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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Fixing Africa’s Under-Development Through Novel Leadership Set

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African countries have continued to contend with under-development; many try to snake out of the situation, which is directly linked to leadership failure and poor governance systems.

Apart from some of the countries under military dictatorship, others are also struggling even in their democracy, with poor electoral processes always marking the transition of power from one government to another. Dearth of focused political leaders has been largely blamed for this; hence, the stunted growth in most of the African states.

One of the persons irked by the worsening leadership question in Africa is Nigeria’s former Minister of Education and one-time presidential candidate, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, who is also famous for her #BringBackOurGirls Movement, has been concerned with.

Instead of just bemoaning the situation, she decided to do something to help. She moved to mould young men and women across Africa, who would stand tall and take over their countries. Decision alone, she felt, is not enough; she put her hands on the plough by founding the School of Politics, Policy, and Governance.

Speaking recently at the graduation ceremony of SPPG, she described the institution as an unconventional school designed to attract, develop and produce a new generation of political leaders, who would listen and serve the new class of citizens, who know their rights. SPPG’s mission, she added, is to educate future leaders and public officials, who are dedicated to the good of the nation and ready to serve the well being of all citizens.

According to her, SPPG has, for years, built a reputation of equipping leaders with the right values, knowledge and skills required to solve complex public problems.

She said, “The 33-week programme of the first-of-its-kind world-class institution for shaping new kind of public leaders, offers a unique opportunity for prospective leaders to be equipped with the requisite knowledge, skills and values required for effective, disruptive and progressive public leadership.

“The programme includes a wide range of carefully selected courses comprising 24 modules that are analytically and empirically relevant to solving Africa’s complex development problems.”

The former minister noted that SPPG is focused on building ethical, competent and capable leaders and producing, at scale, a new genre of public leadership that serves the people and delivers on governance.

“Leadership for results and positive impact is a mission SPPG has determined to make the most important conversation in the public space of Nigeria and the rest of Africa,” said Ezekwesili.

She tasked African leaders on the need to leverage technology and the trending disruption to enhance economic growth across the continent.

Ezekwesili, who is also the Convener/Chair of #FixPolitics, said the continent has continued to experience increasing leadership deficit in the areas of policy analysis, development and good governance, disclosing that SPPG is determined to bridge the gaps experienced in these areas with a well-tailored curriculum for African students with a global perspective.

On leadership deficit on the continent, Ezekwesili insisted that “the world needs Africa and Africa needs the world.”

She added, “The existing multilateral order is broken and must be urgently fixed, so that our world can make critical decisions and take the right actions on issues that affect us all.

“Africa must be at the centre of conversations on global governance, economic growth, poverty and inequality, climate change, disruptive technologies and related issues of human and social development. The world will do better with Africa actively at the table of the redesign of today’s global architecture for a future that provides equal opportunity for everyone anywhere to excel.”

To be ready for this, she stressed, Africa needs disruptive leaders, who are constantly interested in finding better solutions to problems of their communities, countries and the world.

The former minister linked Nigeria’s leadership problem to distorted political culture, where leaders place personal interests above public good, and canvassed a change of mindset by leaders to tackle the growing economy and security challenges in their countries.

She observed that character, competence and capacity were the missing link in producing good leaders in Africa, stressing the need for disruptive thinking in the nation’s political space.

“We found that not just in Nigeria, but across Africa, there is a distorted political culture. It is the political culture where those in public leadership subordinate the public good, that is the common good, for their personal and narrow interests. This means that the common good is not served by people, who should be serving. To correct that, you have to customise a new leadership mindset.

“So, the training we give at SPPG has the content to reset the mindset of those who wish to lead. They lead by serving, place character at the foundation of the knowledge we give them by improving on their competency and the capacity to articulate sound policies, be able to design institutions that enable society to advance and to have the capacity to make the right choices of investment in the goods and services that countries need to grow,” she said.

Analysts are united on the fact that Africa, especially Nigeria, needs exemplary leaders and followers to build its polity and make the citizenry enjoy the dividends of democracy.

Regrettably, it has been observed that failure at providing good governance has been the lot of almost every Nigerian government, whether military or civilian.

Not a few scholars posit that Nigerians collectively lack a clearly defined vision championed by their leaders, and that this has remained the country’s political albatross since it became independent more than three score years ago.

Nigeria’s multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society would arguably do better, if anchored on a well-defined national vision. But that has not been the case. The cost is evident in the serial failures of the country to evolve into a nation and realise its enormous potential.

Ezekwesili is not alone on this push for the advancement of quality leadership in Africa. The Chief Executive Officer of SPPG, Alero Ayida-Otobo, believes there is urgent need to groom a new set of leaders with policy development and good governance mindset, while educating new political leaders dedicated to the values of good governance in and out of Nigeria, based on the values the school upholds.

“We want to contribute to instilling in politicians and public administrators a deep sense of moral commitment to the common good as a foundation for Nigeria and Africa’s future prosperity.

“SPPG aims to strengthen the bonds between government, public administration and citizens by fostering dialogue, accountability and transparency,” she stated.

Most African countries, she noted, have the same developmental problems like Nigeria; hence, #FixPolitics and SPPG propel the drivers to cover the continent. They started in Nigeria but are going to cover the 54 countries in Africa.

“SPPG is one of the three pillars of the #FixPolitics Initiative. What we do is very pivotal to the future of Nigeria. The mission is to elevate the Office Of The Citizen; we want to enlighten the citizens of this country.

“Our goal is to equip 21st century politicians that will be value-driven, with character, unquestionable competence and undeniable capacity,” Ayida-Otobo stated.

In the same vein, President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, Olu Omotayo, believes that beyond building men and women as future leaders, there is need for strong institutions in Africa.

In one of his media outings, he lamented that irrespective of strong leaders, Africa lacks strong institutions.

“In the Western world, anybody that comes to power, his action does not affect institutions because the institutions are strong already. When Obama visited Ghana, he said what Africans need is strong institutions and not strong individuals. Once the institutions are strong, things will work.

“But we do not have strong institutions; that is why a President can sit down in the Presidential Villa and ask the Central Bank governor to bring a certain amount of money. That cannot happen in developed countries; you must pass through procedures. The President is the head of government, but he has no power over those institutions; the institutions are separated from the running of government.

“But here, the institutions feel they are subservient to the executive. Even the judiciary, when you come to Nigeria, for instance, you see that the judiciary and the legislature have not been able to actually stand on their feet. These are the problems that make Africa to still be under-developed.”

While hailing the efforts being made by Ezekwesili and others, he, however, said more efforts should be channelled towards raising more citizens who could stand and challenge the status quo and defend the institutions.

“I have always been of the belief that the problem of Africa and, of course, Nigeria, is lack of collective effort of the people. If the people are determined that our institutions must be strong, they must be strong. So, we should not be focusing on leadership; if the citizens say this is what we want, they should demand it.

“Look at the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria, it was enacted to make people always demand accountability from their leaders, but how many cases have you seen? Those are the problems.

“So, there is the need to groom the people to take their destinies in their hands; they must be able to challenge the authorities and demand accountability. It is not just training some few leaders, who will turn out to become overlords; we need to train citizens who will stand on their feet,” he said.



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