Ezekwesili Bemoans Leadership Failure in Africa


Peter Uzoho

The Senior Economic Adviser of the African Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI) and Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has bemoaned the failure of leadership and governance in most of the African countries, saying the continent has “faced a blemish in leadership.”

Ezekwesili said this on Thursday in Lagos, while delivering an address as the guest lecturer at the fifth anniversary lecture of the Realnews Magazine.

The topic of the lecture was: “African Leadership in a Turbulent Era.”

She pointed out that countries such as Singapore that gained independence almost the same time with most African countries had emerged within five decades as models of good governance.

According to her, the Asian countries have continued to demonstrate to Africans that good governance was not an impossibility.

“In a matter of five decades, Singapore has made progress that is exemplified by its $65, 000 income per capita compared to the continent’s (Africa) average of $2,157,” Ezekwesili said.

She added: “It is to that extend that we must interrogate the quality of leadership that has given Africa poor governance as against the good governance that Singaporeans have enjoyed.

“So, everything we said about good governance is not something that is done through engineering. There is a human centeredness in good governance.

“We can make inference from the features of good governance what poor governance looks like. It is more accurate to surmise from good governance what poor governance is about and the worst affected in poor governance are the poor and most vulnerable in the society.

She expressed concern over the level of corruption in the continent.

“More people join the low cost, non-risky route to riches and society begins to degenerate because services and values become distorted when the right conduct of honesty and hard work is not considered to be productive and rewarded”, she said.

Ezekwesili stated that sound policies, strong institutions and effective allocation of public good and services were needed in this period of turbulence in Africa, stressing that in the turbulent 21st century, using technology as solution to the absence of good governance was not possible.

“That is the indispensability of good leadership. The robots are not going to substitute for failure of good leadership; artificial intelligence will not be a substitute for failure of leadership. We must get it right with leadership.”

Furthermore, Ezekwesili said African needed a mindset change to cause a disruption in the continent, expressing disappointment that Africa had become a poster continent for endemic corruption due to “worst manifestation of character-based leadership.”

“The mindset being that the Africans actually think we are not deserving of good governance. We have been comfortable with dismal performance of our leadership.

“We have been absolutely acceptable of poor performance. But it is time for us to disrupt that mindset.

“The attribute of character in leadership has to be sine qua non in our definition of leadership for this era,” she added.