As one cliché goes, “wonders shall never end.” Perhaps, we can add that the existence of egomaniac tendencies, lack of critical and creative thinking, empty political oratory devoid of pragmatism, greediness, on the part of a sizable number of the leaders in Africa, may also never end! Admittedly, human life/behavior is replete with foibles and contradictions; we say one thing here and do exactly opposite there. We like this today, but the next day we dislike it. In many respects, human beings are “walking contradictions.” Yet, this reality does not in any way presuppose that we cannot train or suppress some of the psychological impulses that push many of us to be egomaniac, visionless, non-critical thinkers, or insensitively irrational toward people who look up to us in our communities.
Now one may ask since contradiction is a human condition, why is it an issue peculiar to African leaders and not apply equally to the ordinary citizens? Well, the ageless saying that “to whom much is given much is also expected” comes into sharp focus here. More importantly, since leadership position usually carries huge responsibilities, it calls for not only an outside-the-box thinking, but also an exhibition of extraordinary selflessness and vision. Leaders serve as beacon of hope, role models as well as pathfinders; which means they are highly regarded and also expected to tame their egomaniac and contradictory urges to discourage sending mixed signals that may result in losing the trust of the people they are supposed to lead.
Clearly in all the preceding categories, African leaders have miserably failed the continent. No doubt a considerable number of African citizens home and abroad have long lost trust in their leaders because of the broken promises, habitual lies, official thievery, preaching probity and accountability while doing nothing to safeguard the states’ internal control structures. Most likely, the reason for the deliberate lukewarm approach toward internal control mechanisms in many African nations is because weak internal accounting systems or their absence within the state bureaucracies makes it relatively easy for the leaders/officials to steal from their respective treasuries with impunity.
It is embarrassing to Africa that large swaths of our leaders keep lying to their people. Clinical psychologists will tell you that whenever a particular misbehavior becomes an aberration rather than a norm, there is always a possibility of an underlying psychological problem(s). Many African leaders’ behaviors in office—traced back from independence era—border on cognitive dissonance; a mental condition that needs psychological evaluation. Whatever it is, soon after these egoistic so-called African “strong men” acquire power, they quickly change and start talking via both sides of their months. It is not uncommon to hear these leaders unceasingly loud-mouthing about what they want to do, or are doing for their people but in most cases the realities on the ground contradict their lofty stories.
As hinted earlier, we all show some contradictions that are innate and from time to time may have the potential to impact our thought processes. Nonetheless, if leaders with whom the people have entrusted their nations’ destinies cannot maintain behaviors consistent with the dictates of their high offices they occupy, it should not come as surprise that Africa decision makers are not taken seriously outside the continent. Why should serious-minded people trust prevaricating leaders/partners that can’t even provide basic healthcare for their citizens but they can afford to travel outside their countries to seek expensive medical treatment abroad for themselves?
We hear the policymakers in Africa denouncing the Western nations for their imperialistic policies, but in the next minute these political chameleons rush with their beggars’ cups firmly held in their leaky hands ready to collect the crumbs from the dining tables of the very hegemonic nations they blame for all their misdeeds. Assuming someone knocks you down and you know you can get back up but refuses to get up on your own insisting that the person who knocks you down has to lift you else you won’t get up, then you may need a psychological evaluation.
Under the guise of educational reforms many African schools from kindergarten to university level have been torn apart by some of these semi-educated leaders in Africa. For one thing, they do not wholeheartedly believe in well-educated citizens, because they cannot easily manipulate them. For another thing, if the political rulers really believe in their own reforms they would not have always sent their kids/families to pursue high quality education outside Africa.
Shamefully, beside the well-equipped hospitals built in the apartheid-era South Africa, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa—with all its rich natural and human resources—cannot boast of state-of-the-art health facilities in African cities in this hi-tech century. Hence, it is commonplace to see African leaders sneaking out from their respective countries to seek the best medical care overseas on the pretext of “working visits.” Probably out of guilty conscience, lies, obfuscations, or all of the above, Africa officials/leaders usually shroud their health conditions and medical check-ups abroad in mystery to avoid the wrath and embarrassment from their people for the blatant display of hypocrisy and selfishness.
In any event, just reflect on the long lists of Africa “Big Men” including their families who opt for top-notch medical treatment outside the continent on regular basis while leaving their marginalized citizens to the whims of the deplorable healthcare structures in their respective home countries. Quite often, these “routine” medical check-ups, with its attendant high cost to the already cash-strapped Africa states, end up humiliatingly in the demise of many of the African leaders in foreign soils.
For example, in November 23, 2009, Nigeria’s Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment but died shortly afterwards having been diagnosed with an inflammatory condition related to the heart. Also in 2012, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, having long denied that he was seriously ill ended up dying in a hospital in Brussels, Belgium. And in the early part of this year, the president of Guinea Bissau Malam Bacai Sqnhq was suspected to have succumbed to complications in diabetes in faraway Paris, France. Then just few days ago in October 2014, Zambian President Michael Sata died after an undisclosed illness in London's King Edward VII hospital.
Prior to his death, the late Mr. Sata flew to Israel earlier this year ostensibly for a “working holiday” although there were speculations that he went there for medical check-up. Does anyone see a pattern here? It is unbelievable that even in good health or on the verge of dying many leaders in public positions of trust in Africa cannot help themselves from lying and living double lifestyles at the expense of their people. That is what pathological liars do best. Keep in mind consistent lying, or any type of habitual misbehavior has abnormal psychological underpinnings. That is why many African rulers need psychological evaluations, I think!
Bernard Asubonteng is a blogger and geopolitical analyst based in Atlanta, GA. He can be reached at: email@example.com or visit his weblog: www.globalpulpit.com