Letters: The price of poor political leadership in Africa


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Dear editor,

Poor political leadership in Africa has contributed to the economic instability and to some extent resulted in political upheaval in the continent. The African problem is mostly rooted in a deep leadership crisis with corruption at all levels of government. In most cases, it could be argued that most African leaders fail to usher in the much needed economic and political reforms which results in economic crisis and political instability. One could, therefore, authoritative argue that a link exists between poor leadership, poor economic performance and instability in West Africa (McGowan, 2005; 2006, Saine, 2008a). High level corruption and poor development priorities seem to be an uphill task for African leaders to navigate from and if these are not tacked with the utmost care, most of the countries in the continent stand at the risk of economic marginalization.

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In regards to governance, some African leaders exhibit poor leadership traits because they do not believe in the ideals of good governance. The neglect of good governance has contributed to economic degradation and political instability in the African continent. Good governance is synonymous with development and where leaders pay lip service to the fundamental rights of the citizenry and fail to promote peace and justice, institutions become weak, essential services derail and economic prospects look bleak. On the issue of good governance, I am inclined to agree with Lee (2019) that regardless of its impact on economic development, good governance that promotes peace, justice, and strong institutions and ensures responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all level as well as public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms has become the objectives of development per se. African political leaders would at this time need to give due diligence to good governance in a bid to stay on top of political and economic reforms.

In addition to Lee (2019), I would also agree with Campbell (2016) that poor political leadership informs bad governance and that is Africa’s greatest barrier to social and economic development. It would, therefore, be correct to state that for African leaders to be in favor of development policy, they need to promote good government which in turn promotes economic and political stability.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, bad political leaders have been known to exhibit a certain grudge against progressive leaders and in this respect when they take over power, they tend to lack the moral aptitude to rule and thus contribute to plunge the respective country to the path of economic destruction. The ousting of Thomas Sankara by Blaise Campaore is a case in point, and I would agree with Kabashiki (2014) that whenever there is an emergence of a progressive leader in Africa, the enemies of the African progress always find ways to hinder the progress. Blaise Campaore ousted Thomas Sankara and ruled for about 27 years. To make matters worse, he attempted to remain in power through a constitutional amendment and this resulted in the 2014 Burkinabe uprising which led to his resignation and subsequent departure from the country.

African leaders like former President Blaise Campoare and Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh exhibited poor leadership because they continued to cling on to power and not wanting to share leadership with the people. I would, therefore, agree with Banutu-Gomez (2006) that we need leaders who are prepared to share leadership with the people. Power belongs to the people and for an African leader to try to cling on the power for as long as possible, bars potential political leaders the opportunity to serve.

Africa’s hope for a solution to the poor political leadership is that the self-perpetuating leaders who have served for so many years would need to give way to younger and progressive political leaders to take over the mantle of leadership. The likes of Theodore Obiang Nguema have not only overstayed their time in power but have looted the country’s resources at great length and remained in power to continue siphoning the country’s resources.

To move away from the quagmire of economic crisis and political instability, African countries need to nurture leaders with foresight who can lead effectively to put the continent on the road to economic and political stability. Adeyemi (2017) argued that the cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills is critical to Africa’s development. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda could be said to be a beacon of hope in the African political circle.

Ebou Ngum
City University of Seattle

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