Nelson Mandela’s legacy is already reshaping our world for the better. I am once again reminded of this insightful quotation by John C. Maxwell: “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion not position.”
The conversation about the life he led was not about wealth, egotism or a man consumed by the seduction of power, but about the simplicity of values and his vision to emancipate his people from apathy and apartheid. As a result of his selfless, honest and transparent leadership in South Africa, his country and citizens became more. One can state without equivocation he surely left South Africa better than he found it, which is the hallmark of exemplary leadership. Our world has become a much better place not because of his courage and uncompromising stance against apartheid, which he fought with all his might, but because of his shunning ostentation, the lust for power and the selfish aggrandizement that has fueled corruption in Africa. True leaders are God-fearing, humble, dedicated and transparent, not the opposite. What we have these days are puppets to modern oligarchy and Lilliputians masquerading as representatives of democracy, which is unfortunate.
As a patriot, Mandela inspired all of us to stand up against inhumanity and inspired hope, promoted justice instead of injustice and left a legacy that will stand through immortality. Those are attributes of great leaders and role models.
The world over, and in Africa in particular, leaders must think about why they occupy positions of leadership, and aspiring leaders must think about why they want to be leaders. These days, the lust for power and ostentation has hijacked the true need for leaders to bring change that is positive for the people they are leading.
From the inception of democracy and democratic governance dating back to ancient Greece, institutions were built to oversee the executive branch and avoid tyranny of the majority. That is one reason we have Congress to not only legislate but also have oversight functions and help deliver the goods of democratic dividends to their constituency. Unfortunately, we have situations in which democratic institutions are bypassed by leaders for politics to instigate artificial crises that in the end could scuttle or debase sacred institutions that have been pillars of society since time immemorial.
In the context of African leadership, still evolving and suffering from post-independence trauma, the importance of choosing leaders wisely cannot be overemphasized. Do you know that Africa is the second largest continent and second most populous continent? African is a continent with approximate 1.2 billion people occupying an area of about 11.73 million square miles (Lagos is the largest city in Africa). With that said, with her enormous mineral resources, human resources and talent, more success stories need to be written about the continent.
Discounting the issue of the unfortunate brain drain, with her very skilled manpower and educated professionals and elites exiting to greener pastures overseas, the continent has suffered greatly. The exodus to Western countries is at the root of modern enslavement and abuse we are witnessing in Libya now. Arise Africa and take your rightful place at seat of important conversations, not just at the United Nations, where very few transforming changes have occurred.
It’s imperative to start grooming a new generation of African leaders from the young and intellectually grounded to assume the mantle of leadership so as to occupy rightful place among the comity of nations. The old guard of leaders occupying political thrones will soon fade to oblivion, as we recently witnessed in Zimbabwe, where a tyrant and despot had to be forced to abdicate an aristocratic presidency he has been occupying for upward of four decades. The idea of “Sit-tightism” must be exposed and excoriated through constitutional means to avoid a repeat performance anywhere in the African continent.
As we look back through recent history, we will come across leaders who led exemplary lives, leaders who understood what leadership meant, leaders who came from humble beginnings, leaders who put the interest of their countries before their selfish interests. Read up on Nelson Mandela and decide for yourself why he is universally acknowledged as a great leader, if not the greatest leader that emanated from Africa, the second largest continent.
Dr. George Onuorah is a publisher, political commentator and social justice crusader. He is author of “The Political Diary of a Rising Son.”