World politics has several fundamental lessons to teach us about leadership. Here is one of them: leadership is parenthood.
Parenthood entails the responsibilities of being a parent. Parents nurture, support, and encourage their children to be triumphant in life. Undeniably, parental support and encouragement pave the way to producing successful children. Likewise, leadership entails the responsibilities of a leader, nurturing, supporting and promoting his/her country. Indeed, true leaders produce great, dynamic societies, capable of producing successful citizenry. Therefore, to grow, develop, and succeed in this realistic world, largely marked by zero-sum games, leaders must be real parents of their people, advancing, sustaining and encouraging their countrymen and women. If leaders failed to embark upon these parental/leadership responsibilities in their country, their country is bound to fail miserably, and their people will lag far behind, and suffer tremendous hardships.
In this article, an attempt is made to demonstrate that leadership is parenthood, and that much of the failures and sufferings in Africa, or what made Africa “the world's poorest continent,” according to IMF, are rooted in a general lack of understanding that leadership is parenthood among several African leaders.
Leadership is parenthood: the Proof
Who, among leaders in "developed" countries, will abandon the people they are elected to serve only to serve African countries first? In particular, who, among Swiss leaders, American leaders, German leaders, British leaders, Canadian leaders, French leaders, Italian leaders, Japanese leaders will be stealing from his/her own people only to open bank accounts in Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, Zaire, Ethiopia, Uganda? Or, who, among leaders in "industrialized" countries, will be buying plots of lands and/or houses in Togo, Sierra Leon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, Liberia, or Zimbabwe? The answer to the above questions, and to innumerable others similar to them, is NONE.
None of the Swiss, French, Canadian, American, British, German, Japanese, Italian leaders has his/her country's money hidden in African banks. These leaders wisely take care of their countries and their people first. Indeed, "America first", we often hear from American leaders, is not just a political cliché in America. American leaders do not steal from American people only to hide the loot in Nigerian or Sudanese banks, for instance. "French first" is not an empty political phrase in France. French leaders do not fly to Zaire or Somalia for a medical checkup or treatment; they are treated in their own hospitals, built and maintained by themselves. Similarly, "Japan first" is not a political rhetoric or gimmick in Japan. Japanese leaders are bent on making their country the most technological giant in the world. As such, they wisely invest their country’s resources in their country and not in Uganda or Kenya.
All told, the leaders of these "developed" or "industrialized" countries prudently take care of their countrymen and women first, just as real parents take care of their own children first. This rational thinking, “my family first,” is equally the norm within the animal kingdom. Those of us who watch Discovery, Animal Planet, Natural Geographic channels know quite well that animals wisely take care of their own families first. Accordingly, a pride of lions does not kill preys only to turn around and leave them for jackals to eat when lion cubs are hungry. Similarly, jackals do not kill their preys only to leave them for the fox family to eat when young jackals are starving.
So, the conventional wisdom within “developed” countries and, yes, within the animal kingdom, is “my family first,” demonstrating clearly and loudly that leadership is parenthood.
Now, let us turn to Africa, and examine how several African leaders understand the word, leadership. Specifically, do they, on a collective sense, take leadership as parenthood? Let us see.
Is Leadership parenthood in Africa?
Behavior of several African leaders leaves no room for doubt; their behavior clearly suggests that they do not take leadership as parenthood. Leadership to them is the road to personal enrichment, often at its worst, sustained and maintained by (a) stealing from their own people only to hide the loot in their private bank accounts in foreign countries, (b) traveling abroad for medical checkup or treatment, instead of building and maintaining excellent hospitals at home to serve their fellow citizens, and (c) sending their own children abroad to study in better schools instead of building and maintaining excellent schools to benefit the entire population. A good number of African leaders have yet to understand that leadership amounts to parenthood – improving, sustaining and advancing their fellow countrymen and women.
When leaders do not understand that they are the parents of their own people, leading the people from the status quo, the existing condition or state of affairs, to a better life; when leaders do not understand that world politics is mostly governed by realism of zero-sum games, where each country is basically acting on its own national interests; when leaders do not see the urgent need to advance their country, socially, economically, and politically, their country will lag far behind, and the people suffer tremendously. The shameful backward nature of several African countries today is clearly related to this general lack of understanding (among several African leaders) that leadership is parenthood.
What then is the solution to this aberration? The solution is actually a simple one. The solution is common sense – the real education, far beyond nominal degrees or local titles.
When those looting Africa start using their common sense, they will understand that leadership is parenthood, i.e., my country first. Once common sense prevails, the futility of robbing their own people only to maintain secret bank accounts in foreign countries will become apparent. Once the senseless nature of this kind of robbery becomes apparent, they will be building excellent educational system for the entire population, instead of selfishly sending their children to study in better schools abroad. Similarly, they will start building and maintaining excellent hospitals, and staff them with qualified doctors and staff, instead of selfishly flying to foreign countries for medical checkup or treatment.
Here is the point. Rational thinkers, well informed by conventional wisdom, know that it makes no sense for these looters to starve their fellow Africans to death only to feed Swiss people with the loot. They also know that poverty tends to correlate with violence. Specifically, they recognize that the robbery of Africa only to hide the loot abroad has continued to produce jobless, hungry men and women, who find it difficult to live a decent, honest life in several African countries. Therefore, being jobless, hungry, and angry, some of them often resort to “eating” by crooked means. In fact, Governor Tinubu’s frustration over the death of 200 Nigerians in “Lagos pipeline fire” on Dec. 26, 2006, exemplifies this point. Here is the report byVanguard newspaper:
Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State blamed the officials of NNPC and Federal Government. "You can see the shame of our nation. A country that is ranked the 8th largest producer of oil in the world is still made to suffer this kind of hardship," he said, adding: "You can see what hunger has turned our people into. We need to be concerned about the life of people not money. It is a sign of poverty." "What has happened today again is not new; it is not strange to us. It is a shame. Look at how dead bodies litter the whole place. It is sad." "But how do we fight this menace? How do we stop it? Except we fight unemployment, except we fight hopelessness in the country, except we do things right in a good manner.” Vanguard, December 27, 2006 (www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/headline/f127122006.html).
It then goes without saying that common sense – the real education – is the concrete solution to most of our problems.
Therefore, as a part of concrete solutions, African leaders must organize series of economic summits to discuss and combat this robbery of Africa by some of its leaders only to hide the loot abroad. Concrete steps to combat this robbery, and other problems evident in Africa, have been proffered in several works, including the following: Nigeria: Real Problems, Real Solutions, "Educated" to Feel Inferior, The Tragedy of a Value System in Nigeria: Theories and Solutions, and Your Excellency. In addition, those found guilty of corruption and looting, must be brought to justice, no matter whose ox is gored.
A Note to the Critic
There is no doubt that some of us, especially those benefiting from the looting of the present Africa, may react to this article with some disdain. Instead of condemning this senseless behavior that is currently destroying Africa, they may attempt to cover up the atrocity by attacking the writer. Here is a few words to them: Before exhausting your energy on ad hominemattack, it is crucial that you first examine your conscience, and then critically observe how leaders, across countries/continents, serve and treat their own people. We must call a spade a spade. We must look evil in its eye, and condemn it. Enough of the disgrace and the shame, being brought to Africa by some of its leaders whose leadership style is to steal from their own suffering people only to hide the loot abroad. This robbery of Africa by some of her leaders only to pile up the loot abroad does not make any iota of sense; it is not leadership, it is total destruction of Africa and African people.