Leadership and Governance in Africa. The Mandela Leadership
Using the African democratic average, Bewaji draws the examples from Tanzania and Libya, and South Africa may be added to make a point. While acknowledging the giant strides of these and a few other African countries, the recent profound changes in North Africa and the fragmented political space in Libya and Egypt in particular, it is not far from the truth to say that Africa countries are surely governed less by a people oriented philosophy of development.
In many African states, the democratic culture of inclusive participation, constitutionalism, the rule of law, human rights and accountability; the trampoline of democratic consolidation quickly became cumbersome with tyranny of the minority becoming the order of the day. The argued thesis here is that, sustainable democracy is a factor of how well the leadership transits from knowledge to wisdom. Tolerance, widespread participation, political consensus are necessary conditions for democratic consolidation though, they do not in themselves consolidate a democracy if and when there is no responsible and quality leadership which itself results from self-knowledge. The logic of development can only be expressed through the creative application of wisdom that is anchored on the aims of governance.
Table of contents
1. The Mandela Leadership Portrait
a) Mental Magnitude
b) Spiritual Depth
d) Incorruptibility and Selflessness.
2. Leadership Lessons for Africa
3. Madibaism and the power of Inclusive Leadership
1. The Mandela Leadership Portrait
Unless it shall come to pass that philosophers are kings or those who are now called kings and potentates be imbued with sufficient measure of genuine philosophy … there will be no cessation of ills for the state nor … for the human race; neither can the commonwealth, which we have now sketched in theory, ever till see the light of the day. (Plato, 473)
Thinking of Leadership in Africa brings to mind the shepherd analogy which here serves as a crucial requirement of a leadership philosophy that has aided other contemporary peoples of the world and indigenous peoples of Africa to become great. The shepherd is a leader who does not put self-interest above sheep interest, does not rest until the sheep is provided for – not just for the immediate needs, but ensuring the needs of the future are guaranteed also – consequently the shepherd envision the unknown tomorrow and plans for it. The shepherd is the protector of the sheep and exemplified the virtues of righteousness requisite of followership. In this regard, the shepherd as leader leads by example and does not have to ask for respect before getting it. Using the African democratic average, Bewaji draws the examples from Tanzania and Libya, and we may add South Africa to make a point. While acknowledging the giant strides of these and a few other African countries, the recent profound changes in North Africa and the fragmented political space in Libya and Egypt in particular, it is not far from the truth to say that Africa countries are surely governed less by a people oriented philosophy of development. In many African states, the democratic culture of inclusive participation, constitutionalism, the rule of law, human rights and accountability; the trampoline of democratic consolidation quickly became cumbersome with tyranny of the minority becoming the order of the day.
A global reflection reveals to us some points of consequence here. Why, if we may wonder, were the countries of the Pacific rim – at the head of which you find a Japan that was badly battered in the Second World War – able to rise from oblivion within a spate of four decades to dominate the world technologically and financially, or why USA has been able to blend hetero-ethnicities into a vibrant polity even with the usual unresolved issues of racism, racial profiling, and implications of the American Presidential Elections under president George W. Bush in the state of Florida, among others, are still festering. Why are Russians a proud people, in spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union? Many scholars would easily indicate in concession (concurring with the views here proffered) that it was not the color of the skin, nor the intellectual superiority of the population, nor the climatic generosity of the environment that made the difference. Many will easily indicate and concede that the difference is in the content of the character, knowledge and wisdom of leadership. Plato assertion that unless philosophers are kings or those who are now called kings and potentates be imbued with sufficient measure of genuine philosophy as a condition for the cessation of ills of the state speaks to us that leadership must be characterized adequately to so act as leaders to facilitate open dialogue within the polity, and about the meaning of justice, the possibility of a just politics, and the nature of the best human life. The argued point here is that, what entitles one man or a group of men to lead and requires others to follow or to obey is simply the fact that the one is a philosopher(s), a man or women of thought and reason, and the others ordinary persons, common people who, presumably are bundles of appetitive desires. This leadership philosophy entails self-knowledge that takes cognizance of a holistic exposition of the concept of leadership which flows from knowledge to wisdom, grounded in epistemic, metaphysical and moral content.
The argued thesis here is that, sustainable democracy is a factor of how well the leadership transits from knowledge to wisdom. Tolerance, widespread participation, political consensus are necessary conditions for democratic consolidation though, they do not in themselves consolidate a democracy if and when there is no responsible and quality leadership which itself results from self-knowledge. The logic of development can only be expressed through the creative application of wisdom that is anchored on the aims of governance.
The post-modernist/constructionist theory of leadership education explains this position more clearly. The theory holds that humans are social creations and that their institutions are constructs upheld by humans acting according to their images of reality. This is the leadership style that helped Madiba Mandela in oiling South Africa’s young democratic institution to flower when he took over as the first black president in 1994 serving only one term. This model of leadership facilitates behavior and challenges leaders and followers to actively co-construct or co-reconstruct their knowledge about successfully working together to reasonably gratify their politically important desires.
For Mandela, truth stands out as the alloy that binds social progress. Such was his grounding and guiding philosophy of life that oiled his entire long walk to freedom. In his very words, “honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark and grim, who try over and over again, (and) who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation and even defeat”. Although he was imprisoned for 27 years, he accomplished the feat of becoming the first black president of South Africa on May 10, 1994 with style and grace as a worldwide “model of leadership” and the world’s most reverenced leader even after death. In the Long Walk to Freedom, it is said of him that, “Mandela grew up listening to his father’s stories of heroic battles and heroic Xhosa warriors, and his mother would enchant hi with Xhosa legends and fables. These tales stimulated his childish imagination, and usually contained some moral lessons such as “virtue and generosity will be rewarded in ways that one cannot know” (Mandela 1994:10)
For Mandela therefore, the glory of the Xhosa history, his early childhood training and formal Christian education fired his leadership spirit. In his autobiography, he states, “on the day of the inauguration (as president) I was overwhelmed with a sense of history …” (1994: 541). As he said later in life, “I defined myself through my Father ... I maintain that nurture, rather than nature, is the primary molder of personality.” Understandably, those to whom leadership will devolve (albeit hereditary) are carefully selected, groomed and instructed in the ways of the culture of their societies in wait for the esteemed positions they are prepared to assume. In fact, it was the responsibility of all the leaders of thought in societies to properly bring up those who would lead.
It was in adherence to this practice that Mandela was instructed into the ethos and mores of the Xhosa indigenous society and carefully nurtured, and elevated to take leadership position in the South African society. It is instructive to note that, this traditional leadership culture gave birth to the great civilizations which tamed the Nile, created the Great Desert Art and engineered their economies through groundnut pyramids in Kano, developed the cocoa industry in the west, prospered the Tiv of central Nigeria with yam bans and energized the nation with coal in Eastern Nigeria. Unfortunately though, these giant strides died with the colonization and enslavement of Africa, creating a leadership vacuum which all forms of charlatans now fill by default.
For our purpose, it will be useful to indicate the following leadership attributes as important and critical in the articulating the Madiba Mandela Model.
a) Mental Magnitude
When reason is dethroned from the affairs of the being of man, emotions, mediocrity and unimportant desires reign. This inevitably breeds corruption of the mind which in turn leads to greed, bribery abuse and executive lawlessness among other social vices. This suggestion argues the point that, those who aspire to leadership in any society must be those who are ruled by reason rather than appetite. They should “possess comprehension and mental magnitude” (Awolowo, 1968: 158). This leadership quality is found in abundance in the person and character of Mandela as ably captured by the Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka when he says of Mandela that he is the very expression of “humanistic will and political vision … a symbol of culture and dialogue backed by an unparalleled generosity of spirit”. This humane human quality of life freed the Madiba from the tyranny of the flesh and the unexamined life and so from negative emotions of anger, hate, fear, envy, selfishness and greed, and from indulgence in wrong types of food and drink and in ostentatious consumption as well as excessive or immoral craving for sex. In the Nobel Laureate’s 1988 collection of poems, the Mandela’s Earth, Soyinka wrote: Your bounty threatens me, Mandela, that taut Drumskin of your heart on which our millions Dance. I fear we latch, fat leeches On your veins… What will be felt of you Mandela? He became more like an Icon and globally recognized symbol of his country’s freedom. This condition achieved for the Madiba tranquility of the mind and enlarged his conception of what is possible, enriched his intellectual imagination and diminished the dogmatic assurance which may have closed his mind against the dialectical power of history. As it turned out to be, the lessons of history capacitated Mandela to envision a better South Africa that he helped to render great for the general common good of South Africans. This vision was informed by the realities of the historical antecedents of the Orange State and the potentialities and possibilities that the endowments of nature and human resources can transform for posterity.
b) Spiritual Depth
Spiritual depth is a necessary qualification of being human that depicts the Madiba’s style of leadership. This is a theory of the meaning and value of human existence. Here used, it serves to underscore the metaphysics of politics. It is the copula conjoining the leader to the led. Used in association with mental magnitude, this leadership quality commands love and the pursuit of the good. In his The people's Republic, Awolowo states these principles as love of God and love of one's neighbor presumably alluding to the Biblical injunction in Matthew, 19:16-24 and 22: 36-40. In itself, spiritual depth involves the notion of God from whom love ultimately emanates. This religious love in conjunction with metal magnitude acts as a spark that insures the leader against greed and naked selfishness and corruption. This leadership quality promotes honesty, transparency and fairness in government business. Inside Mandela’s heart, this necessary qualification of leadership ruled his person so passionately that the Madiba performed the “miracle” of the improbable democratic transition in South Africa’s version of the parting of the Red Sea to set his people free. His long walk to freedom, his power of forgiveness and Pan-African solidarity all add to quintessential personality as a secular prophet, an African Moses leading his people to the promise land from the oppression of white pharaohs.
It is no wonder then that the revered Kenyan Scholar, Ali Mazrui once noted, “ if in the last half of the twentieth century truly there was one single statesman in the world who came closest to being morally number one among leaders of the human race, Nelson Mandela was probably such a person.” In a review of Lodge’s work, Rob Skinner wrote that Mandela used his moral capital as tactics to inspire an ideal of citizenship rather than to hold sway through popular adoration; and that his position as “democratic hero” –both within South Africa and worldwide-rested upon the extent to which his personal experiences had become part of the public history. ( 2013:250)
Socrates is quoted to have said that, he who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool. On the other hand he who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a wise man. Leadership qualities demands of the leader as much as the led a character of self-examination for the purposes of bridging leadership gaps and so arrogate to the leadership or the led omniscience.
The argued point here is that, leadership is serious business and thus requires more than mere passivity. It requires critical thinking, rationally compelling positions, rationally convincing policies and rationally persuasive actions. This means that the leader must have conceptual and concrete thinking skills, he must be able to focus on issues of importance, curious and inquisitive, and must possess confidence in seeking knowledge of the unknown. Like Socrates, Mandela sees self-knowledge as a necessary quality of human existence and appropriates self-knowledge as a liberating tool for his people. The charismatic leader of the African National Congress (ANC) used this quality of leadership to build and maintain a devoted following in South Africa.
In Mandela’s heart therefore, leadership is a sacred trust. It is like the priesthood in civilized, humane religions which no one gets into it lightly or unadvisedly. It demands tranquility of mind and discipline of body and will far beyond the ordinary citizen. For the Madiba, knowledge is information in its altruistic use. Wisdom on the other hand is the integration of knowledge and values to produce wise action. Wisdom for Mandela is thus the power that enables him to use knowledge in governance and management of human beings for the common good. This quality of life may have informed the thoughts of Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian former United Nations (UN) Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate to write that, “to this day, Madiba remains probably the single most admired, most respected international figure in the entire world”. (ibid). In contrast to the other African leaders living and dead, the Madiba correctly understands that, he had a date with history, and so he had the power to choose his own part to alter the course of history, to forge a united South Africa and to teach the world that it is possible to return love for hate. This singular act stood him out as the quintessential distillation of the finest of human values; a tower of inspiration, with solomonic wisdom of a sage and creative statesmanship that remains a model in the annals of exemplary leadership.
d) Incorruptibility and Selflessness.
Democracy signposts human development and the good life that promotes political good, economic independent and virtuous life far removed from the gargantuan paradise of charlantry that characterize the African political and social life. Consequently, it is immediately urgent to understand that leadership needs transparent dedication to the cause of society. This is why in civilized societies one cannot indicate that there are no distinctions between private and public lives of leaders. The “official secrets act” in many third world countries are outdated, counterproductive and antithetical to the interest of the people whose interest is being protected. Leaders must not only be dedicated to the cause of human development, they must transparently act in such manners that will release the fibers of human existence; truth, justice, concern for others and reset them to form the pillars of a New Nigeria in contemporary world. Professor C.S. Momoh. (1993:157) calls this political behavior the Philosophy of Moralism; a doctrine that puts the other before or alongside the self. It holds that honesty, service and concern for the interest of the others ought to be the basis and measure of all actions and policies. Thus, a leader without knowledge and wisdom is like a man going down the dark alley blindfolded, he knows not where he comes from and where he goes to. Here argued, the question of enforcement of morality comes to mind. This is the point at which the principle of self-preservation comes to mind. I am here inclined to adopt the position of professor C.S Momoh on this issue that, the present oath by our public officers during swearing ceremonies is a passive one. What we need is an active oath. An active oath is one followed by an invocation, spelling out what should befall the oath taker if he willfully and deliberately enriches himself, friends or relations by exploiting or abusing his office. (1993: 74)
The Madiba lived this quality of life in health and in sickness, in richness and in poverty, in power and out of power. Even though the Madiba and his people found themselves in the cauldron of extreme hate, he preached tolerance, moderation in ideas and actions and in the promotion of peace in the then apartheid enclave and by extension the larger community. Mandela’s leadership style teaches us that we need committed, patriotic, selfless and disciplined leaders who have self-control and have only one goal: that of benefiting the people they governed. He served his people without drawing personal benefits from the state. Rather, he gave his all in the service of his people. In a voiceover of the film , Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation, Mandela is reported to have said the last word in the film, “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people in his country he can rest in peace. I belief I have made that effort and that is therefore why I will sleep in for the eternity”. These poetic words of the iconic leader validate today’s reality for he has indeed fulfilled his duty to spread a message of justice for not only his people, but also for all citizens of the world. Like Jesus Christ and Socrates, he offered his most precious possession, his life, in the pursuit of the good of the majority. His sublime features, chivalry, genial frame, quixotic-temper; dignified deportment and inspiring noble exudation, was such which cuts an almost perfect symmetry with Brutus, in Mark Anthony’s description of him as “the greatest Roman of the all, of whom the element is so made, that nature might stand up and say this was the man” (Kola Johnson, 2013:47)