The significance of campaigns and elections is to enable political parties and candidates to compete for political offices as provided for in the constitution. Through campaigns and elections, the electorate is able to scrutinise the parties, the candidates and their manifestoes.
This year, no fewer than 13 African countries are holding elections to elect new presidents and parliamentarians. In some of the countries, the allure of public office may be the reason there are long lists of political parties and candidates. The political arena in these countries has the semblance of a battlefield. It is a political potpourri.
It has become a tradition in Africa for victorious candidates to hold elaborate celebrations that last for weeks.
But political victory goes with responsibility. Africa has remained underdeveloped because many emerging leaders have failed to sincerely recognise their responsibilities to the people. Formulation and implementation of concrete fiscal policies, meaningful development projects and the enhancement of the social life of the people are poorly handled.
Rather, huge amounts of money are often wasted on misplaced priorities that do not add value to the living conditions of the people. Such projects are used by ‘thieving’ leaders to siphon the people’s wealth.
Africa may remain a ‘toddler’ in the comity of nations unless the people rise up to the leadership challenge facing the continent. The situation may be despicable but surmountable. It requires the people, particularly the emerging new leaders, to summon the political will to wade through the tide.
But summoning the political will to transcend a tumultuous political environment like the one in Africa requires a good understanding of the problem. This brings to the fore the nagging question of how prepared the emerging leaders are for true governance.
Certainly, many politicians vying for public offices are not prepared enough to lead. The thinking among many who plunge into the murky water of politics is that obtaining university degrees, being wealthy and coming from a ‘royal’ home or being a scion of the erstwhile leader(s) is all that is required to qualify for public office. But experience, competence, and good judgment are fundamental qualities of leadership.
Undoubtedly, Africa is producing politicians who are in a hurry to take over the mantle of leadership, people who have not challenged themselves sufficiently to understand the political and socio-economic environment, which they want to supervise.
The heroes of the independence of African countries did not emerge overnight. They entered the struggle well equipped. Many of them had worked with the colonial governments, they had lived with the people and, therefore, knew their pains, some had the opportunity of studying abroad, learning the rudiments of leadership. They defined their mission and were sincerely committed to the struggle.
They sacrificed their time, knowledge and income to fight for freedom for their people. Africa’s great leaders like Emperor Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, to mention but a few, demonstrated the true spirit of nationalism and patriotism during and after the struggle. They left behind an enviable legacy, which, unfortunately, the leaders that emerged after them failed to sustain due to their pecuniary interests and poor understanding of what leadership is all about.
– Excerpted from the The Sun Nigeria