Leadership Crisis, The Challenge Of Africa In Quest For Continental Development


By Engr. Prof. S.A. Olagoke, JP FNSE, FNIM, FAES, FNATE

Africa’s Leadership Challenge on Development

Africa’s struggle for development led to determination for self rule and eventual independence from colonial masters who managed the ruins of slavery and ethnic rivalries in each nation.  The doyens of the success of independence were therefore preoccupied by:

  • Correcting errors created during colonialism and building upon the colonial masters heritage of education, religion and infrastructures for development through good political will and

A review of leadership strength for the challenges reveals a leadership failure syndrome because many of them became despot or dictators while autocracy characterizes government to the point of erupting violence from the people.  This pave way to military interventions which Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana described as aberration in government because they were never trained to rule but to protect the territorial integrity of their nations.  Breakdown of law and order might have been contained at a graveyard peace deceit; the fundamental human rights of the people were often violated.  African continent development retrogressed and became worse by lack of visionary leaders that even succeeded the protracted military rules in African states or nations.

Africa Nations: Environment and Challenge Of Democracy                           

Democracy as a political philosophy demands for wholesome people’s participation in scheme of governance for nation building through such state apparatus of the civil service for MDAs as an economic power house for government structure functionality – the Judiciary for the justice system, Legislature for policy formulation, plan, regulation and control, policy implementation as enabling environment for the executive to harness resources for equitable distribution.  They represent a dynamic operation for development that would bring about peace, sustainable development, safe and secured environment for the citizens welfare.  Integration of these for African continent will need to demand a common goal pursuit of development with blue print and template to exchange notes in the spirit of African Union objectives.  Much as we need to reflect on the past records of leadership crisis and under development, there is a need to recognize determination to accept concept of fundamental human rights as an enabling environment for individual and institutional operative mechanism of democracy to achieve the goal of sustainable development.  The following case studies reveal the past as non democratic and without due regard for the rules of law hence the need for improvement through transformational leadership:

  • Ghanagained independence from the British in 1957 from the British.  Kwame Nkrumah ruled till 1969 when his government was toppled.  Experienced military rule for twenty years (1979).  Jerry Rawlings ruled the country from 1981 and changed to President after 12 years in power through manipulative means before he handed over to John Kufor in 2001.
  • Liberia was founded in 1847 by Americans for freed slaves with civilian rule until 1980 when Samuel Doe killed William Tolbert who has been in government since 1951 with President Tubman in a bloody coup and turned Liberia into a personal courtyard.  A counter coup from an arm of the rebel, Prince Yomnia Johnson brutally murdered him while Charles Taylor took over in another counter coup but ruled as a tyrannical despot.  The country however, produced female President in a general election in 2014 and succeeded by George Weah a legendary footballer in 2018.  The country is yet to be economically buoyant.
  • Cote D’Ivoirecolonized by the French in 1893. Gained independence in 1960. Experienced a cold war in 2010 between the North and the South.  Economy is being sustained largely through vocation and SMEs.
  • Central African Republic Emperor Jean Bedel toppled the regime of President Dacko in 1966.  He refused to allow democracy to operate but ruled the country like a family compound.  Toppled and sentenced to death converted to life imprisonment through the world leaders’ intervention.
  • KenyaJomo Kenyatta ruled till 1977 but the successor, Daniel Arap Moe ruled autocratically and rejected any reform that could pave way for democracy in the country.
  • Egypt Awwal Saldat was killed in 1981 while the successor, Mubarak long state perpetuated self wealth acquisition to the tune $35bn.  The country experienced further military coup of El Fattai who removed constitutionally elected President illegally to assume the position.

Leadership for Good Governance

Leadership is the ability to provide direction of purpose to achieve specified goods by influencing supportive actions of others through charismatic traits or qualities for the purpose of motivating and encouraging people to share the vision and follow the mission to achieve valued targets.  Examples in history are Mahatma Gandhi of India, Martin Luther King of America and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.  They have exemplary demonstrated class to beat to the world record level.  For Africa to be transformed, leaders must be reformed into visionary and credible state to be competent and capable, putting the state above the self.  For this to happen, the personality trait test must include assessing candidate through the following leadership characteristics. 

Democracy vouch safes for due process on power relation of leadership attainment through just and fairly conducted election through merit while Africa must with one voice reject self imposition as in the case of military intervention and lack of intra party democracy, or election result manipulation to favour the highest bidder.

Governance management must ab initio pass through organised workshops and seminars through the Ivory Towers against the backdrop of our culture and purpose of intent for effectiveness, productivity and fraud control culture of administration.  Leaders must be charismatic and technical enough to resolve conflict, control crisis and avoid violence, terrorism and war hence the need to be popular and acceptable by the people whose supports are important factors for governance success.  Leaders must be transparent to have the trust of the people for development.

Leadership and Management Challenge for AU Transformation

The Organization of African Unity (OAU, 1963-2000) achieved in the areas of decolonization, promote unity and check cases of internal crises in Africa, defend sovereignty and territorial integrity and liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  However, it has not been able to change leaders’ consumerism approach in governance to creativity and productivity, hence the low GDP, HDI, rising profile of Poverty indices and under development syndrome. 


Development is total when Science and Technology facilitate materials availability processed into food, shelter and clothing through a purposeful leaders on production of basic needs and infrastructure with corresponding moral values for individual and institutional discipline to a sustainable level.  In his book, How Europe under-developed Africa, Walter Rodney submitted that development stems up from the level of individual to the institutional level of moral categories that implies ‘increase skills and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self discipline, responsibility and material well being.  This implies we need to build the man before building the material.

However, we need to realize that misuse of Science and Technology products and by-products like the weapons of destruction that fuels and execute wars to a commercial realm with attendant wanton destruction of lives and properties reduces the relevance of its boom to mankind.  Agbo (2011) submitted that Africa that craves for peace needs to develop utilitarian eyes.  Kwasi Wiredu in his book ‘Problems in Africa’s Self Definition’ noted that the Japanese economic achievements as well as her cultural re-awakening were brought about by sheer leadership policies, through cultural adaptation.  The case of Nigeria transformation from military to civilian era brought a relief through General Abdul Salam through purposeful leadership while that of Late President Yar Adua on the respect for the rule of law brought another air of relief by allowing the Court to have their way on election result judgment involving the ruling party and others: PDP vs. Labour Party of Oshiomole.  Modernization to Japan arrived through sheer national policy.  Africa therefore needs leaders who will rule on the standpoint of the law for state and continent transformation.

The model below shows the interrelationship between leadership and followership and the social space (environment) with minimum energy at the quintessential interface which if facilitated with right political will generate peace and sustainable development with attendant high level of security:

Excerpts from a keynote presentation by Prof S. A. Olagoke at the 3rd Landmark African leadership conference development conference in Abuja


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