Wednesday, November 25, 2009
What is wrong with our African leaders?
By Lord Aikins Adusei
Corruption and embezzlement are a way of life for African leaders. From South Africa to Egypt there is no country where corruption is not endemic.
In Equatorial Guinea where oil export has earned the country billions of dollars, the 600,000 people living in the country continue to live in poverty while Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his cronies continue to siphon the oil revenue with no accountability.
Nigeria, Gabon, Congo and Angola all of them Oil exporting countries are noted for high level of corruption among the ruling class. All four countries are ruled by a cabal of corrupt leaders and their associates who masquerade as the representative of the people: presidents, senators, MPs, ministers, government officials and the list go on and on... In fact, the type of government in all four countries can best be described as Kleptocracy.
In East Africa Kenya is ranked the most corrupt country in that region. Many MPs, ministers and their associates in Kenya stand accused of accepting bribes and allowing companies to do as they pleased.
Since oil was first discovered in Nigeria about 50 years ago, several billions of dollars have been realised from its sale but today the whole population continue to live in abject poverty and the country has nothing to show for it.
Between 2005 and 2007 several state governors and their immediate families were arrested by Scotlandyard in London on corruption and money laundering charges. Among them are James Ibori of oil rich Delta State and his wife Theresa who had their 35 million dollar asset frozen by the English court.
Mr. Ibori earns about a thousand dollars a month but during his eight years as a state governor he managed to acquire wealth to the tune of $35m and was a key financial contributor to the campaign of the current president Yar'Dua. He owns a private jet and lavish London home.
Another corrupt governor is Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of oil-rich state of Bayelsa who was also arrested in London for money laundering charges. Mr. Alamieyeseigha broke his bail conditions and evaded capture in Britain by dressing up as a woman. When Police conducted a search in his London home they discovered one million pounds worth of cash in his home.
In Ghana over four ministers and government appointed officials have been implicated in a corruption scandal involving the British bridge construction firm Mabey and Johnston.
In countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, The Gambia, Sudan, Uganda, Libya, Zimbawe, Tunisia a Kleptocracy class of people have replaced anything democracy. In these countries very few people continue to remain in power and the people have no say in the way their country is governed or run.
According to the Africa Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants.
Now think about this. What do you think will happen if instead of stealing the money and banking it in Switzerland, Monaco, France, Britain, Cayman Island and the rest as the governors in Nigeria and the leaders in Africa have been doing, the money is invested in training teachers, doctors, engineers, invested in infrastructure-roads, telecommunication, harbours, hospitals, schools, research institutions? What do you think will happen if every school has library with the right kind of books that will enable students to get the knowledge and skills they need? What do you think will happen if the money is invested in generating electricity for those living in the villages, towns and cities?
What about if the money is used to build water treatment plants to supply the people with potable water?
What do you think will happen to standard of living if the money is invested in agriculture, build canals, irrigation and storage facilities, buy tractors for farmers so they can produce to feed the nations?
Are African leaders happy when every negative thing in the world is associated with their countries: poverty, wars, corruption, AIDS/HIV, illiteracy and starvation? Are they happy when children die of diseases that can be eradicated?
What effort are the leaders making to eradicate poverty apart from just stealing monies that could help develop the countries?
Why don't they use the money generated from the sale of oil, gold, diamond to invest in education, fast and efficient transportation systems that could help increase business activities, create jobs and raise the standard of living of their peoples? Is it because they do not care? Is it because they not know what development is about? Is it because their only aim of seeking power is to steal and mismanage what remains of their loot?
The whole of Africa South of the Sahara is rife with poverty. What makes the leaders in the continent to have a negative attitude towards development and poverty eradication but love to accept bribe and engage in corruption and embezzlement? When they travel to Europe, America, Korea and Canada don't they see the roads and the airports?
So what is wrong with the leaders at all? I mean what makes African leaders intellectually blind, morally bankrupt, and ethically diseased? Why are they so different from all the leaders in the world? Of the over 50 presidents and prime ministers in Africa not a single one of them has been able to build an economy comparable to that of Korea despite some of them staying in power for more than forty years.
Why do they fail to react against challenges such as HIV/AIDS, food shortages, malnutrition, hunger, homelessness, wars, climate change and the cancer of corruption? Are they all sleeping behind the wheel?
When will they wake up from their slumber to address the major challenges facing the continent? Africa, South of the Sahara is blessed with rich soil, rivers and lakes all ingredients needed to produce food yet the continent is starving why?
Why do they continue to fail in every aspect of human endeavour? Please don't blame colonialism because Korea, Malaysia and India were also colonised but they have shaken themselves off the shackles of colonialism.
When will Africa leaders ever shake themselves from the colonial mentality that makes them subservient? When will Africa leaders ever shake themselves from the colonial mentality that makes them to think that they cannot do anything without France and Britain? Will Africa leaders ever grow up, pull themselves together to end the one-sided relationship that allow French, British and American Companies to have control over the resources of their countries, destroy agricultural lands, pollute rivers and put millions of Africans at risk? When will Africa leaders dismantle the corruption and bribery infrastructures that allow multinational corporations to pay bribes and then rape and loot African countries of their resources? When will African leaders put the corrupt multinational corporations in the dock for the pollution, bribery that continue to fuel corruption and poverty throughout the continent? When will Africa leaders stop conniving with multinational corporations to steal from their countries and deposit their loots in the banks of their former colonial masters especially France, Britain and Spain?
Can't Ghana do with the huge gold, diamond and other mineral deposits without going begging in foreign countries for loans that have done the country no good? Can't African leaders find ways to raise revenue without incurring heavy debts that continue to be a yoke for all the people?
When they visit their children in these countries don't they see the infrastructures that make it easier to do business and what prevents them from doing the same in their home countries? As am writing John Mahama, the vice president of Ghana has just returned from the US, didn't he see anything good that can be replicated in his country?
What makes Yahyah Jammeh of Gambia an expert in killing journalists but not the slightest idea on how to end poverty in his poverty stricken country? What makes Nigeria Senators and Governors so corrupt as to even steal money meant for the development of their own country? What makes the Bongo family in Gabon so stubbornly corrupt? What makes Dos Santos and his cronies to fail to use the oil money to build schools and houses for the poor in that country? What makes Denis Sassou Nguesso so corrupt as to have 112 bank accounts in France alone? What makes them enemies of progress and development? Is it lack of patriotism or is plain selfishness? Is it a genetic problem or is lack of vision and foresight? Is our politics that breed nepotism, cronyism and blind patronage to blame? What makes the leaders in Africa not to think beyond corruption and embezzlement? Why do they always take away poverty eradication from the equation? Why do they substitute development with corruption? Why do they ignore investment in agriculture, sanitation, water, health, education, roads and energy? Why do they refuse to take advantage of solar technology to supply electricity to millions of people who live in rural areas? Do they get satisfaction in seeing millions die of hunger, if no then why do they steal the very money that could end the misery, hopelessness and desperation among the people?
What is Ghana's Professor Atta Mills doing to end poverty and raise the living standard in his relatively peaceful country?
Is something wrong with our leaders and do they suffer from some genetic deficiency that make them power drunk, corrupt but less interested in fighting to end diseases, wars, hunger, starvation and poverty? What makes Gaddafi so power drunk as to rule his country for 40 years? What makes Dos Santos, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Yoweri Museveni, Hosni Mubarak, Obiang Nguema, Robert Mugabe, Mamadou Tandja and their cohorts to be interested in power and financial benefits that go with the office that they occupy and not the building of institutions and economies that will make their countries and people to be recognised as civilised members of the world community of nations?
What makes African leaders to get it so wrong everyday, every week, every month and every year and every decade? What makes African leaders to have gotten it so wrong in every aspect of human endeavour? What makes it so hard for Nigeria and Ghanaian leaders to use their huge natural resources to build successful economies like those of Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong? What makes it so difficult for Somalia and DR Congo leaders to end the wars that have devastated their countries and driven millions into poverty, starvation and death?
Why are the leaders in Africa only interested in exporting raw materials like cocoa beans, coffee, cotton and uncut diamond and gold and not process them to add value to them before export: a process that could create millions of jobs and fetch the countries billions of dollars?
Why do African leaders shun investment in science and technology and yet would want to use mobile phones, laptop computers and the latest sport utility vehicles?
What makes the leaders to avoid investment in education? Why do African leaders find it difficult to have economic and social policies that will make them self sufficient and less dependent on foreign aid?
Of the over fifteen countries in West Africa not a single one of them has efficient, modern train network or system, not even Nigeria the so called super power in West Africa. The situation in Central and East Africa is not different from the one in West Africa.
Will African leaders for once put on their thinking cap, build strong institutions, build infrastructures, develop local talents, local businesses, end poverty, wars, starvation, forge unity and stop depending on foreign aid, and allow democracy and rule of law to work?
By Lord Aikins Adusei
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