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Today I’ve elected to continue on my thoughts on leadership after having made an attempt to trace its roots in a previous edition titled ‘The enigma called leadership’.

I deliberately focussed on leadership as it applies, mostly, to political governance and so far as it is central to the provision of social goods. By virtue of the social contract, political leaders are ushered into privileged positions of delegated power, which have the attendant duty of bringing forth these social goods. These are by no means easy positions to occupy if we are to acknowledge the myriad of duties and expectations that visit the people who hold these positions, either as a birth right or by virtue of appointment or election. There are a lot of interests and priorities to balance. However, ordinary human beings occupy these positions. Ordinary in the sense that virtually anybody who has an understanding of the needs of the people, and is willing to serve, can be leader. It can be argued that this is rather too simplistic in so far as it seems, on the face of it, to negate educational requirements, experience, resources and the existence of other skills considered key in becoming a leader. The point being made is that anyone who desires can acquire what it takes to be a leader; a good one. The pith of my argument today is that there should be no one who feels they have the monopoly of political governance. On the flip side, no one should ever feel that due to the paucity of financial or other resources, they are not meant to be or cannot be leaders. This false defeatist perception is usually held by those, who in our previous article, we described as the historically marginalised; the poor, women, youth and people with disabilities. This notion is prevalent in patriarchal and repressive societies.


Leadership, ultimately, is an act of service; and no one is incapable of serving if they put their heart into it and have a sense of duty. This discussion is quite germane at this juncture for our kingdom given that it is an election year that will usher in a new batch of political leaders. After every five years, the citizenry awaits with bated breath a new crop of leaders who will hopefully help the country scale to new heights. The new government has the enormous task of leading the country to the national vision of First World status, which proved unattainable even after much aplomb. I have always had my reservations with this fantasy, not because it is unattainable, but because our crop of leaders in the political sphere are far too fixated with self-aggrandizement and wealth accumulation for this dream to become a reality. No African country has publicly expressed such ambitions. Not even some of the giants in the continent including your South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria, which, in many spheres, are already light years ahead of us. We need a far too high level leadership to get us there than we currently possess. As long as we place a high premium on patronage and blind patriotism above excellence; as long as we still frown upon diversity of opinions, we can kiss that pipe dream goodbye.  

The life of an ordinary citizen in the country will improve if the next crop of leaders is going to have the interests of the people at heart. The individuals who are going to change the material conditions of the populace have to be bold and know the struggles of the electorate.They must fully be immersed in their every day lives and be problem-solvers. ‘Nothing for us without us’ says a popular advocacy mantra. These words speak to the need for marginalised people to be at the heart of spaces where issues of their welfare and future are discussed and decided. They appeal to those who occupy decision-making roles in the same manner they talk to the despondent ruled who have decided to be content to be confined in dark corners where their voices are not heard.The best place to be in a moving vehicle to decide which direction it goes is right behind the steering wheel. If,therefore, we want to have laws and policies that address our needs; distribution of resources in  a manner that is sustainable and is guided by national priorities and the common good, there is no better chance of doing that than by contesting and eventually occupying the driver’s seat. As we head to the elections, this should have profound resonance among women and other historically left-out groups. I still hold the view, however, that we would have been better off as a nation had we given priority to the national dialogue first.