Lugard’s assessment of the character make-up of Africans (5) •Africans love display of power but fail to realise its responsibilities
Last week I examined that aspect of Lord Lugard’s statement in which the African was described as loving the display of power without any appreciation of the responsibilities that come with it. I intend in this edition to make further comments on that observation.
Such is the depth of Lord Lugard’s statement that virtually all aspects of his observation about the character make-up of the African can be related together. Thus the love of the African for power, can be related with his lack of self control, discipline and foresight and the concentration of his thoughts and feelings only on events of the moment while failing to show any apprehension for the future or grief for the past.
Without a doubt, as stated earlier, power comes with a lot of responsibilities. The primary and perhaps only concern of anyone in position of authority should be how to bring about positive developments to the country and therefore the citizenry. This necessarily entails planning. Planning itself involves a consideration of factors, past, present and contemplated which will in turn determine what direction governmental policies will take. However, most African leaders lack the ability to learn from the past or visualize the future. Governmental actions are mostly dictated by current events.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is today one of the most problematic in the country. The road is a nightmare for motorists and traffic management officials alike who in most cases are left with the difficult job of restoring normalcy when the road experiences its usual traffic gridlock. The problem is due to the fact that the road can no longer accommodate the huge volume of vehicular traffic it attracts every day. As a way out, the Government has now decided to increase the number of lanes. Yet few realize that the road was originally conceptualized as a super highway by its first designers. At that time they knew that with time and population increase, the number of vehicles would increase astronomically such that only such a super highway would serve not only the then current needs, but also future needs and exigencies. However, government at that time preferred the current design, not due to paucity of funds but perhaps because they were satisfied with the design which was sufficient for the needs at that time. The rest as they say is now history.
In most state capitals in Nigeria, narrow and sometimes impassable roads remain a common sight. Over the years successive state governments failed to realize a need to embark on construction of new roads to meet future expansions brought about by population increase. In a city as large as Ibadan some entire neighborhoods are still not accessible by roads. They can only be accessed by footpaths.
Thus at times they are required, emergency services such as the Fire Department and even the Police are unable to offer any help.
LACK OF SUCCESSION AND PARTNERSHIP
But perhaps the African’s failure to appreciate the responsibilities of power lies in what an online writer, Ogochukwu N. has described as Lack of Succession and Lack of Partnership. Whilst the former refers to the failure of African leaders to groom capable successors and on the contrary preferring to perpetuate themselves in power or installing members of their families, the former refers to the failure of leaders to build upon the success recorded by their predecessors in office.
Change is an inevitable factor in life. Death itself is nature’s way of ensuring that life as we know it does not come to an abrupt halt. Therefore it is necessary that there should be a seamless passing away of the old and entry of the new. Were it not for this inevitability of nature, the world itself would perhaps still be languishing in the dark ages rather than the current age of free speech and democracy. Yet African leaders have been most guilty of failing to accept this fact. Leaders such as Robert Mugabe continue to hold onto power despite immense opposition from within and outside the country. The fate of some like the late Muammar Ghaddafi has failed to convince him of the need to relinquish power. In Senegal, an 84 year old President Wade attempted to make an amendment to the Constitution which would not only have enabled him to serve another term in office but which would have led to the creation of a new position of Vice President, which many suspected had been reserved for his son. In Togo and Gabon, sons replaced fathers as Presidents in 2005 and 2009 respectively. In Uganda President Museveni is accused of having appointed several members of his family into key government positions. He is also suspected to be grooming his son, who has already been promoted a General, as his successor.
Continuity is also lacking in governance in many African countries. Many elected leaders see their period in office as a personal accomplishment. They fail to situate it in a larger picture of national growth and development. They therefore set their own agenda, irrespective of whatever the direction the previous government had taken. This often leads to a wholesale reversal of the policies of the previous government without any consideration of the individual merits of those policies. The proverbial baby is always thrown away with the bath tub all in the name of setting the country in a new direction.
The moment a new government is sworn in, it immediately sets about probing its predecessor government. Abandoned projects become a common sight. This should not be so. Such a development cannot encourage investor confidence. In a particular instance, a new government revoked Certificates of Occupancy granted to a company which had been invited to invest in the state. It did not matter that the company had invested hundreds of millions of its own funds into making the project a reality. A better approach would be to build upon the good achievements of past governments. It is only by so doing that there can be development on the long run.Share