Yearly, across major cities on the continent, thousands of conferences are organized, most of which are geared at acting as catalysts of change for Africa. The surprising thing about these conferences is that the guest speakers for these change conferences are elites. Elites who are a part of the ruling class or were a part of it. Perhaps, the problem with Africa is not that there is no antidote to Africa’s problems or that the structures and hangover from colonialism will never wear off. Maybe, the issue with Africa is that she has been diagnosed wrongly. Is it not erroneous to treat a patient for tuberculosis when in fact, he suffers from lung cancer?
At every nook and cranny of the continent, the problem, the people say is: leadership. Nearly all articles in newspapers point to leadership, scholars point to leadership. In fact, it is becoming the norm to assume that fixing the leadership problem is to fix Africa’s problem. As such, if Donald Trump remains true to his word and ‘recolonizes Africa’, we may be better off. Of course, leadership is an issue but a bigger issue is at stake. One that if ignored will produce the same cycle of underdevelopment forever. Africans are the problem!
Somehow, many Africans find it easier to sit and blame situations on leaders as though they arrived in power on their own. During the Presidential elections in Nigeria three years ago, a meagre 68 million voted. Worst of all, this sort of behavior spills into our everyday lives. In kiosks and medium scale enterprises, the same attitude is prevalent. Sales attendants and staff would prefer to ground the little business that gives them a salary over little bribes and petty thefts that impacts immensely on their already challenged business. It is common place to find workers in these sort of businesses sell products at high prices and declare low prices to their boss. ‘This is Buhari economy’, they usually say. Already, these businesses which run on little profit margins due to high costs of running businesses are forced to close up. That is not a problem of leadership, it is an attitudinal problem of a people who somehow believe that the key to wealth and prosperity is theft.
History reiterates a lesson every decade. The people of a country get the sort of leadership they desire and ‘work for’. In the 1917 Bolsheviks revolution, Russians tired of an existing exploitative monarchical system, marched to the Tsar’s palace demanding better living conditions. The same happened during the French revolution. While the nature of these revolutions were different, the underlying reality was that the people were tired of a system that was more of a burden than a blessing. Even in Africa, it took grueling revolutionary wars to be free from direct colonial leadership. Why do we think it will be different now? The proposition here is not necessarily a bloody revolution rather, it is challenging to ask a question of what we truly desire?
In December 2017, Nigerian youths did something unprecedented. Tired of undue harassment from a unit of the Police force called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), many youths took to social media to tweet #endsars. The result was mind boggling. For the first time in Nigeria’s political history, through social media, Nigerians had elicited a response directly form the Inspector General of Police. The entire leadership of the Police was unsettled; leaders were scuffling around meetings. It was certain that if a drastic action was not taken, the country would blow up.
Maybe, Africans need to lead a different kind of revolution, a people revolution. After all, successful revolutions are led by people, not leaders. This revolution is one in which every African becomes aware of his indispensable role in the growth of the continent. One that motivates Africans to put in more hours in their work because of the awareness that if businesses succeed, the country will succeed, if businesses fail, the nation will fail. A revolution that challenges young people and students to dream and take action on their dream. Especially with the knowledge that all of reality is first created in the mind before a physical manifestation is possible. This revolution cannot begin on the streets of cities or towns. It must begin at home, it must infiltrate our culture, destroy the foundation of the very belief that leadership is the problem. It must teach that leadership of any people is a reflection of the prevailing thoughts and character of such people.