Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We Have Rulers Not Leaders

"The current rulers are largely out to sell the continent and its resources. They are all alike- civilian and military.

Worse are the military in civilian clothes with their pretence of democracy. Unfortunately, there are countries which continue to recycle retired military strong men, They can only dream of democracy."This was how a Professor of Law, Prof Chris Maina Peters from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, described the type of leadership that exist in Africa today. He bared his mind at a lecture marking the 25th anniversary of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies( NIALS) Akoka, Lagos recently.

Delivering a thought provoking lecture on " Miles Apart But Walking the Same Path: Control of Wealth and Natural Resources-Lessons from Nigeria and Tanzania," Prof. Peters delved into history when he talked about the people of Africa continent with a particular reference to Nigeria and Tanzania on the right of the people to own and control their natural resources and how political leaders from the countries shortchanged the citizenry to better their own lots.

According to him, owning personal property by the people or a community "did not come easily. It is a product of protracted struggles particularly by the people in developing countries who had lost control over resources in their own countries during the long period of colonialism." He noted that the struggles have now become part of the people and it is recognized by continental laws that the people still have every right to their lands and what is there-in.

Prof. Peters further traced the common history of Nigeria and Tanzania, and dwelt on the economy and the politics of the countries. In his lecture he discussed how oil was discovered in Nigeria and how the multinationals in the country became vultures to reap maximally from the natural resources of the people. He noted that " the increase of revenues from oil had its own effect on the country. Slowly other sources of revenue were ignored and all attention was focused on oil. Nigeria was becoming a country whose whole economy was solely being organised and run around a single commodity-oil. This was problematic as Nigeria was catching an economic ailment called the "Dutch Disease."...

Speaking further he said "At this point, Nigeria was slowly drifting into total dependence on rents and royalties being paid by the multinationals. It was becoming both a rentier as well as a dependent State." He said this situation led to the issue of the battle for fair allocation of resources in the country, which eventually almost turn the people of the country against each other.

Highlighting the problem in his home country, Tanzania, the Professor of Law disclosed that mining of Gold in the country and the attitude of the foreign Gold Diggers in Tanzania was astonished. Asking the question- who benefit from the Tanzanian Gold? Prof Peter rhetorically responded that : "It is established fact that the Gold mined in Tanzania exclusively benefits t he foreign investors and their local allies in government - the comprador - who provided protection and security. There is little that goes to the country's coffers in comparison with what is taken out of the country." He said "the government and its officials now seem to have found new friends and lost interest in its own people.

The tax structure is highly reduced to appease the investors." He added that when it comes to issues relating to mining, "the government openly sides with the foreigners and if necessary marginalises and even oppresses the nationals." He further noted that "benefits from mining activities to the local people in the mineral producing area in Tanzania is a very controversial and sensitive issue. In Tanzania the situation is rather awkward. Both the law and policy on mining are faulty." He said.

The Don reffered what is happening today in Africa country, especially Nigeria and Tanzania, and argued that "the search for resources in Africa by European and other powers in the world today seems to be a repetition of what happened over 100 years ago. The same tricks and the same methods are being applied." Drawing inference on how Africa countries are indirectly being recolonised, he said several treaties that were bogus and technical in nature were entered into with some natives and chiefs in the olden days in order to take over their lands, especially where there were natural minerals. He mentioned several Treaties including but not limited to Karl Peters Treaties in Tanzania in 1884.

He noted that with curious examination, the methods and styles employed by the old colonialists are what was employed by today foreign investors in collaboration with Africa's Chiefs, politicians and government officials. He said "today we are being confronted with the same type of Treaties. This time around they are signed by our well-educated politicians with advice from professors and people with doctorate degrees."

The people should control their natural resources. In Prof Peter's opinion, it is clear that the people of the two countries (Nigeria and Tanzania) "are suffering in the hands of the powerful elite. In Nigeria, the suffering has been longer and involving both denial of access to revenues generated within their own backyard and also destruction of the environment around them. He noted that what has led to agitations in those areas where natural resources like oil etc are being explored, were due to the fact that "they were not given fair share of what belong to them and they were also denied of engaging in meaningful agriculture because of pollution of their land."

In his conclusion, the Law Professor said " There is no doubt that Africa is rich continent in terms of resources. Those entrusted with these resources in most African countries have no interest of the continent at heart but their own individualistic interest. Resources are seen as a means towards political power or personal wealth or both. In the first generation of African leadership, one could at least see elements of patriotism and love for the continent.

One only needs to closely study leaders like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Kwame Nkurumah, Patrice Lumumba , Mzee Jomo Kenyata, Mwalmu Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Gamal Abdel Nasser, just to mention a few, one can see those traces of a sense of belonging and love for the continent. Notwithstanding the mistakes they are alleged to have made, there is no way they could be compared with those running the continent today. We no longer have leaders in Africa- we have rulers."

Raising the hopes of Africans on liberating themselves, he queried-"Should Africa and Africans give up"? The listeners chorus No! He summarized his presentation that: "It is time that Africans should reject the selling of their resources at give away prices. They should pressurize the rulers and reject them through the ballot box. The "present" they come with every five years in form of corruption should be rejected.

Africans all over the continent are selling their freedom through petty corruption. The continent needs clean leadership and not rulers. It is this type of leaders who can transform Africa from beggar continent to a net donor. With all the oil available why should Nigeria beg- with all that gold in Tanzania why should Tanzania go on its feet and beg the very countries from which the companies mining its gold come? To succeed in this, we need a new mind set.

A mind set that will assure us that we can succeed in liberating the continent. About 50 years ago, Africa fought for flag independence -that is over! All energy should now be directed at economic liberation. In this war - the current rulers have no place- they are just too used to dining and wining with the enemy - at Davos, Gleneagles etc. The next war will center on control of resources and African people cannot afford to delegate this war - they will have to fight it themselves because they are the ones who are wearing the shoe and know where it pains.

"The majority of Africans and some of the continents's intellectuals are thinking and thinking hard for the continent. They are paving the way by setting standards of the type of leadership we need to move Africa from the current mess and into the "promised land" and out of the current suffering."

allAfrica.com: Africa: We Have Rulers Not Leaders -University Don (Page 1 of 2)