Position Papers

“Some” African Men And Their Flawed Sense Of Leadership

If you ask me, I think Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala got what she deserved! I mean, how dare she run where men – “Some” African men – have failed to tread? How dare she attempt to make monumental strides and changes on the political-economic stage of a nation that have been ruled for so long by men who have pocketed the country in their private vaults? Who is the mumu of a man that she is married to anyway? How can he allow her to run around “buck wild” as if she is a man. Who wears the skirt in their home? Her husband is a disgrace to African manhood. Who takes care of him, who takes care of her family? She should as a matter of cultural decency and as a dutiful wife and mother, don her apron and step right back to where she belongs. Can we have some sanity please? What in the world is going on in the head of this crazy woman who thinks she can and should have the right to make a difference?

Next? Dora Akunyili, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf .

Now, what do these three women have in common? Leadership skills that have been lacking in a lot of the male leaders that Africa has ever produced, yes, some male leaders can be counted, but how many? Three out of three women, and there are many more. First, it takes guts and a lot of chutzpah for an African woman to reach the pinnacle of leadership in Africa. I can only imagine the trampling these women have had to endure, the testosterone wills that have seek to wall them out. The smear campaign, and assaults on their persona. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was even thrown in jail once, and was raped while there by her fellow African men. Out of that, she came out intact, and at an age where she should be enjoying her retirement and her grandchildren, she has taken on the daunting task of bringing sanity to her country, a country that was on the brink of total disintegration, by guess who, African men, the “leaders” of our great continent. I can only imagine how thick a skin these women have had to develop to get to where they are today.

In the recent spate of events leading to Okonjo-Iweala’s exit from the current Nigerian administration, reading comments from “Some” the mostly (typical male) Nigerian armchair politicians, one would deduce that this woman is evil incarnate, a spurn of the devil, judging from the backlash she has received…and some of these aspersions one would highly suspect is all because she’s a woman who has proven she is worth her mettle. So she must be vilified. How dare she, a woman have so much clout in the corridors of power of a nation like Nigeria?, where politics is a rough and tumble wrestling match preserved for men.

I’ve heard “Some” men beat on their chest, talking about “the good old days when men were men in Africa” When exactly was that? You mean when they sat and watched as their wives and children were carted away on ships by the white man as slaves to a foreign land?, a deed some of them willfully participated in, selling their own children and wives (albeit in some cases, victims of intertribal wars, but children of the land anyway) for pieces of junk and whisky the white man brought. The sins of which our generation are still paying for today. Or how could one explain the deplorable condition that Africa is in today? God is indeed angry with us. Our men, our leaders, sold her sons into slavery, are still selling her sons and daughters into slavery. African men need to atone for the sins they have committed against their own.

Or would any one go as far as to assert to me that it was the African Women of those days who sold her own children into slavery? willingly exchanging the seeds of her womb for useless material goods? My guess is that centuries ago, if any woman had interfered in matters concerning leadership, such effrontery could have resulted in her death, after all, “what does a woman know about the business and political affairs of running a clan?. It is the same foolhardiness in “Some” African men that persists till today. Never giving women the chance to voice their opinion. And the few women who have managed to raise their voices are being silenced, edged out or tagged feminists.

So, please, someone, tell me, when again were these African men “men”? was it during the colonial times when they were “yessirs” to the white men, or the post colonial era when they sold our conscience and exchanged all our valuable resources for power.

Is it not this same mentality that persists today where the primarily African male leadership in our largely patriarchal societies continue to sell our resources and the livelihood of her citizens for personal gains? Where exactly has male leadership led us? And when were these men “men”?

African men, those of you who are still “men”, why don’t I see you up in arms marching down to Aso rock, and to the seat of power in the various corrupt African countries shedding your virile blood to protect those you claim to lead. Why don’t I see a revolt of a band of ‘heads of the families” leading your wives and children out of the bondage that has enslaved them to poverty in a land flowing with milk and honey? Why do I hear so much chatter and no action? Why haven’t you laid your lives down for the sake of those you lead as Christ did as the head of the Church, so is a man the head of his family I’ve heard over and over by the Bible thumping ones when they want to assert who is the boss in the home. As a true head of the family unit, when I see you make sacrifices that will enable your wives and children to live a better future, when I see you bleed on the altar of justice for your families and your nations then I will accede to your leadership. When you leave the comfort of your recliners and shed the excess baggage of the oversized gut brought on by drinking too much palmie, odeku, and gluttonous consumption of mama bomboys pounded yam to start a revolution instead of farting political jargon through your orifices, I will submit to your authority. When more Mandelas, Fawehinmis, Bekos, Sankaras etc and a few good men – arise among you to make considerable, measurable difference in the state of our continent, instead of the brutes among you butchering those who might make a difference to attain power by any means, I will bow to your supreme throne, but until then, please spare me the armchair politics and the toothless bite, because, the only place I’ve seen your leadership led us so far is to the bottom of the totem pole on the world’s economic and political stage, into the abyss of poverty and despair, earning disgrace, disrespect and scorn for your people in the international community. Historically, in Yoruba land decades ago, (and I believe this may still happen in some place), women have had to march naked to the king’s palace to unseat bad leaders or make demands of leaders. Is it too much to ask African men to do their own bit in these present day circumstances? After all, it is mostly your ilk (and a very insignificant number of some of the women in politics) that have created the mess that we find ourselves in today. Why do African women always have to clean up after you? Why does it have to take a Johnson-Sirleaf to clean up the chaos in Liberia? Or the late Agathe Uwilingiyimana to bring some degree of sanity to Rwanda pre the genocidal civil war? Who will sanitize Nigeria? Do we need another buffoon to take us for a ride post 2007? What will be left of Nigeria in the next century if we continue to let these unruly, unscrupulous men take possession of our nation? Men who have sold their souls to the devil and sacrificed the children of her nation to mammon. Leadership is earned, it is not a birthright brought on by a random combination of “X” or “Y” chromosomes.

The family unit makes up the society, and when men who can’t even lead their families attempt to lead a nation, what we have is a country like Nigeria and so many other African countries. What some men lay claim to as leadership is simply tyranny. They terrorize and abuse their wives and children. When men have pointed out to me that by default they are leaders bec

ause they were born male, I have vehemently disagreed. First prove to me that you are a good leader, and I will follow you. I will even obey you, but I will not confer leadership on you automatically simply because you stand on a “tripod” (And for the shrinks among you, I don’t have “penis envy”, whatever that means). I will not follow you blindly because of your assumed birthright as a “leader” – a role society has thrust upon you regardless of your leadership abilities – and pray and hope you don’t lead me to doom. I will not stake my future or the future of my kids in your hands until you have shown me you possess true leadership qualities. My respect for you as a leader and the “head of the household” you will have to earn. When we approach this in the same manner on a large scale as a nation, we will start to see where the leadership structure in most African countries have flaws. “This is echoed by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi’s postulation that present-day Nigeria finds itself in the same quagmire as Umuofia of old because of a similar degree of machismo: Is it any wonder that the country is in shambles when it has failed to solicit the help of its better half [women] . . . for pacific pursuits, for the betterment of the country?” (Article: WOMEN IN ACHEBE’S WORLD by Rose Ure Mezu.)

If the degree of tyranny that “Some” African men who reign supreme in the microcosm of their homes can be channeled to good use to unseat bad government, it would be a very good thing indeed, but so far, all we hear is empty testosterone chest thumping and ogogoro-induced beer palour politics.

Most African women, including myself will give our unflinching support to men who can lead, if they will show effective leadership and accountability. I doubt that the reverse is true. Women leaders have been derided and ridiculed. It is not to say all African women who have led are saints, but most have proven themselves to be worthy of the call to leadership. The nurturing side of women will not make them destroy the cradle of their birth, or the future of their children. And I will go as far as saying that their appetite for the consumption of the national cake is not as gluttonous as that of their male counterparts. Chop, but let others – the masses- chop too. The greed of our male leaders is mind-boggling!

It is true that most of the countries that are world powers are still mostly male dominated, but at least, they have something to show for it. Besides, the ceiling is not so low that the women who are in politics in those nations are voiceless.

Yes, today, we can blame the white man all we want for the woes that has fallen upon Africa and continues to hold her down, and I will never abdicate them for the rape of the continent, but the degree of access they have to continue to loot our resources is the degree to which we, especially “Some” African male leaders have allow them. You can’t continue to deal with the devil and hope to find salvation for your soul. African men have had their chance at leadership for centuries, and majority of them have disappointed us. They continue to dine, wine and deal with the devil in an uneven dangerous transaction, exchanging much for less, very much like back in the days of slave trade. So until the time when “Some” of the self appointed leaders by genetic disposition can stand toe to toe on the world’s political and economic stage and bring Africa out of the doldrums, until they can make us a nation to be reckoned with, I say to my fellow Nigerian and other African women (as I myself don’t claim to have any political leadership skills), if you have what it takes to lead, since our men have failed us, arise, urge us your fellow women to ‘take our clothes off and head to Aso Rock’. The Funmilayo Ransome-Kutis, Johnson-Sirleafs, Margaret Ekpos, the Yaa Asantewas and the Wuraola Esans, if you can truly lead, and have a flair for politics, please, we implore you, ‘put on your headgears, tie your wrappers’ and lead the way, so we can have some sanity on our continent. And any African man who is worthy of being called a true leader is welcome to answer the clarion call too. Yes, we do need both men and women of stellar qualities to take over the leadership mantle in Africa, but as for Nigeria 2007, I say, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for President, Dora for Vice President. Long live Nigeria! Viva Africa!

 

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I’ve been musing for a long while about shooting a short documentary films on these types of discussions based on a dozen or so articles I’ve written as a series scrutinizing African relationships. I hope to be able to interview different participants over a period of 6 months. If anyone is interested in being part of this project (or if you know of other folks) , please email me at folasayo_documentaries@yahoo.com . Invitation is open to all who live in the US* for now. I will make allowances for people who may wish to remain anonymous although preference will be to those not.  Demography sought are Single, Married, Divorced or Separated 18-50-something yr old African Men and Women. Or non-Africans involved with an African in a relationship.

A screening questionnaire will be emailed to  those who express interest in the project. In the meantime, if you think you have a compelling personal story about the discussion on this thread, viewpoint, etc, please send a short briefing to me or just simply indicate interest, it may be a while, but I will follow up if interested.

*Those living close to NY are especially encouraged to participate for logistical reasons. However, if you live outside the US, or can’t participate for other reasons, you may email your thoughts and comments with your real identity for credibility. Text excerpts may be used in the final cut. Also, as the project expands, Africans who live elsewhere will be included to diversify the opinions portrayed.

Thank you.

7 Comments

  1. I read this and thought I was rereading an article I had written. You have totally captured my thoughts on many incompetent African Male leaders. Good Stuff

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  2. Well my dear don't forget that it is us African men who fought back and regained our continent from colonialism(with all the flaws)and have successfully created the African Union and NEPAD to move us forward.In a way the present generation trying to atone for the sins of their forefathers.I am an African male and I tell you not to despair.Believe me we as Africans are having a much better handle of the affairs of the continent since the end of apartheid than may appear at face value.

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  3. Hello Mrs. Folasayo Dele-Ogunrinde

    Your article is interesting, and it presents the Women as the only remedy for problems accrued in Africa long ago. Your explanations about the success of our past Finance Minister are nothing but truth. But I will like our readers to acknowledge the fact, that Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not the first women to participate in government in Nigeria. Therefore, you should see her success as part of a strategy of a government that wants to effect change in the Nation economy. If the past finance Minister was in the government of Abraham Babangida, she probable would not have achieved so many results as we have seen. I think it is time for Nigerians to see the quality in each of its citizens, rather than discriminating for reasons of sex, etc.

    Mrs Folasayo, you should realise that there are many men and women that are capable to bringing the pains of millions of Nigerians to an end, because of their intelligence and dedication to work, such people do not have the opportunity and even if they are in positions, if they dont have the support of the man at the herm of affairs, there is nothing they can do. Your article is trying to portray Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the only person that made the important achievement that we sew in the finance Ministry. She was only one person, but behind her, were many young men and women that worked endlessly, for what ever policy implemented to succeed. Beside, we should not forget the administration that appointed her. If Mr President Do not went her policies, he will bluntly disagree with what ever decisions made and probable change her from that position. It is good to praise the works of people like Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala not because she is a woman, but because she was patriotic and hardworking.

    While in Liberia about a mouth and half ago, I had the opportunity to meet people like the senior senator prince yormie Johnson, though his past history as a war lord, he is working hard to see to a new Liberia emerging from the worst. Like him, there are more men than Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in that cabinet. I also talk to people who had played important role in the life of Liberia since late 70s, and people from all works of life. Then I realized that Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been an important part of the political life of the Liberian people since the late 70s, and that she is fully implicated in all the problems that Liberia has accumulated all this years. According to statements related to her, during the civil war, she was said to have given orders to the then Charles Taylors boys to destroy the presidential mansion with Samuel Doe and his family still living inside the Mansion in Monrovia. I am not writing because she is a woman, but because all this things or information really occurred. You can get these informations, if you are not biased, unfortunately, the eyes of the world did not see her sins, because she is a women, and she emerged victorious in an election she never won, Informations gathered indicated that the Ecowas leaders, tired of loosing both financial and human resources in that country, decided to find a lasting solution to the problem, with our president leading this group of leaders, they thought of finding a unifying symbol that will help bring about lasting peace to the troubled Liberia. Meanwhile, I will also like to see credits given to men that made it possible for these women to reach the pinnacle of leadership, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world.

    Your story is interesting.

    http://www.careasociet.org.

    http://www.centrocony.com.

    Reply
  4. Correction – Miss Sirleaf was not raped. According to her in a Times interview, a prison guard attempted to rape her but another guard intervened and saved her from that fate. Just my two cents. Good write up.

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  5. My dear sister thank you for the brutal truth and a well written article. I look forward to more of your essays in the future.Keep up the good work and stay strong.

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  6. Excellent piece. love your style of writing.

    will go out and purchase your books, today.

    Yes I am a man, and you can, rule ok, rock, as well my world, anyday

    Reply

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