Africa has seen many leadership styles over the course of history. The season of darkness in African leadership can be attributed to the period of the kingdoms to dictatorships to democrats and to self-perpetuating rule in this era. An assessment of the impact of such leaderships on the continent and on the livelihoods of the people is imperative for our understanding of the African society and political systems. To make the story short, however, this piece will focus on overstaying in power by the BORNAGAIN KINGS OF AFRICA, also known as Presidents, and the negative implications of their leaderships in the political socioeconomic development of the African region.
Most of them have no independence conscience in defending the sovereignty of their respective countries or protecting the freedoms, liberties and social development of their peoples due to neocolonialism, political greed and corruption. This has been the character of some African leaderships in recent history. In African political systems, the tendency for power to consume leaders is very much real. We have been aware of all the African leaders who are overstaying in power. We have heard of African leaders who decided on serving for three terms in their Presidency. We know of leaders who are currently contemplating on second and third term presidency. We know that there is no upper age limit in African politics, and as such, politicians who have been in politics for decades are still refusing to give way to a younger generation. We can see therefore that political greed, power and money are the enemies of African political systems.
The danger, often, is that when the leadership takes the presidency as personal to holder, dictatorship tendencies come into play and democratic decency fades away in the political process. We know as well that leaders alone cannot hold onto such a status quo without the support of enablers in the security system, service sector, and political sell-outs. These altogether makes the African political environment unstable and aggravates internal tensions that often threaten the peace and security of the country.
It could be concluded therefore that self-perpetuating rule has become the political order of the day in many African countries. This is by all accounts an aggression on democracy and a fatal blow on the rule of law. How can Africa's development partners be mute over such failures in good governance? It has been observed that as long as Africa's mineral wealth flees to world powers to secure their economic interests, Africa's colonial masters and development partners will care the least about corruption and overstaying in power by African leaders. This is the real truth.
There is no known international instrument to sanction African countries and African leaders for bad governance and corruption. The world powers are fond of addressing the effects of corruption, human rights violations, and addressing bad governance in Africa after those African leaders leave office, instead of dealing with these issues while they happen in the system of government. The African continent is not poor; it is the looting and mismanagement of the resources that keeps Africa poor and the people become victims of poverty and malnutrition.
The principal culprits of such a sad situation are most of the African leaders. We see African leaders running reckless governments, living flamboyant lifestyles, abusing power, buying mansions overseas, opening offshore accounts, sending their children to expensive schools overseas, building mansions at hometowns, and more. The tragedy with Africa is that politics is seen as the fastest means of getting rich. The dreams of most of the political leaders for the advancement of their countries soon become expired when power and money gets in the way.
The politics of greed has rendered the economies of many African countries hanging in the balance between poverty and underdevelopment. One wonders how romantic economists determine that African economies are growing at higher rates when the realities on the ground speak volumes of misery and social backwardness.
In my opinion, looking at the ECOWAS and its performance in regional integration, it is an organization that failed to achieve its vision in many aspects of integration. The protocols on free movement of goods and people are hardly adhered to by some member countries, hence the harassments and intimidations in cross-border transit trade. Since 2005, ECOWAS has been unable to launch the single currency (the ECO). There is no Trans West Africa Highway and there is no Trans West African Railway Service to enhance transportation and communication networks between member countries.
The regional body could have seen the felt need for such an infrastructure and approach the Chinese government to construct the infrastructure. Airline and shipping services in the region have collapsed long since and efforts are yet to emerge for the revival of these services. The region is depending mainly on ASKY that is charging high prices due to the monopoly of the West Coast route. It is incomprehensible that airfares between The Gambia and Senegal are very expensive. It could have attracted domestic tariffs rather than the current international fares.
Truly speaking, transportation in West Africa is a nightmare. We saw arriving passengers in Freetown from Banjul on Monday 25th April 2021 subjected to COVID-19 tests at a fee of USD80 each even though they had valid COVID-19 negative certificates from The Gambia. This has shown that there is no serious commitment to regional integration, collaboration, and harmonization efforts to foster a conducive regional environment. In light of these shortcomings, it could be concluded that ECOWAS has shown failed leadership in moving the region forward.
ECOWAS is more of a political organization than a regional integration organization. What we have seen in recent times is the emergence of a club within ECOWAS that seeks to protect the political interest and the furtherance of self-perpetuating rule of power-hungry incumbents in the community.
For ECOWAS to be more credible and impactful, it must be seen to address not only the political aspects mainly of its vision but to brace up to the economic and social challenges facing the region. Lack of proper regional infrastructure, lack of proper communication and transportation networks, lack of food security, lack of free trade agreements, lack of a common language, lack of a common currency and more should attract the attention of the leadership of ECOWAS.
The regional leadership should wake up to these challenges and ensure that the citizens of the community live in economic prosperity and social development. ECOWAS is seen to be spending too much money on institution building and office creations than the development of the region. Perhaps the political leaders of the organization should consider the reversal of this situation. The maintenance of a regional environment for accelerated socioeconomic growth and development is a governance imperative and principal responsibility of the ECOWAS leadership.
A country like Dubai with less mineral resource endowment and with a small population has become the envy of the world for her rapid pace of development in all aspects of life. Most African countries have enormous mineral wealth and are larger in size than Dubai. The question, therefore, is how come Dubai is ahead of most African countries? The principal answer is good leadership and containment of corruption. If we look deeply into African public service, some heads of major public institutions are equally guilty of perpetuating corrupt practices. We see the looting of the wealth of the nation on their foreheads and lifestyles.
As enablers of the system of exploitation by the political leadership, these top officials help themselves in the process of corruption. In such a situation, the President in such a country will find it difficult to take decisive actions on corruption because birds of the same feather fly together and eat together.
Leadership in Africa is mostly poor, and there is no real answer to ending poverty in Africa. The ruling class continues to hijack the collective interest and well-being of the people and the nation states for their self-interest and hunger for wealth. The revenge of the poor will always come to them either through the ballot box or through rude awakening.
MAY DAY MESSAGE BY KEBBA MASANEH CEESAY, CHAIRMAN GAMBIA TRADE UNION BUREAU