Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem continues with his passion on responsible leadership:
The relationship between many Africans and their governments is only comparable to the disillusion, distrust and suspicion that become the permanent bodyguards of a man or woman who has been jilted too many times. If care is not taken such a person may not have any successful relationship again even when he or she meets the genuine person. The weight and hang ups of the past are such that they becloud the present and threaten future relationships. The alarm Bells are on 24/7 patrol singing: ‘not again’ or ‘once bitten twice shy’ or any other lyrics that warn against trust and building confidence. Just assume that the current relationship will end in the same bleak alley of past ones, do not raise your expectations and do not expect much. This defensive prop becomes a permanent shield against any disappointment. Consequently potentially good and rewarding relationships are not given room for nurture and development. However as no human being is an, island to himself or herself we are doomed to trust and take risks in sharing our lives with other people because without doing so whatever we may tell or convince ourselves about, our lives may never be complete.
Governments, like partners, are necessary evils. What can you do without them and what can you do with them?
How many Africans will run towards the police, the Army or any of our Security agencies when they are in trouble? Most of the time we are running away from them because if they are not the source of your problem you may compound your problem by running to them! That's why many Africans talk about ‘The Government’, ‘Those in power’ or ‘The regime,’ instead of ‘Our government.’ The alienation is not just against the coercive organs of the state. Even the Civil arms of our governments are as anti people as their security counterparts. Some years back I was amused by a friend, Dr Patricia Daley, who is a Geography Don at Oxford University (one of only two Black Africans who are full faculty members) when she asked me about the population of Nigerians in the United Kingdom. Apparently in the Census figures she was looking at at the time there were only 150, 000 Nigerians in the Queen's own country! I could not resist laughing because any body familiar with the demography of Africans in Britain will know that even countries with much smaller population in the UK than Nigeria (Uganda, Ghana or Sierra-Leone for example) will easily notch up that number and still be counting. So I told her maybe that was the number of Nigerians in Peckham or Dalston alone!
But what the figure showed was that many Africans even though part of Britain's ‘visible minority,’ were absent officially. Even our embassies cannot tell you how many of their citizens are resident in the United Kingdom or any country in the world for that matter. In some countries they do not even know what the actual population is anyway.
Many of these émigré Africans are directly or indirectly running away from their governments therefore why should they go and register at their embassies or high commissions that they are there?
However Africa is changing and changing for the better and should and would continue to do so in spite of challenges here and there. This process requires new ways and cultivation of new attitudes in dealing with our governments and in the way our governments deal with us. There are good governments in Africa. There are reforming governments in Africa. Bad governance is receding even if at snail speed in some countries.
Look at the recent events in Togo. Baby Eyadema has been forced by sub regional and African consensus, to step down. Two weeks ago I wrote arguing that the military coup that led to him succeeding his could-not-have died-sooner dictator father, should and would not stand. There was no clairvoyance in that certainty. It was based on the good wind of change going across Africa. Because Africa was united in saying No the rest of the world had no choice but to follow our consensus. A few years ago this would not have been possible. Now that it is we should recognise it and work towards making this good practice standard practice. There is no point sniggering at it as many are doing. If we continue to see an unchanging or unchangeable Africa we are both undervaluing our democratic struggles and short charging our gains. Togo shows a new resolve on the part of Africans to enthrone constitutional rule in Africa. Even if Baby Eyadema is to be elected president after the transition it would have been done under the constitution not military fiat.
We should not be timid or coy about praising our governments when they are doing well. We cannot build and institutionalise responsible government in Africa if we continue in the destructive culture of ‘Us’ and ‘them.’ Confrontation and condemnation should not be our first and only tool of engagement. We should seek Co-operation where possible, embrace collaboration when desirable and embark on confrontation where and when necessary. These tactics and the strategies they demand need not be mutually exclusive. All of them are useful and necessary in building sustainable democratic societies and political communities that are at peace with them. WE just need to deploy them where and when most applicable or simultaneously some times.
Too many of our activism especially in these days of professional Foreign –controlled, Donor-driven, materially rewarding NGoism is too skewed in favour oppositionism instead of positive engagement with our governments and institutions. You need to ask why European and American governments and Charities should be arming you, aiding you and building your capacity to confront your own government? Why are they not building the capacity of Africans living in their own countries to be effective citizens where they are? Why should Africans or people of African origin in these countries be marginalised while they are promising you heaven on earth in Africa? Dependence on Foreigners or their money will not build Africa. Rome’ they say ‘was not built in a day’ but the Romans were there and willing to build it.