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Good Old School

Seeing that American politics, has over the years become everybody’s business the world over, I was not surprised that their just concluded presidential election triggered all sorts of very provocative global discourse. Incidentally, what really caught my attention and that I have still not been able to ‘wrap my head around’, was the fact that a 69-year old Hillary Clinton of the Democratic party and 70-year old Donald Trump of the Republican party, both technically septuagenarians, were the forerunners of the2016 American presidential election.

In my estimation, Americans are a very strategic people, who are deliberate in their actions and would customarily think things through before venturing into them, drawing conclusions and arriving at conclusions. Now that the election is over and Donald Trump, the 70-year old, self-made business magnate, who obviously lacked political experience, but took a plunge into politics, has been elected to become America’s 45thpresident, I have decided to reconsider my age long stereotype view about old people. Before now, I had always believed that old people shouldn’t vie for elective positions because in my opinion, they don’t possess the stamina or agility to catch up with the speed of being leaders in today’s up-to-the-minute, very hi-tech world. My take now is that nobody should be deemed qualified or not as a leader just because of his or her age. In the same vein, I don’t think it is prudent to consider a system obsolete or useless because the system had been in use for a very long-time.

The task of producing good or great leaders, and ensuring smooth transition or succession from one leader to the next has become such a menacing problem for us in Africa such that many have come to believe that this problem can never be resolved. However, I belong to the small group that believe that it is resolvable. My conviction is simply based on the fact that if other climes are able to produce good leaders and seamlessly transit between them, then it can also be done in Africa. All they have in place are working systems and we also need to find a way of also putting working systems that resonates with our peculiarities in place and strictly follow them.

It is for this reason that I am suggesting that we consider“apprenticeship in leadership”. I agree that apprenticeship as a system of training or impacting practical knowledge, like any other system has its own shortcomings. It may also seem primeval as it was first developed in the later middle Ages, but my take is, if properly structured and practised correctly, it possesses the rare potential to help solve Africa’s perennial dearth of good leadership in all strata of life. For one, I consider it very appropriate for Africa, because it encourages strong bonding between the master and his apprentice, as it is recommended that an apprentice spends at least six years understudying the master in order to be able to acquire measurable competencies on the job. It also has a key attribute in the fact that it is actually an‘on the job’ system of training. Apprenticeship makes succession very easy as the best man or woman for the job is identified early enough during the course of training. However, in my opinion, the first and most important thing we need to do as a people without necessarily reinventing the wheel, is to first define and agree on who a good or great leader is, since this is the main reason why we are considering the system and to take a cue from the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti, whose popular lyrics says; ‘teacher don’t teach me nonsense’,we should also ensure that our supposed teachers or masters don’t teach us nonsense.

It is the end of another calendar year and the question on my mind now is, could Africa have gotten a better deal this year in terms of standard of living if it had better leaders than the present crop? The bottom-line is, as years start and end, time and seasons are also passing without waiting for any one. Africans need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t continue to condone ‘trial and error’ in leadership, because experimentation can only be permitted at only one stage, and that is the training stage. Leaders are expected to be full-blown professionals with the prerequisite competencies at the point of taking over leadership role, as every action or inaction of these leaders will either spell goodness or doom in the lives of a lot of their people. It is those who prepare before and for the race who win the race. My dear African brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to be as docile as we have continued to be, it is time to vehemently reject bad leadership as it has continued to adversely affect us in all the facets of our lives.

On the cover of this edition of IWA, we are asking if African democracy has reached the tipping point, considering the recent political developments in Nigeria, South Africa, Gambia and Ghana where the people have spoken through their votes, and seem to be wresting back from the “powers that be”,theauthority to elect those they want into political office. This is obviously the way to go and we pray that Yahya Jammeh of Gambia does not become the bad spot that will taint this fresh wind of transformation blowing across Africa. In addition to this story we paid tribute to a great Nigerian soccer hero, Sam Okwaraji, of blessed memory, we also looked at some other travel and trade stories that I am certain will thrill you. I wish you a merry Xmas and a very prosperous 2017. Have a very pleasurable reading experience as usual. Enjoy!