This video below is enigmatic. When it landed for Intervention on June 29th, 2017, one initial response to our inquiry was that the event in the video took place in Addis Ababa the previous week. But further checks showed it was actually a May 2014 African Development Bank function in Kigali, Rwanda and it is already on YouTube. It could have been thrown away at that point. But the more one listened to the speakers, the more it looks like they were discussing Nigeria’s 2019 elections from Kigali in 2014. No one listening to Benjamin Mkapa, former Tanzanian president, Thabo Mbeki, Paul Kagame, Mo Ibrahim, Dlamini Zuma and former President Obasanjo in the video would say that the event could not as well have been titled Nigeria in 2019.
Although it is not suffocating yet, 2019 is already the key force driving many things happening in Nigeria today. For a country which has never had the luck of a transformative leadership, the question could as well be reframed to how do we get the leadership for the Nigeria we want in 2019? Everyone who can afford the time and energy ought to watch the video on YouTube but here, it is just a six minutes affair. To connect those who would not spend one hour to watch it on YouTube with what happened before the section in this video here, a short recap has been provided below.
It might be important, however, to recall this background in terms of what Professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja said last week in an interview with Intervention. In the interview which has been very popular, one of the key questions put to him was why the coincidence of Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, two individuals with backgrounds that could be considered exceptional, failed the transformative leadership test. Prof Nzongola basically said they failed the test because they were listening to their teachers. By that, he meant they could not figure out the world beyond the neoliberalism their Western patrons drummed into them.
The interview was conducted on June 23rd and published on June 25th. On June 29th, this video tape landed for Intervention in which former President Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki, Mo Ibrahim, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, Paul Kagame, William Ruto, Vice – President of Kenya and Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank at the time were the star actors, talking as if being interviewed by Prof Nzongola himself. That’s part of the drama of the video. Below is a sketch of what those who spoke before the section of the video here.
Donald Kaberuka welcomed the panelists to the Kigali annual meeting of the bank and the theme of ‘Leadership for the Africa We Want’ by arguing that leadership did not automatically mean political leadership. The 2008 global financial crisis was not caused by political leadership after all but by Wall Street, he said. This is the age of deficit in leadership, Kaberuka went on, referring to a World Economic Forum study in 2011 which found that less and less trust exists between citizens and leaders in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008. People do not see what politicians promise beyond election and/or re-election gimmicks. He wanted the audience to bear the two points in mind in discussing the leadership requirement for the transformation of Africa. It took him a few minutes and he was off.
Tumi Makgabo, the former CNN journalist who was in control as moderator moved over to former President Obasanjo as the first to speak only to be disorganised by the “why me” that rang out from the General. It created its own laughter in the audience and Obasanjo began to speak, saying that a leader without vision is no leader and that a leader must produce a successor. He hinged the leadership conundrum in Africa in the lack of critical mass of performing leaders in all realm.
Mo Ibrahim who spoke next located the problem in Africa being the only continent where a 90 year old man could just be starting a new term in office. “You guys are crazy or what”, he went rhetorical, calling it a joke because “the whole world is laughing at us”. He wondered how this could be when the USD$15 trillion US economy as well as the nuclear buttons could be entrusted to 47 year old Obama or to Bill Clinton who entered office at 46 years of age. The entire Africa is just one trillion USD and it is handed to oldies, rhetorically asking, “to lead us to where? To the grave?” He was obviously popular with the crowd.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who was then Chair of the AU Commission took the angle of the primacy of leaders who would think about Africa as a whole, not in terms of their own small country, a leadership inclined to invest heavily in young people, a leadership that can say, this year, Africa is going to produce 100, 000 engineers. Reeling comparative figures, Zuma said China produces more than 700, 000 engineers annually, the EU more than 200, 000 annually while Africa produces just about 20, 000 even as the continent has nearly the same population as China. “If we skill our young people properly, they will figure out what to do”, she said before dropping a parting shot for Mo Ibrahim by arguing the compatibility of the creativity, vitality and energy of the youths with the wisdom of experience which is what she sees in the balancing game in the young American presidents who always had Vice-Presidents older than them.
Paul Kagame came with understandable depth that he has to be quoted much along the line. The first puzzle he drew attention to is the high awareness and discussion of the problem of quantitative leadership but qualitative leadership is never achieved in Africa. Second, without directly or aggressively challenging the protagonists, he doesn’t buy the age factor because “we have seen young people mess up such like you never seen”. He had in mind the youth factor in the Rwanda genocide in 1994 although his analysis of that is that what went wrong was politics because “we had leaders here, (referring to Rwanda) who taught people that they belonged to this ethnic group, it is the majority, it must be the one with power and all the others should be excluded, not only excluded but killed”. He continued, “an ordinary person who has nothing at home, not even a chicken, not a goat to look after but he is taught to believe ‘you are Hutu’ and the guy claps and says ‘Hutu Power’
Kagame told the audience it was such indoctrination of the poor by the rich and powerful elite that was key to genocide because they tell the poor that their nieghbour is a danger to them because they are of different ethnic breeds and as a danger, they needed to eliminate them and take whatever they had. His argument is that poverty compels the poor to follow the instructions even before they are fully issued. The clincher in his narrative came as follows, “Now, this is the leadership Africa, this is the leadership Rwanda has had for such a long time. Imagine this ordinary person, very poor with jigger in his feet, is made to be drunk with something called ‘Hutu power’. The leaders we have had in the past are these kinds of leaders. We have to reverse that, we have to make sure that leaders are there for a purpose and the purpose is to lead, work towards development, transformation, betterment of their people’s lives. There is no question about it”.
Either because he was recollecting something that never fails to strike an embarrassing chord for the Africans or because he has delivered as a leader, warts and all, the audience gave him what MCs call a round of applause and Tumi moved to the last panellist, Williams Ruto, Deputy-President of Kenya. Associating himself with Kagame’s thesis of politics of elite manipulation rather than age, Ruto equally accepted leadership standing between the high consciousness of the problem of poor leadership and the solutions that have been proffered. What would make the difference is leaders who match what they say with what they do. It will take leaders to inspire society.
This was the point the microphone went to Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa. but even after Mbeki, you will hear Benjamin Mkapa more shocking anti-imperialist analysis. It requires careful listening: