Friday, September 20, 2013

Change that changes nothing

My favorite History examination question was change in government is a change that changes nothing,discuss. 
At the time, Nigeria was 2 years into Obasanjo’s  civilian government and I think my teacher was already disillusioned by  the lack of the expected positive change Citizens anticipated in 1999.
This question has resonated  because it captures the essence of our governance issues in Africa. The difference between the  forms of governments we have is six and half a dozen 
In the century where  gov 2.0, collaborative government is gaining momentum and Countries have climbed higher in Maslow"Hierarchy of needs", Africa still grapples with failed leadership and its consequences (both physical and psychological) enabled by people who are afraid of change and willingly succumb to these leaders . It is like neighbours planting trees, whilst others have planted, watered and tended their trees, we are battling with planting ours.
I think we have a gene that accepts incompetent, authoritarian leadership. The oligarchic and/or hereditary nature of Africa’s leadership has impacted our development from Togo,Nigeria,  Zimbabwe and Egypt. The situation where certain people feel entitled to rule and access the common wealth without systems that allow other leaders to emerge has caused many conflicts across the continent. 
The events in Egypt could be the story of any African country. Egypt has been ruled by its military oligarchy since 1952.  All Egypt’s rulers (Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak)  and the current government emerged from the Military. For Egyptians, it has been the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.
The emergence of Mohammed Morsi was a welcome development to the extent that it brought a semblance of change. However, Morsi’s lack of political management skills and his fall into the absolute power corrupts absolutely trap led to his downfall. Egypt is back to square one with  political instability, deaths, high unemployment rates and disrespect for human and women rights.
The challenge of addressing our leadership  issues now is that it widens the existing development gap between Africa and  other continents. Africa is projected as the beautiful bride due to our increasing population (read as: potential market for services). For instance, UN reports state Nigeria  would be the new China in terms of population - 1 billion- in 87 years.Yet, rather than plan on how to leverage the powers that would accrue to us ( we get to have our say on issues, we become ( and already are) the go-to market for investors, the wealth-creation potentials if we (Africans) come up with services that meet our needs). Multinationals have seen the light and are investing here,  acquiring water rights,meanwhile,our leaders cannot provide electricity, good roads, healthcare, guarantee property rights, justice, fairness or ease the costs of starting new business.
We cannot afford to continue like this. We lost 400 years to slave trade and we are lagging behind in this phase of advancement. Creating the conditions that would bring about development and create value for citizens is not rocket science for any government. As Africans we need to get our values and politics right, then  we can sort out our economic problems. The government in power may not be able to give us the lifestyle we want but it can make life miserable for us through its actions and inactions. 
Let change count for something


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