By Benjamin Rukanda.
It has been the bane of African politics that individual leaders rise to overshadow their institutions and when seeking solutions, the fixation is on individual politicians instead of seeking institutions or building and reinforcing those institutions to deliver on their mandates. The leader often assumes a larger than life presence that dwarfs the institution he/she leads and quite often threatens the function and even the existence of that institution beyond the leader’s death or incapacity, as the leader assumes god-like proportions.
Africa as a continent has now been independent for decades but the predicament of its people seems to have worsened economically and democratically since attaining ‘majority rule’ as the powerful minority liberation elites backed by the securocratic establishment hold the masses in a vice-like grip of oppressive Machiavellian repressive hegemony. How ironic considering that much African blood was shed to remove colonial repression.
Complicit is the African masses’ often blatant hero worshipping, bootlicking and praise singing that creates big-headedness in leaders who end up seeing themselves as the God-given and rightful rulers of their dominions. The unquestioning loyalty of the led which equates to the support of a football team in a local derby often leads to violent clashes between rival political camps and the use of foul means becomes acceptable as the adage politics is a dirty game becomes the theme encouraged by the leaders.
Yet in all this it is the institutions that suffer. The institution of government that should serve all the masses by providing social services, protection of all citizens, upholding the rights of individuals under the constitution, formulating policies to enable the growth and prosperity of the economy becomes a tool of repression, patronage and is abused by the ruling elite to extend their hold on power and engage in primitive and corrupt wealth accumulation.
Political parties as institutions merely serve as vehicles by which politicians ascend to power and their values and policy documents are recruitment tools by which to accumulate the critical mass necessary to win an election, while their constitution stand at the mercy of the leaders of the parties and are subject to their whims and fancy.
Logically every institution is a response to a particular need in a community and mandate derived thereof. A strong institution capable of delivering on its mandate must have clearly defined mission statements and define the institutional culture geared at keeping it on track. A clear set of policies and their implementation. A specific constitutional framework that is enforceable and above individual manipulation that clearly puts the institutional interests above the interests of any individual especially the incumbent leadership.
But in Africa the lines are blurred as to the distinction between the leader and the institution. National interests as to the interests of the rulers. The goals of the institution and the goals of the leader. As Africans, we have come to view the institution with the person of the leader and our loyalty is attached to the leader and not to the institution. Perhaps it is through our distorted history that it is a warped belief that it is the duty of leaders to oppress and that a good leader is gauged by his/ her ruthlessness and we must submit like sheep?
The world has changed and enlightenment has awakened other possibilities. An Africa where people demand constitutionalism, their democratic rights, equal opportunities and justice where equality in the eyes of the law is guaranteed. This can only be achieved if as Africans we re-examine our institutions , strengthen and gear them to delivering on the demands of an enlightened African population.
The deprivations of poverty, the obnoxious corruption, inadequate service delivery, the stagnation of our economies which lag behind the demands of our growing populations, human rights abuses, the encroaching global warming and many other concerns are all matters that need to be attended to by strong institutions.
While as Africans we are clamouring for heroes who will bring our salvation we fail to see that the hero lies in us the people and all that is needed is that we unite to build strong long- lasting institutions that will survive present leadership and their idiosyncrasies to deliver on our aspirations.
It is clear that our leaders since independence have failed us and their biggest indictment is their failure to build and strengthen the institutions that should deliver on the people’s aspirations. That is why in African politics the contention is in what needs to be done and by whom rather than how it needs to be done. The work of a decades has been deferred for too long.
The people of Africa should stop putting their faith in individuals but should rather seek to strengthen their institutions. A realignment of African political thinking at this stage in the narrative of our sad and abused continent is a must for the progress needed for the world’s richest continent in terms of mineral wealth to translate into economic success that will bring the happiness and benefits of economic prosperity to the people of Africa that only strong and incorruptible institutions can deliver.
It is clear that the tendency of the people of Africa to seek salvation from heroes whom they have put their faith in since the advent of independence has cost the continent dearly and that the restructuring of Africa towards realigning for progress requires a focus on building strong institutions that are not susceptible to the vagaries of the whims of individuals who have so far exhibited a single-minded purpose to enrich themselves at the expense of their people bringing the deterioration of the prospects for prosperity for the continent of Africa.
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