Leadership and Development Problems in Africa: Responding to E. Terfa Ula-Lisa

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

In my response toAfricans: The Way The World Works,” I did not discount or minimize the negative impact slavery and colonialism has had on the African continent. The central argument of my essay was simply this:

…In as much as I agree that slavery, exploitation, and colonialism in all its forms is evil, inhumane, sinful and injurious — we have had time to correct some of the imbalances and injusticesto suggest or to blame the West for all that ills the continent is simply not fair and correct. Africans have a hand in the destruction of their own land. Colonialism and slavery (alone) is not responsible for Africa’s woes. And so Africans must take responsibility for their own lives…” Please see:Africa and the World: Responding to Paul Adujie”

For this, Mr. E. Terfa Ula-Lisa joined issues with me. And he especially took umbrage at my suggestion that Africans should stop “playing victim.”

Must a man or a nation or a continent that is beaten to the ground remain on the ground and wallow in self-pity? Must we Africans use the injustices and the atrocities committed against us as an excuse for bad leadership? Must we continue to point to the wickedness of a time “long gone” as the reason why we have a continent that is troubled, conflicted and vastly underdeveloped; must we allow the events of a time that once was to cloud our judgment and our vision?

Is Terfa Ula-Lisa attributing the dearth of leadership in Nigeria to slavery and colonialism? I wonder! Well, see his response to my rejoinder: “A Reply to Sabella Abidde’s response to Paul Adujie on Development Problems in Africa.” This blame game, this blame the West game is nothing but an excuse on the part of Africans and African leaders for their poor leadership and bad managerial skills.

There is no better way to paint most of the leaders Africa have had since the early years of her independence: they were lazy, corrupt, and spineless. Most were. And even today, most are spineless, corrupt and lazy! What is Nigeria but a country “governed by third-rate leaders who, along with their cronies, have plundered the nation’s wealth and ruined the country’s institutions; a country that has managed to curtail her people’s aspiration and possibilities; a country that assassinates her best and brightest and encourages an atmosphere of fear and death? Nigeria, we all know, is a country that does not provide public goods and services for the vast majority of the populace.”

Africa is not a peculiar continent. Everything that has ever happened in Africa has happened elsewhere. Slavery? Wars? Colonialism? Natural or man-made disasters? Ethnic conflicts? Corruption? You name it and it has happened in other places, too. But while other continents seems to be getting their houses in order, things seems to be adrift in our own continent. Nothing works. And there is a pronounced disconnect between the government and the vast majority of the people. Why, for instance, is it taking Ethiopia a quarter century or so to recover from food and water shortage?

There are those who complain that corrupt government functionaries, along with transnational corporations and foreign governments colludes to do African countries in. This may be true. If we didn’t have corrupted governments would these external interests force African governments to do their biddings all the time and on every issue? The national security interest of a country is of paramount importance. But not so in Africa where government functionaries would as soon sell off their country and their people for personal gains.

Our leaders find ways to weaken or corrupt our institutions; they manipulate the poor and the uneducated; they play regional and sectional politics; they are masters of ethnic and religious politics; they draw no boundary between public and private interests thereby illegally enriching themselves; they have no respect for human life and human dignity; and they rely on coercive agencies to do their biddings. And in so doing become masters of survival strategies and strategies of survival and of divide-and-rule. All of the aforesaid have caused unmitigated sorrow. Dreams are lost and hopes are diminished.

Men like Nelson Mandela, Murtala Mohammed, Thabo Mbeki, Jerry Rawlings, Mohammed Buhari and a few others give us hope. As Africans, we can pull ourselves out of the “leadership shit” we put ourselves in. We can do it, but not by blaming others. Can you imagine how post-Apartheid South Africa would have turned out without Mandela? Or imagine where Nigeria would have been today without Sanni Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida at the helm of state?

Whether you conduct historical analysis, institutional analysis or any type of systemic research, you will come to the same conclusion: the problem of Africa is mostly about leadership and not about slavery and colonialism.

And so when friends and colleagues like Paul Adujie and Terfa Ula-Lisa speaks of the twin-evil of colonialism and slavery as being the root cause — and perhaps the only cause of Africa’s underdevelopment — my reaction is to vigorously say, “No, no, no…that’s not all of it!” Find capable and purposeful leaders and all other things will fall in place. It may take a while; but we will almost immediately notice the difference between a purposeful and committed leadership and leadership that is adrift, lazy and corrupt.

It is all right to “complain of the effect of slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism.” And why not? After all it is part of our history and experience. But please do not dwell on it. What has happened has happened. It is time to move on. Our most recent history, most recent reality and most recent ex

perience are that Africa has a problem with leadership and development issues. Once we were “slaves”…once we were “victims.” But no more!

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Anonymous August 24, 2005 - 10:09 am

The is the real picture of Africa today! Corrupted leaders and governments

PRINCE KENNEDY IYOHA August 1, 2005 - 2:25 pm

Mr Sabella Ogbobode Abidde. once more i agree with you that Africans should take the bull by the horns and direct their affairs.

We should not forgat that all present contracts effective today was written before the present day leaders of Africa took harm of their offices. I am therefore of the opinion that nothing can be done to re-write those contracts that was design to favour the multinational company more than Africans owners of the resources been explorted.

Like i tried to explain in some of contributions the relationship between Africa and those that have feed on her has never be on equal bases. during the slave trade corrupt African leaders received gunsmirrowsknife ect for exchange of their children who in turn were building what we know today as the biggest economy in the world.

I am of the opinion that we should try to forget the past though the past will always hunt us and think of how we can improve leadership through quality educations for our youths promote trade between Africa countries hance our product will never receive equal consideration in the world market.

One way Africa is been punished by the west is the flooding of our market with their products which has received subsidy from their government and the European Union. with this product in our market our producer will be forced to the street since they can't in any-way compet with the prices of the subsidized products from the west.

This in turn will provoke exodus of our youngmen and women to Europe and other parts of the world where they will do the dirty job their people don't want to do. thereby contributing to their socio- security and the welfare of the old in their society.

with a good government with a determine leader with the interest of the general people of Africa i am convinced that we can provoke change.

If china is a power to be rockin today if india is becoming an Economic dynamitNigeria and indeed Africa can come out of this mess.

marshalspark@yahoo.com July 29, 2005 - 2:53 pm

No sirAfrican rulers are not as dumb and dimwitted at least not in the sense of someone who cant distinguish between his left and right.A dumb person wiil not steal 12billion dollars and build a palace in Minna and still hope to be Nigerian ruler come 2007.No sir.What is wrong with these people is that they are psychologically inslovent.They create a system which they cant control and as a result of the thin line of divide between rulership and followership in Africa.They find it very difficult to stop stealing thus plunging us further into backwardness in all the ramification of the word.We are doomed.

E. Terfa Ula-Lisa July 28, 2005 - 12:11 am

Yes. Terfa is saying African leaders are so dumb and dinwitted and SCARED silly to stand up for their rights so they are easily controlled.

Secondly they are operating from a disadvantage no other continent has suffered. Every power has struggled for a piece of the pie in Africa. They did not all go for the safari. They went for the resources they scrambled for a piece of Africa and when independence winds were blowing they changed tactics. Whose laws do Africans keep African law

When we have a dispute what determines right Who writes the contracts and international treaties and MOUs. Do they know what they are getting into.

Who would speak for Africa Most of the so-called christians are hypocrites esp. when it comes to race

Read everthing I have written in Nigeria and here. I have no praise for Nigerian leaders. I am just developing the argument further that the system is patently corrupt. YES SIR.

marshalspark@yahoo.com July 27, 2005 - 3:28 pm

The more I read the exchange between you and Terfa the more I get confused.Is Terfa by his comment on this your latest reaction to his piece telling us that African rulers are so dumdso di witted that that the West still controlks themIs telling us that Jean Bedel Bokasa was teleguided by the Eswt to ravage and plunder his country to the extent he didThat it was the west that honed the appetite of Mobutu to the extentent that he was richer than his countryThat it was some faceless European or American that thought El Rufai of Nigeria to how to make Nigeria lost 100 billion naira in the privatisation bid of NitelIndeedby his argument some people from Britainafter Nigeria's 44th birthday struck Bukola Saraki of kwara state with a juju to make him import farmers from Zimbabwe instead of making use of the thousands of agriculral science ghraduates roaming the streets of NigeriaO

Anonymous July 26, 2005 - 11:55 pm

Mr. Abbidde

Please read my next contribution to hear what a Jewish man said God told him.

While I had reiterated in general on the dearth of good leadership and corruption in Africa (read 'A New Agenda') my thesis is that these persons were conceived birthed and controlled by the west.

Secondly that the west has not repented ceased desisted nor do they have any plans to stop unless exposed and stopped.

It may shock you that:

1. If you blame the west they would try anything to shut your mouth (including blackmail expose surveillance labelling etc.

2. What do you as a Nigerian know about the exploitation of oil in your land. Even the government does not know what is going on.

3. What do Nigerians know about the LNG or the offshore drilling

4. What about the other minerals in Nigeria do you know of any gold or diamond deposits Are there any gold diamonds or other minerals in Nigeria

5. Who knows about what and who controled the mining and exploitation of tin in Jos

6. Who set the system in place Who determines the prices benefits from it

7. Where do the police and top military as well as other services get their training

Did colonialism have any effect on mineral rights does it still have any effect

Was the systems of exploitation of theses resources ever dismantled If not why not

Answer: Because they are still in control.

How did the so-called leaders get to become leaders Who crowned them who groomed them in corruption who still baby-sits the crooks

Abidde probably lives in the USA where there are no effects of slavery or segregation or racism. He has moved on so no one needs to repent apologise or pay for any crime. He is successful so his people are all successful. Lets all move on forget the past even if it is used against you to selectively criminalize you.

E. Terfa Ula-Lisa.


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