awareness, we become better citizens. As the number of good citizens grow, eventually more leaders will arise from this pool. And to be a good leader, one must first be a good citizen.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRSgUTWffMQ

    when you can answer the question that omowale asks maybe then you will embrace your african culture and leave all this western binary nonsense( including your feminism) to the bastard children of lisbon
    as always i learn
    Egbesu

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for your comment, even if it seemed to be a rant against a bunch of other things than the actual content of the post itself (feminism, homosexuality, rationalism…)

  • http://Egbesu.blogspot.com Egbesu

    My sister thanks for posting the comment
    Im not attacking you but the ideas that fuel our collective coloniality. I would appreciate if you did the same to my blog
    In regards to we “Nigerians” here is the article that really cemented it for me,
    http://www.kwenu.com/publications/ikeotuonye/lugardian_masquerades_nigerian_avatars.pdf its long but read it and I’m sure you will understand where I’m coming from…we need to de link ourselves from coloniality and that means there way of thinking…it’s a battle of ideas and alternative knowledge…why do you think it’s called “the western cannon” ? Sounds like a war right? Email me gasdemup@gmail.com
    As always I learn
    Egbesu

    • MsAfropolitan

      The reason your comments are needing approval is because they contain links. hence the delay.
      Listen, we feel very differently about these issues but cool of you stopping by to read. Although as I noted earlier, I don’t think you actually did read what I was saying which was (in a nutshell) that revolution starts from the people (citizens), if it doesn’t it can”t bring lasting change and nor will anything change until we start to question how we can be better citizens (ie people who *demand* good leaders). Rather, it seems you came here to express anti-feminist, homophobic views which I vehemently oppose.

  • Franklin Twumasi

    Hi folks, just chanced upon this website late. Nice discussions but I must disagree with the thesis being developed. Having bad “citizens” is the very reason why a LEADER is needed. A right one for the “bad citizens”. Leadership cannot be divorced from the followers, and as such defining right leadership must include, to some extent, the nature of those following. Don’t we have people who lead of gangs, “thugs”, or what we would traditionally call “bad company”? Bad citizenship is not the problem, but rather poor leadership in every sense of the word. Cheers!

    • MsAfropolitan

      Disagreement is not unwelcome…

      The crux is this: No one can save a person who does not want to save themself. We citizens must take responsibility for the society in which we live then good leaders will come because we will not accept otherwise

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