By Ayodele Adio
AFTER the unceremonious exit of colonialists from Africa, the continent was hopeful for a prosperous future, one that was less oppressive and led by people of similar ancestral ties. So, whether it was Lagos, Accra or Nairobi, the shared belief was that Africa, governed by Africans will ensure the restoration of the dignity the white man stole from us collectively.
We were wrong!! Our ‘heroes’, those who led the struggle against imperialism, were handed power and in no time, were fulfilling the prophesy of Lord Frederick Lugard who described the typical African, particularly her leaders as “lacking the power of organisation, conspicuously deficient in the management and control of men or business; loves the display of power but fails to realise its responsibility.”
Africa soon realised she was being oppressed by her own kind and her resources plundered by those she once considered heroes. Our leaders became overly entitled, corrupt, totalitarian, lacking in capacity and a crude and unrepentant adamancy for perpetuating themselves in office.
Though gradual, Africa is beginning to turn the corner away from its ugly past. This fundamental shift is largely due to a profound awakening of citizens across the continent many of whom have found the courage to demand more from their leaders. The brave demands for accountability, rights and good governance by citizens across the continent is sending strong signals to corrupt ‘sit-tight’ dictatorial leaders that ‘you cannot fool all the people all of the time’. In the last three years alone, Africans have witnessed what our grand and great grand parents couldn’t dare to dream of. In 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan clothed himself with statesmanship when he called General Buhari to concede defeat in what was a keenly contested election. Against the wishes of certain elements in his party, he refused to challenge the elections in court and peacefully handed over power. My ambition he said, wasn’t worth the blood of any Nigerian. Africa had never seen an incumbent concede defeat in that manner.
Barely a year after, John Mahama, the incumbent president of Ghana lost the presidential election to a long-time challenger, Nana Addo and without hesitation, conceded defeat and willfully handed over power. In both cases, no blood was spilt and democracy had won. The strides in Nigeria and Ghana must have given the people of Gambia the courage to demand the exit of a reluctant Yahya Jammeh after he lost a fiercely contested election to Adama Barrow. The world was beginning to see a different Africa.
Over 70 per cent of the population in Angola and Zimbabwe were yet unborn when Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and Robert Mugabe took over power in their respective countries. So, when Dos Santos resigned from office last year paving way for democratic elections to hold, it was clear that Africa was on the verge of a new dawn. Perhaps, if Robert Mugabe was less of an egomaniac, he probably would have avoided his disgraceful removal from office by resigning just like his old comrade did in Angola.
Thankfully, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn was quick to realise that you cannot keep a people down forever and in a shocking broadcast a few days ago, read his resignation speech. It is South Africa, however, that teaches a more important lesson to the continent, one of moral leadership, institutional integrity and citizens’ action. The ANC, rather than protect one of the poster boys in the fight against apartheid, Jacob Zuma, they sought to purge their party of corrupt elements and reposition it to meet the demands of the people who elected them. The lesson they teach is that democracy should and must work for the people, not just a tiny elite.
Africa must sustain this momentum and its citizens should continue to demand better from those they elect. The hope for a better Africa is no longer in the hands of self-proclaimed messiahs but in sustained and relentless actions, collectively by citizens.