The death of Madiba known to the world as Nelson Mandela on 3rd of December, while a shock has caused me to reflect on leadership issues on the continent of Africa. Madiba, though not perfect represents an African leader with class and excellence. These are no mere words or sentiments as my understanding of African history and politics demonstrates that majority of African leaders are either dictators or greedy. Dictatorship, corruption and greediness is so rife on the continent that no part of Africa seemed spared from these menace. From the north, we have Colonel Gaddafi (1942-2011), who ruled Libya from 1969 when he took power till 2011 when he was captured and killed. From the West, we have the example of General Ibrahim Babangida (1941-present), who ruled Nigeria from 1985-1993. Far worst is the case of General Sani Abacha (1943-1998), who ruled Nigeria after General Babangida with a reign of terror from 1993-1998. It was under General Abacha that the human right activist, the late Ken Saro-wiwa (1941-1995) was hanged for been openly critical of the federal government of Nigeria. From East Africa is the tale of General Idi Amin (1925-2003), who ruled in Uganda from 1971-1979. His reign is characterised with corruption, human rights abuse, ethnic persecution and political repression. From Central/Southern Africa is perhaps the worst of African dictators, Sese Mobutu (1930-1997), who ruled over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (which he named Zaire in 1971) from 1965 when he seized power till 1997 when he was defeated by rebel forces. His regime was notorious for embezzlement of billions of US dollars and corruption. Lastly, from Southern Africa is still the story of Robert Mugabe (1924-present), current president of Zimbabwe. He has been in office since 1980 when he was Prime Minister of the country. In 1987, he became Zimbabwe’s first executive head of state, a post he has held since then. In the year 2000, his government began a land reform policy to forcefully redistribute land, wealth and power to correct the inequalities of colonial rule. This has led to division, homelessness, economic poverty and social unrest of the people of Zimbabwe.
It must be mentioned that some of the above leaders while initially motivated by an attempt to fight colonial or imperial rule and its legacies on their people, were however affected by corruption, greed and ruling longer than promised. It is against this backdrop that one can understand what a breath of fresh air Nelson Mandela’s leadership brought to Africa. After been in prison for almost three decades, he was released on protest by the world community. He became the first black president of South Africa from 1994-1997, a position he held only once. Considering that he did a good job in those three years he could have stayed in office for the second tenure, but he did not seize power as many of the above leaders have done. Rather he relinquished power so that others can continue. Unfortunately some of his followers have been corrupted as well. In addition, Mandela been in office for one term gave him the freedom to be a global leader that he was speaking into other issues in the world. While he was at office, he did not embezzzle money, nor was he affected by corruption. He did the opposite, he gave part of his salary to help the course of the poor. He also did not live in the presidential villa, something many African leaders spent lots of money to build and make their permanent property. Madiba is truly a great African leader who has modelled for us what leadership and forgiveness is all about. New generation of African leaders will do well to learn from his example of courage and goodness. African Bishops and Apostles will also do well to learn from his example of not being greedy and corrupt!