||Pan-Africanism, development, and democracy in global Africa for the
new millennium demands exceptional leadership. In this essay, I examine the
typology of leadership in global Africa and trace the challenges for future
leadership in global Africa. The emergence of a new style of leadership is
critical not only for global Africans, but also for a world confronting
globalisation and complexity on an unparalled scale.
The history of leadership in Africa
has stood on eight pillars. Were they eight styles of command or eight
categories of commanders?
At the time of independence there was
a lot of discussion about charismatic leadership. This discourse was greatly
influenced by the man who led the first Black African country to independence -
Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. He himself was a charismatic leader with considerable
personal magnetism. I first met
him in New York in 1960 and fell under his spell. Nnamdi
Azikiwe was also a charismatic personality, but his magnetism waned after the
civil war in Nigeria (just as Winston Churchill's charisma waned after World
War II for different reasons).
I also happen to think that Idi Amin
Dada of Uganda had a lot of charisma, which enabled him to survive in power for
eight years until a foreign army (Tanzanian) forced him out.
Idi Amin (whom I knew well) was a brutal ruler who nevertheless captivated a substantial following, both at
home and abroad. A more positive charismatic figure was Malcolm X (Malik
El-Shabazz) of the African Diaspora. I met him in New York in 1961.
A mobilisation leader is another
category. Nkrumah tried to use his charisma for mobilisation, but in reality
Nkrumah was not a particularly successful mobilisation leader in Ghana after
independence. On the other hand, Julius K. Nyerere in Tanzania was both
charismatic and mobilisational. He succeeded in arousing the masses to many of
his causes. Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt was also both charismatic and
mobilisational from the Suez crisis in 1956 until his death in 1970. The most
impressive mobilisation leader in the history of Black America was first Marcus
Garvey and secondly Martin Luther King Jr. Louis
Farrakhan astonished the world by mobilising the Million-Man march.
A reconciliation leader seeks areas of
compromise and consensus from among disparate points of views. Nigeria is a
difficult country to govern. So far mobilisation has not worked for long.
Reconciliation as a style of leadership is often essential. Both General Yakubu
Gowon (who led the Federal side during the civil war) and General Abdulsalami
Abubakar (who provided a transition between tyranny and redemocratisation) were
reconciliation leaders. They attempted to find areas of compromise in widely
divergent Nigerian points of view. Both Jesse Jackson and Jimmy Carter are
reconciliation leaders in world affairs. Domestically Jesse Jackson has
promoted a rainbow coalition less spectacularly.
A housekeeping style of political
power is minimalist in sense of purpose. There is more governance and less
genuine leadership, more verbosity and less vision. The Kenyan political elite
since the late 1980s has been at best a housekeeping elite - governing without
leading, maintenance without movement.
An African military head of state,
Murtala Muhammad, was the best approximation to a disciplinarian leader that
Nigeria has had. He was assassinated within months of capturing power from
Gowon. Muhammad Buhari was also a disciplinarian Nigerian head of state. But it
is not certain that a disciplinarian style is what Nigeria's ethnic and
sectarian realities can really sustain for very long. But this option should at
least be carefully considered. Was W.E.B. DuBois a disciplinarian leader - an
austere 'no-nonsense' figure?
A patriarchal system is one in which a
father figure emerges, using the symbolism of the elder and the patriarch. Jomo
Kenyatta was already about 60 years old when he emerged from a colonial prison
in Kenya to assume the reins of power. He carried the title of Mzee, meaning
both 'the Elder' and 'the Old Man'. He ruled Kenya from 1963 until he died in
1978. Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Côte d'Ivoire was also a patriarchal leader
who presided over the destiny of independent Côte d'Ivoire from 1960 until his
death in 1993. Among 20th century American presidents Dwight Eisenhower was a
patriarchal figure in this sense of 'father-figure'.
Nelson Mandela was both a
reconciliation leader and a patriarchal figure. His long martyrdom in prison
(1964-1990) and his advancing years gave him the credentials of the patriarch.
His moral style in his old age was a search for legitimate compromises. The
latter was a style of reconciliation. Was Nelson Mandela also a charismatic
figure? Or, was he only a hero in history? That is a more open question.
Ibrahim Babangida played a patriarchal
role in his transition programme, but he was too young for such a role.
Babangida's constitutional transition could have made him Nigeria's Charles de
Gaulle, but the experiment collapsed when Moshood Abiola's election as
president was not acknowledged by the military.
Has Africa really produced
technocratic political leadership? The answer is yes - but rarely at the level
of the presidency. Some vice-presidents have been technocrats or potential
technocrats. Kenya has had a series of quasi-technocratic vice-presidents, some
of whom got 'debased' in office. They include Vice-Presidents Mwai Kibaki
(distinguished economist and now President), Josephat Karanja (former
University Vice-Chancellor) and George Saitoti (former professor). Are Thabo
Mbeki and Yoweri Museveni essentially technocratic leaders? Ghana's Jerry
Rawlings was part disciplinarian and part technocratic.
Personalistic political style in
Africa is sometimes indistinguishable from monarchical political style in our
sense. Both entail the personification of power. But the monarchical tendency
goes further and sacralizes authority while simultaneously seeking to create an
aristocratic impact. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi was definitely a
personalistic political leader, demanding unquestioning political allegiance.
But was he also a pseudo-monarch, seeking to give his authority a semblance of
sacredness? Marcus Garvey in U.S. history combined mobilisation effectiveness
with monarchical tendencies. Richard Nixon was an imperial president of the
United States while he lasted.
More literally Jean-Bedel Bokassa of
the Central African Republic tried to create a new monarchical and imperial
dynasty, with himself as the first Emperor. He even renamed his country 'the
Central African Empire'. He held an astonishingly lavish coronation that was
supposed to be paradoxically Napoleonic.
A new aspect of the monarchical
tendency, which is emerging, is the dynastic trend in succession. Laurent
Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been succeeded by his son
Josef Kabila. In Zanzibar Abeid Karume has produced a successor in his son. In
Egypt Husni Mubarak may be grooming his son to succeed him. In Kenya Raila
Odinga is trying to follow the nyayo (footprints) of his famous father, Oginga
Odinga. And in the United States, George W. Bush as President has succeeded
George Herbert Walker Bush.
In addition to these nine types and
styles of leadership there have been a number of pre-colonial cultural
traditions, which affected those types and styles. The most obvious was the
elder tradition in pre-colonial African culture, which has probably conditioned
the patriarchal style after independence. The reverence of Jomo Kenyatta as
Mzee (the Elder) in Kenya was substantially responsible for the precolonial
elder tradition still being alive and well. Nelson Mandela by the time of his
release was also a heroic Mzee. Was Ronald Reagan held in affection by the
American people partly because he was perceived as an elder?
products of western-style high schools, and later western-style
colleges and universities. In Black America history W.E.B.
Also obvious as a continuing tradition from precolonial times was an
older version of the monarchical tendency. Even African societies, which were
not themselves monarchical were influenced by the royal paradigm. Kwame Nkrumah
attempted to create a monarchical tradition in independent Ghana by declaring
himself life-president, by sanctifying his authority with the title of Osagyefo
(Redeemer), and by surrounding himself with a class of ostentatious consumers
passing themselves off as Ghana's new political aristocracy. Plus by
increasingly regarding political opposition to the president as the equivalent
of treason (a monarchical version of intolerance).
Less obvious as a precolonial conditional factor was the sage
tradition. This involved respect for wisdom and expertise. In the modern period
the sage tradition was rapidly modernised to include the new
Dubois was the supreme sage of the
The sage tradition from the
post-colonial period has sometimes resulted in promoting among Africans the
ostentatious display of Western learning.
Tapping on modernised versions of the
sage tradition a number of founding fathers of independent Africa tried to
become philosopher-kings. They attempted to philosophise about man and society
and about Africa's place in the global scheme of things. Kwame Nkrumah wrote
books and became the most prolific head of state writer anywhere in the world.
Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal was a more original political philosopher and
Some leaders attempted to establish
whole new ideologies. Julius K. Nyerere of Tanzania inaugurated ujamaa,
intended to be indigenously authentic African socialism. Kenneth D. Kaunda of
Zambia initiated what was called "humanism". Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt had
previously written The Philosophy of the Revolution and
subsequently attempted the implementation of "Arab socialism" Muammar Qaddafy
of Libya has the Green Book championing the third way.
Jesse Jackson (USA); Abdulsalami Abubakar (Nigeria); Moshood
Abiola (Nigeria); Thabo Mbeki (SA); Jerry Rawlings (Ghana); Yoweri Museveni
The modernised version of the Western
tradition also popularised the use of honorary doctorates as regular titles of
Heads of State. Thus the president of Uganda became "Dr. Milton Obote", the
president of Zambia became "Dr. Kenneth Kaunda" - just as the president of
Ghana before them had become "Dr. Kwame Nkrumah". These had been conferred as
honorary doctorates, but they became regular titles used in referring to these
heads of state. The sage tradition was attempting to realise itself in a modern
veneer. African presidents were trying to become philosopher-kings. After his
presidency, Yakubu Gowon took the more difficult route and studied for his PhD
at Warwick University, England.
Finally, there was the precolonial
warrior tradition, emphasising skills of combat, self-defence and manhood.
Did this survive into the colonial period and onwards into independence? The Mau Mau fighters in colonial
Kenya in the 1950s were greatly influenced by traditional warrior virtues,
especially those of the Kikuyu. Even liberation fighters in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe
two decades later, who were using much more modern weapons, were mainly
recruited from the countryside and were deeply influenced by traditional
concepts of the warrior.
But were African soldiers in regular
African state armies part of the continuities of the warrior tradition? Were
the Abdulsalami Abubakars fundamentally still old warriors? It largely depends
upon how much of the old African cultural values are still part of their
attitudes to combat, self-defence and manhood. General Abubakar himself
maintained high standards of integrity. But sometimes those old warrior values
go awry in a modern military ruler. The warrior tradition went wrong when
personified in Idi Amin Dada of Uganda. Idi Amin was a warrior-soldier who was
mis-cast as head of state in the modern world. He fluctuated between brute,
buffoon and genuinely heroic figure. He courageously took on some of the most
powerful forces in the world - and yet pitilessly victimised some of the most
powerless individuals in his own country from 1971 to 1979. In Idi Amin the
warrior tradition had gone temporarily mad.
Nine types of political leadership and
four precolonial traditions of political culture have helped to shape
post-colonial Africa and Black America in the twentieth century. The question,
which now arises, is whether the 21st century will either reveal totally new
styles of leadership or create new combinations of the old styles and
traditions and produce better results than Africa and its Diaspora have
accomplished so far.
Here we must turn from styles of
leadership to goals of leadership. We know that the twentieth century produced
very effective leaders of liberation. Nationalists like Robert Mugabe of
Zimbabwe and Sekou Toure of Guinea fought against great odds to gain us
independence. There were many other brilliant liberation fighters all over the
continent who helped Africa end its colonial bondage.
But leaders of liberation were not
necessarily leaders of development. One African leader after another let Africa
down in the struggle to improve the material well-being of the African people.
Only a few African leaders since independence have demonstrated skills of
development on the ground. Considering what a terribly damaged country he had
inherited, Yoweri Museveni deserves some credit for bringing up Uganda from the
depths of despair to one of the main regional actors in the Great Lakes region.
It is to be hoped that the coming African Renaissance will produce more and
more leaders skilled in the arts of development. In Black America Louis
Farrakhan has been a leader of development as well as liberation. His effort to
combat drugs and crime and promote economic self-reliance are cases in point.
In addition to leaders of liberation
(like Mugabe, Sekou Toure, Samora Machel, Zik and Nkrumah), and leaders of
development (like Yoweri Museveni, Louis Farrakhan, and Habib Bourguiba), has
global Africa produced leaders of democracy? This is a much tougher agenda. The
Diaspora has produced civil rights leaders. South Africa has the most liberal
constitution in the world, and has ended political apartheid. But the wealth of
the society is still maldistributed along racial lines. The mines, the best
jobs, the best businesses, are still disproportionately owned by non-Black
people. Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki have presided over
substantial political democratisation, but they have also had to tolerate
substantial economic injustice.
In Nigeria Abdulsalami Abubakar
provided a smooth transition from the tyranny of Sani Abacha to a Nigerian
return to democracy and civilian rule. In that democratic return Olusegun
Obasanjo was elected the first Nigerian president of the new millennium. It was
a very promising choice. After all, in 1979 Olusegun Obasanjo became the first
African military ruler to hand over power voluntarily to a freely elected
government. In 1979 Obasanjo had also been the first Nigerian military ruler to
let political power slip from his own ethnic group without attempting to
subvert the process.
However, Olusegun Obasanjo in the new
millennium is still being tested. He is confronted with Shariacracy in some
Northern states, with Yoruba nationalism in some Western states, and with
demands for confederation among some of the Ibgo nationalists. In style will
Obasanjo emerge as a gifted reconciliation leader? In normative Africanity is
he a warrior or a sage? And in ultimate goals for Nigeria, does Olusegun
Obasanjo stand a chance of emerging as a successful leader of genuine
We know that Africa has been served
well by leaders of liberation. We are concerned that we have not produced
enough leaders of development. In Nigeria and elsewhere we are also looking for
leaders of democracy. Perhaps Abdulsalami Abubakar should in the future entrust
his political fate to the Nigerian electorate. They may well elect him to a
fuller term as Head of State. His humility is one of his greatest assets. So
was his readiness to relinquish power voluntarily in 1999.
What about leaders of Pan-Africanism
and wider transnational solidarity? Clearly this is a fourth goal on top of
liberation, development and democracy.
In the new millennium all those four
goals (liberation, development, democracy and Pan-Africanism) may have to be
examined in the context of globalisation.
The National Summit on Africa is a
movement led by distinguished African Americans like Leonard Robinson,
Herschelle Challenor, C. Payne Lucas, and Andrew Young. The movement seeks to
draw greater attention to African problems in the United States, help to find
solutions to those problems, and strengthen the economic, trade and cultural
ties between the peoples of Africa and those of the United States.
A literal national summit of leaders
of opinion took place in Washington, D.C. in February of 2000. Meanwhile,
members of the movement are in support of the African Growth and Opportunity
Act which went before Congress in 1998 and 1999 - seeking new linkages between
American investors and African opportunities, and a new equilibrium between
where aid ends and trade begins. Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan has
an even more progressive concept, which aspires to have the African debt
cancelled. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has been even more radical in his
sympathies for Africa.
about their ancestral continent. When I first visited Australia more
than a quarter of a century earlier, such a thing would not have happened.
There would not have been much of an African presence in Melbourne.
|Meanwhile, the physical African presence in the world is
expanding demographically. But the leadership of Africa's crusade is beginning
to come from sons and daughters of the continent and Africa's descendants in
the Diaspora. In 1996, I was in Australia as a guest of Australian
organisations. My last two days were reserved for the African community of
Melbourne. I addressed them in the hundreds
Georg W. Bush (USA); FW de Klerk (SA)
In 1997, I was in Sweden as a guest of
the Nobel Foundation. My official hosts were therefore Swedes. But on my first
night in Stockholm guess who entertained me to dinner? Afro-Swedes! Africans
who are now Swedish citizens. Also in 1997, I was in Malaysia. At the
International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur there were male and female
African students from different parts of the continent. The students asked the
University for a special African session with Ali Mazrui, and they got it. I
was also stopped once or twice in the streets of Kuala Lumpur by other Africans
(complete strangers) who recognised me from my television series. In the 1950s
there would not have been much of an African presence in Kuala Lumpur.
What does all this experience tell us?
It tells us that the demographic African presence in the world is expanding.
There are more countries with Black people in their populations today than
there have ever been in history. The black skin is becoming less and less
exotic as a sight in the streets of the major cities of the world. The
globalisation of Africanity is at hand.
As we have indicated elsewhere,
Secretse Khama did live to become President of Botswana with Ruth as the
white first lady after independence. Africa has had other Heads of State with
white first ladies - such as Léopold Senghor of Senegal. And Jerry Rawlings,
President of Ghana for two decades, had a Scottish father. Africa leads the way
in racial tolerance. It leads the way in religious ecumenicalism. Africa has
had leaders of liberation. It now needs leaders of development and democracy.
Abdulsalami Abubakar played his part as a mid-husband to the rebirth of
democracy in Nigeria.
The African Diaspora continues to
expand with or without conspiracy theories. The globalisation of the African
peoples is struggling to come home. People of African descent continue to
multiply in the most unexpected parts of the world. Pan-Africanism has yet to
catch up with them. To paraphrase the words of 'Global Africa', the final
episode of The Africans: A Triple Heritage (BBC/PBS, 1986):
"We are a people of the day before
yesterday and a people of the day after tomorrow. Long before slave days we
lived in one huge village called Africa. And then strangers came and took some
of us away, scattering us in all directions of the globe. Before the strangers
came our village was the world; we knew no other.
But now we are scattered so widely that the sun never sets on the descendants of Africa. The world is our
village, and we plan to make it more human between now and the day after