Friday, November 13, 2015

Chambers Umezulike's Lecture On 'Improving Africa's Leadership And Governance Narrative'



World Youth Alliance for Africa

My fellow panelist, the Ambassador
The Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

I plead to attribute Africa’s failure to leadership and governance crisis as one of the major factors. By Africa’s failure – the development crisis, social crisis and security crisis - the poverty, the unemployment, aid dependency, high inequality rate, hunger, corruption - Africa loses $148 billion yearly from corruption according to AUC, lack of quality health care, debts, infrastructural crisis and lack of industrialization.

The resource paradox issue – we have resources and we have not been able to develop – rather resources have caused corruption and conflicts - you look at DRC, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria; countries with enormous resources but with the very major elements of underdevelopment. Then you look at the Agrarian Paradox – good climate and arable lands for Agriculture but we have terrible food crisis based on terrible agricultural policies.

While our counterparts in other parts of the world that we all got our independence with like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, UAE (Dubai was a desert decades ago and UAE diversified), Kuwait, and Qatar and some Latin American countries have all transited from third to first worlds. Through these examples, the correlation between leadership-governance and development is very significant. These countries developed through effective leaderships and clear-cut public development policies.

Most African countries got their independence in the 60s. Save Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and Seretse Karma, most others abused power, amended constitutions to stay longer in power, changed constitutions from multiparty to single party constitutions, cultivated corruption, nepotism – never cared of uniting their countries, never had visions and with limited development policies that were marred by implementation crisis. This is unlike in other parts of the world where founding fathers like Atartuk or Turkey, Nehru of India and Lee of Singapore all provided development paths for their populations.

The military alarmed by the way these African founding fathers abused power, started taking power by force – reason why we have had more than 126 successful coups in Africa. The military continued in the path of the founding fathers and totally disregarded rule of law and good governance. It was within this time that we had likes of Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko etc. - In 1990, after the Cold War, the West then had time to press for economic and political reforms through conditionalities of Aid. And most African leaderships were forced to return to multiparty constitutions to have access to Aid.

Now we have multiparty democracy, and civil liberty was given, but currently this democracy is mostly characterized by: voting along ethnic and religious lines during elections, stomach infrastructure – sharing money at polling booths, money politics – you cannot contest if you do not have money, godfatherism, rigging, and lack of credible electoral institutions. Governance that is about efficient management of public affairs is characterized by badly formulated public policies with implementation crisis.

How do you improve leadership and governance in Africa? - Suggestions like African leaders should do this and that have never worked because they know what to do but wouldn’t want. You think that they do not know that no nation should be around a single man rather should be around institutions – that amending constitutions to stay longer in power means that you have failed to build a successful country for your population. You think they do not know what transparency and accountability and respect for the rule of law are? They all know but do not want to change.

I have very smart friends and whenever we discuss about the situation of leadership and governance in Africa – they would suggest that democracy has been abused in Africa – that it is marred by post election crisis, lack of internal democracy and ideologies in political parties – that benevolent dictatorship is the best looking at the experience of South East Asia where benevolent dictators like Lee of Singapore, Mahathir of Malaysia, Suharto of Indonesia and Park of South Korea all developed their countries. But looking at the dictators we have in the continent you get discouraged about dictatorship in all sense: Zimbabwe, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Sudan …

Despite the fact that democracy rarely works where illiteracy is high, poverty is high, underdevelopment, lack of credible CSOs and lack of credible institutions – but I believe democracy is the way forward as it respects rule of law, it’s about equality, inclusion, freedom and people.

To improve leadership and governance in Africa, 3 things are key:

1). A stronger civil society will expose governmental corruption, hold leaders to account on their promises, conduct civic education to raise awareness amongst the populace, campaign for the rule of law help to ensure accountability and transparency and monitor the government on the execution of public policies. Kenya’s multiparty democracy and currently widely praised 2010 Constitution were attracted through the civil society efforts of the 80s and 90s, like the church through conscious sermons . . .

2). There are so many youth advocacies on inclusion and participation in leadership and governance but African leaders rarely listen and do not believe in young people. Unlike in other parts of the world - the current Estonian prime minister is in his early 30s, the current foreign affairs minister of Austria is in his late 20s . . . In Nigeria, many young people campaigned for President Buhari and after he won, we started asking for inclusion in his government. He just inaugurated his cabinet yesterday and no single under 40 is there. We were like, we made a mistake, if we should have ran for offices – for the parliaments or gubernatorial, and by now would have been in the parliaments. So young Africans everywhere should run for elections – we have the energy now – this is the time to mobilize and sensitize people and attract votes.

3). Demographic Dividend: It is believed that if Africa could empower, educate and provide employment to her youths today, that within the next 20 – 30 years that we will have a large working population, that we can be able to attract $500 billion, increase productivity and develop; like the East Asian experience in the 70s and 80s. And I believe that if this happens, we could also have better and prepared leaders and public administrators.

Thank you so much,

Chambers Umezulike, a Nigerian Writer, Researcher, Revolutionary and Secular Humanist

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