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Good governance and Leadership in Africa

This paper will examine and highlight the leadership and governance crisis in
Africa and unpack the assertion that good governance has been a total failure in
Africa. The writer opine to the fact that most African leaders come to leadership
positions with limited experience, hence the decline in moral and discipline
caused by bad policies, eroded professional standards and ethnics and weakened
system of governance. The paper will highlight some leadership and governance
in some selected African countries. The essay will outline the fact that for
Africa to overcome the crisis of leadership and governance in the continent,
those on whom the burden of leadership and power will fall must fully
comprehend their responsibilities, duties and obligations. They must also be
exposed and be prepared to face the challenges of leadership in their countries.
Therefore, countries depend on the quality of its future leaders.
Governance is defined as the capacity to establish and sustain workable
relations between individual actors in order to promote collective goals
(Chazan, 1992:122) and Galadima (1998:117) defines governance as a process
of organizing and managing legitimate power structures, entrusted by the
people, to provide law and order, protect fundamental human rights, ensure rule
of law and due process of law, provide for the basic needs and welfare of the
people and pursuit of their happiness. Governance is the conscious management
of regimes structures with a view to enhancing the legitimacy of public realm
(Hyden, 1992:7). Democracy may be defined as a political system that enables
people to freely choose an effective, honest, transparent and accountable
government. Democracy aims to protect and promote the dignity and
fundamental rights of the individuals, instil social justice and foster economic
and social development (Human Rights Report, 2002:55).
The writer opines to the fact that good leadership and good governance cannot
be separated, they are sides of the same coin. The writer observed that the need
for good governance and leadership that desire unity, justice, peace and stability
cannot be overemphasized. Good governance is a failure in Africa because most
African economy is on its knees or has just emerged from a conflict hence has
struggling economies hence failure to fix these economies because of high
poverty levels, poor policies and lack of political will to fighting the graft thus
The resurgence of this desire is not only explicable though their political
policies alone, but also it is reflected in the social and economic policies
(Obasola, 2009:9) most governments in Africa has been undergoing serous and
deepening political-economic crisis. These problems generated by political,
social and economic instability and the prevalence of ethnic, communal and
religious crisis which have bedevilled Africa, the problem of leadership and
governance in the continent. The writer observed that the staggering wave of
violence, insecurity, increasing crime wave, economic recession, coupled with
the break in law and order are the attributes to the problems of leadership and
governance in Africa example in Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Central
Africa Republic (CAR) Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), hence for Africa leaders to democratise if they are to attain the
required governance and sustainable development.
Good governance approach highlights issues of state responsibility and
accountability and the impact of these factors on political stability and
economic development. Social scientists dealing with Africa’s development
have concentrated on economic issues, overlooking the highly in portent
political dimension of the process (Bratton and Roth child, 1992:263).
Paradoxically, the independent African states consolidates power at the political
centre and extracts considerable economic resources from the society, yet it
spends much of it obtains on itself and lack the capacity to spur the country’s
development as a whole Cornwell (1995:15).
It is instructive to note that no nation has achieved meaningful development
socially, politically or economically without the input of or effective leadership
(Obasola, 2002:10). Thus in contemporary discourse, the concept of leadership
and governance has attracted a wider spread interest as they serve as the pivot
on which social, political and economic structures rest.
The writer observed that the problem that have bedevilling Africa states, thus
ethnic and communal clashes, increasing crime wave, drug trafficking and
advanced fee fraud have been blamed on ineffective leadership. While there has
been apparent leadership crisis in Africa, the last two decades has witnessed
struggle to engender effective leadership and governance in Africa. Despite
political independence, Africa’s aspiration and hopes remain today largely
unfulfilled. Seteolu (2004:70) pointed out that the governing class has been
target of pillory verification, consideration and disdain in view of the passive
and persistent social economic and political crisis. He stated further that the
economic domain has been characterized by huge external debt overhang, net
capital fight, disinvestments, collapse of social infrastructure, food crisis and
insecurity, over devalued national currency, pervasive poverty, and unpopular
repressive and alienating economic policies. Other reasons of failed good
governance are about Africa’s distancing from the masses of the people,
inadequate preparation of the leadership that assumed the responsibility to
govern their countries.
Obasanjo (1993) noted that, it needs to be realized that the morass of
governance in Africa emerged primarily as a result of lack of checks and
balances in Africa’s system of governance. In fact, some African leaders, their
nations ended up being treated as their individual personal property. Decline in
moral and discipline caused or combined with bad policies, eroded professional
standards and ethics and weakened the system of governance. Poor governance
became the major challenge and source of Africa’s predicament and socio3
economic crisis. Only few African leaders have voluntary left office, most
others were assassinated or were disposed by military coups.
The writer observed that Obasanjo was right in his assertion example the
military coups in Nigeria’s military rule example, Sani Abache, Ibrahim
Babanjinda Abbukaka in Nigeria and also the coup of Mabutu Sese Seko in
Zaire then, and the assassination of Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) and the ousting of Milton Obote in Ghana are typical example
of African leaders removed from office before the end of his tenure. The cling
to power of Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who still extend his
stay in office are evidence of African leaders wanting to stay in power due to
corrupt activities, lack of accountability and the breakdown of the rule of law
and violation of human rights.
World Bank (1989) identifying the crisis on the continent as of governance. The
bank referred to such phenomena as the extensive personalization of power, the
denial of fundamental human rights, wide spread of corruption, and the
prevalence off unelected and unaccountable government. The concept of
governance relates to the quality of relationship between the government and
the citizens whom it serves and protects. Governance could be defined as on in
which the concerned authority, exercise power, exerts influence and manages
the country’s social as well as economic resources leading to better
development. Governance is the way those with power, use the power. Thus
governance has social, political and economic dimension (Sahni, 2003:1-2).
The writer asserts that good governance has been a failure in Africa because of
African leaders’ failure to democratise political instability and the crisis of
development. Hence Africa’s political instability and other related crisis such as
lack of accountability, breakdown in the rule of law, patronage, and ethnic
violence is a consequence of its leadership problems. These have resulted in the
failed to adhere to the tenets of democracy such as transparency, fairness,
justice, guaranteeing the rights of the people to choose and to change their
governments periodically, the right for freedom of association especially in
forming political parties and the primacy of rule of law.
Succinctly, the writer postulate that the assertion that good governance is a total
failure in Africa is true, because from the revolutionary movement against
colonization, post-independence leaders in Africa became worse dictators than
the colonial masters, example, Kamuzu Banda (Malawi), Robert Mugabe
(Zimbabwe), Mabutu Seseseko (Zaire), Joseph Koni Uganda and Sani Abacha
(Nigeria). Who failed to stick to democratic tenets such as respect for human
rights, accountability, transparency and rule of law.
Chazan, N. (1992) “Liberalization, Governance and political space in Ghana”,
In Hyden, G and Bratton, M (eds), Governance and Politics in
Africa, Boulder & London: Lynne Reinner Publishers.
Galadima, H.S (1998). “Militarism and Governance in Nigeria”, A Journal of
the institute of Governance and Social Research, vol 1, No1. Jos.
Hyden, G (1992). “Governance and the study of politics”, in Hyden, G and
Bratton, M (eds), Governance and Politics in Africa, Boulder &
London: Lynne Reinner Publishers.
Obasanjo, O (1993). Leadership: Theory and Practice, Thousand Oaks,
CA; Sage Publications.
Obasola, K.E (2002). “Leadership in Religious Organizations and Societies:
Traditional Yoruba Perspective”, in CATALIA, vol 12, No 2, Dec.
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