Africa Has Great Leaders

Only the ignorant and prejudiced will question the fact that Africa has produced some great leaders in its history. Today, however, it is highly debatable, to argue that Africa still has such great leaders—leaders who display excellence, humility and selfless service, and who inspire others to become effective future leaders. A majority of our “great leaders”—in both society and church—want to be leaders for life. They stay in power till they become senile, or are chased out of power, or are shot dead by someone. Thus, they will make sure that until they die, no one else will ever come up to positions of prominence. Success without a successor is failure. True leaders train others to succeed them; but great leaders develop others to supercede them.—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim

[NOTE: The above nugget was excerpted from the full version below. Be blessed–and challenged.—SKP]

(The Full Version)

Only the ignorant and prejudiced will question the fact that Africa has produced some great leaders in its history—traditional, intellectual, political, and religious leaders.

The Bible and church history also testify to this fact by keeping for posterity many examples of exemplary leadership– e.g. Moses, the Queen of Sheba, Ebed-Melech, Ethiopian Eunuch, Tertullian, Cyprian, St. Augustine, and others. From Egypt to Ethiopia to Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, the records of grand feats of these great leaders shine through still, some of which remain unsurpassed till the present time.

Today, it is highly debatable, if not laughable, to argue that Africa still has such great leaders—leaders who display excellence, humility and selfless service, and inspire others to become effective future leaders. We have lost the legacy of that bygone era of exemplary leadership. Ever since a majority of African nations became independent, the  continent offers a depressing memorial of only a handful of thinking, visionary, and selfless leaders.

Particularly in politics, during the 50+ years after independence, counting from Nkrumah to Mandela, we can scarcely find two dozen great leaders. (I dare you to name more if you doubt this. And in the unlikely event that you succeed, they represent a minor percentage of the more than 200 heads of state who have led the various countries–a pathetic commentary on the state of leadership and leadership development in Africa).

Once, in different parts of Africa, records of truly great leaders were many. But today, we have managed to embrace as acceptable leaders who are mediocre, incompetent, selfish, and shortsighted. Why should anyone entertain the thought of developing a different kind of leadership, when we have succeeded in convincing ourselves that Africa’s lot will improve with this crop of “great leaders”?

With this attitude towards leadership, the challenge of transforming and developing African leadership is not a high priority for our “great leaders.” Given this sorry state of affairs, we have a solemn obligation to pay tribute or homage to the “great leaders” of our post-colonial continent of Africa. Here’s my humble tribute, followed by a personal appeal:

Africa has “great leaders” – intellectual giants, political stalwarts, religious pundits, professional experts, religious authorities and sports heavyweights. Most times they just need convoys of cars and dispatch-riders, loud sirens and a retinue of aides to remind themselves and everybody else of their greatness while alive. It doesn’t matter who else is on the road, since traffic lights are neither meant for them and the masses are not supposed to share the same road with them. When they drive past, road life comes to a halt. And commuters who don’t know this quickly learn the ropes while cooling their heels at the mechanic’s, waiting for their vandalized vehicles to be fixed.

Leadership for these “great leaders” is an opportunity to exercise unchecked or autocratic power and amass wealth for themselves, their families and cronies. Aware of their immortality and in preparation for their demise, they are mindful to pre-select from the pool of their unborn generations to succeed their elected position. In this way they save their constituencies time, energy and money that would otherwise be expended on periodic democratic elections. To their credit, our brand of visionary leaders don’t just fold their hands idly and watch their successors grow up; they keep busy changing statutes and laws, jailing dissenting voices, and literally vanishing opposition figures, to prevent future coups and acrimony.

Yes, Africa has “great leaders.” Men and women who have not allowed dwarfism of intellect, advancement of age or severity of ill-health to dull their greatness or limit the intensity of their commitment to serve their people .

Scan through the pages of our post-colonial history and feel anew the sheer force of these “great leaders” whose relish in grandiosity and pomposity rules out a diagnosis of lack of self esteem. Evidencing this is our political leaders’ creativity which is reflected in some of the self-styled, high-sounding titles used to portray their greatness:

“Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas”
“Hero of Africa”
“King of Africa”
“Supreme Timber and Caliber of the Black Race”
“Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa”
“First Citizen of the Nation”
“President for Life”
“Father of the Nation”
“Supreme Combatant”
“Second National Hero”
“Emperor” or “God-king”
“Savior of the People”

Even those with dishonorable practices and records continue with the prefix “Honourable” appended to their names for the rest of their lives, whether they were impeached for just cause, or they merely finished serving their ineffective terms.

The academia, not wanting to be outdone, has also contributed its own ingenious list of titles for its leaders ranging from “Dr (Herbal),” “PhD in progress”, “awaiting MSc,” “MA attempted,” to “BA candidate.” Since the stacking of academic degrees is viewed as evidence of greatness, is it any wonder that our “great leaders” covet the ultimate title “Senior Lecturer Prof Dr Dr”? It doesn’t matter that, often, the acquisition and display of degrees is inversely proportional to one’s accomplishments or contribution to  knowledge.

Oh, our religious leaders, the new hybrid of spirituality and intellectualism, accept the humble titles of “God’s Servant, Pastor Dr,” “Man of God, Most Reverend Professor,” “The Very Reverend Apostle Dr,” and “His All Holiness, Presiding Bishop Dr.”

And the zillions of mushroom church leaders, not to be left out, have concocted grand titles, well stamped with ecclesiastical seals – “Holy Seer,” “Holy Ghost-Filled Apostle,” “Most Anointed Prophet,” “King of Heaven on Earth,” “Spiritual Bulldozer,” and “Prophet, Reverend, Pastor and Founder.”

Africa has “great leaders,” indeed. Many of its great leaders view leadership as something ordained and inherited and therefore their right, irrespective of capability. To question the excesses of our “great” religious leaders is met with the holy decree “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” And, in society, if you dare challenge the incompetency and lack of vision of the “great” leaders, you risk getting whipped by tribalistic batons.

Did I mention tribalism? Yes! Frequently during election time, whether in the church or society, tribalism has become the most comfortable shelter under which most African leaders rest from their hard work of incompetence and selfishness.

Feeble men can’t attempt much, but African leaders have a patent on greatness. From the grandiose promises of campaign trails, to the frail accomplishments of elected terms, and the enforced servitude of supplanted progenies, whenever they eventually decide to leave, Africa’s leaders manage to get a lot done. It is this “greatness” that entitles them to expect the press to warmly sing their praises and coldly squelch disloyal and contrary voices within their ranks.

Is it any wonder that state security exists primarily for the protection of leaders and their own people? Or that huge percentages of national budget allocations ensure that special schools and hospitals attached to presidential palaces are built to keep Africa’s great leaders’ households well educated and in good health while school-aged majority of the citizenry study on natural sandy seats shaded by large leaves from overhanging tree branches?

It really doesn’t matter that children of our “great leaders” go to school abroad anyways, after all it’s not their fault that they were born with limitless choices made possible by the sweat pouring from the brow of the poor masses. And why should it be so bothersome that the leaders themselves fly out of the continent to treat every headache, toothache, cold, and cough, even if primary health care centers don’t exist for miles in their countries?

Africa has “great leaders.” For who else can clutch the giant knives used to cut huge chunks off national cakes and cart the massive pieces away while the masses scramble for crumbs? Is it not clear that the mammoth rats in deep personal coffers and multitude of foreign accounts must be fed? After all, the continent can regain the funds back in the form of foreign aids and loans which will service up to 80% of recurrent expenditure of some national budgets. If trouble looms, not to worry, so assures our great leaders, there’s always a way out of financial crunches. Their unique financial acumen has been displayed countless times by mandates for release of funds or the printing of extra currencies to take care of late-night social emergencies. And there really is no cause for alarm, for inflation is an economic myth.

Not just on local airwaves and newspapers, but major buildings, institutions, and highways also make reference to Africa’s “great leaders,” since most are named after them. (Lest we forget, the highways provide fitting tributes of their philanthropy as the free massages on these roads are offered constantly and freely to the commuters.)

The names of our “great leaders” on important monuments are constant reminders of their enormous contribution to the well-being of their people. These names, carved immortally on our national landmarks, testify to the fact that, indeed, our “great leaders” deserve to be “Presidents for life.” They deserve our utmost respect and reverence.

Truly, our wise, humble, and selfless leaders are Africa’s benevolent “Saviors.” Verily, they are also worthy of our praise for inspiring more “great leaders” to follow in their good steps–and even exceed them. This commendation is what I’ve attempted to do in this brief tribute.

It is, however, incumbent upon all sons and daughters of Africa to render their own mandatory homage to our “great leaders.” Therefore, as I conclude my humble tribute, would you join me, dear reader, as evidence of your own respect  and supreme allegiance to our distinguished leaders by saying: “Long live our ‘great leaders.’ Long live Africa.”

Now that I’ve paid the mandatory tribute to our “great” African leaders, allow me to end on what may seem to them like an off-beat note: It is my twofold plea for transformation in leadership and for leadership development.

You see, an unfortunate tragedy in Africa today is that we have stifled the cultivation, development, and fruition of mature and responsible leadership. Even the very few good ones fail to train their successors. A majority of our “great leaders”—in both society and church—want to be leaders for life. Trapped in the traditional mindset that leaders are not meant to be replaced, they stay in power till they become senile, or are chased out of power, or are shot dead by someone. Thus, they make sure that until they die, no one else will ever come up to positions of prominence.

Our “great” leaders’ view of leadership, at its very best, extend no further than themselves or their immediate family members, who they expect to protect them from possible prosecution for abuse of power/office should they be forced by the constitution to leave office. Otherwise they look for political protégés, whom they can manipulate to continue to pursue and protect their selfish interests.

Africa deserves much more than what is currently being offered by our “great leaders.” Our continent cannot change its lot unless we begin developing a different kind of leadership—genuinely, true, authentic, organic, credible great leaders (the pile up of adjectives is intended to emphasize the urgency of transformative leadership—the kind advocated by our EAGLESonline).

Where are the great leaders from a continent that boasts of 54 countries and almost 1 billion people? Where are the leaders who display Christ’s life of excellence, humility and service as the model of true leadership? Where are those leaders who follow the example of the apostle Barnabas who trained the apostle Paul so effectively that the latter exceeded the former? Such that, though the New Testament began by talking about “Barnabas and Paul,” it ended by referring to “Paul and Barnabas,” with Paul’s accomplishments far exceeding that of Barnabas.

Success without a successor is failure. True leaders train others to succeed them; but great leaders develop others to supercede them.


© By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD, is a US-based Ghanaian author, inspirational speaker, leadership trainer, and advocate for youth empowerment. He is the co-author of The Transformed Mind: Changing the World by Being Changed. You can read his weekly thought nuggets at:

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