The grain of wheat lay there, not caring if the rain would fall or not. Whatever happened, it was ready for it. Well, the rain always fell eventually. It was thus a surprise to all of us when the farmer changed his mind, ground the grain of wheat and prepared bread with the flour. But the grain of wheat never gave a damn! All it knew was that it had achieved the objective of its creator by being a good grain of wheat. It had played its part in the universe.
In the same manner, Africans have to realize that our time comes and passes. What we do within our lifetimes matters a lot. We can positively impact generations to come, or we can ruin them for decades.
In installing a government, the people cede some of their decision-making powers to the leader. They also relinquish some responsibilities to the leader they are electing or appointing. The elected government official is expected to use the collective power of the people and the authority vested in him to do what is good for the people. He is expected to be responsible to the people.
Most of all, by installing a government, the people agree to being taxed so that the government can have finances to do what is good for the nation’s people.
African countries are still suffering from a severe case of what can only be called adolescent governments.
For us to understand adolescent governments, what they are and how to work with them, we must look at progression of government from infancy to maturity, keeping in mind that government and governance is continuous.
In his book ‘Animal Farm’, George Orwell describes a time-frame of government as seen in a majority of African countries. The infancy of the republic is when independence from an oppressor (often colonist in African cases) is achieved. At the time of achieving independence, the people are full of hope.
After the infancy period is over, there follows a period of haphazardness and disorganization, often characterized by populism and abuse of powers by government officials. This is when public office is taken, misused and abused as an avenue for accumulation of personal wealth.
Some officials go a step further and use office as a tool of revenge. The media often is not aware of what is happening and national fervor is high. Approval ratings at this stage are high. Everything that the leader does is seen as being ok – it is after all for national development.
Dissent grows. Divergent views emerge. Opposing schools of thought crop up. It is at this point or just prior to it that the seeds of division along ethnicity and other diversionary but previously unimportant issues are planted. The media starts seeing something is not right somewhere.
As the abuses of office increase in magnitude and daring, people start noticing. They still have hope and crave for a better tomorrow. Sadly however, the divisions that leaders start sowing, manipulating and entrenching in sections of the masses prevail over common sense.
Something called the Civil Society comes up. It agitates, points out mistakes, and is seen as enemy number 1 of government. Fractions of the same country get over-fervent and can see nothing wrong with the leader who comes from their smaller midst.
Late childhood – early teens
As abuse of office continues, divisions between the nations’ peoples become more easily seen. Palpable tensions are felt from time to time and flare-ups of violence may be seen in sections of the country. The civil Society, the opposition and sections of the media may be making noise all the time and pointing out that things are not right but nobody listens to them.
Tentative moves are made to silence anyone who does not agree with government. All this while, the gap between the rich and the poor widens. The only positive here is that the divisive tactics of government that keep the people fighting each other instead of government are realized and accurately defined. These divisive methods are pointed out and calls are made for the people to wake up.
The government of South Sudan is arguably at this stage of growth.
The adolescent government takes over from the early-teens government of African nations. The adolescent government continues abuse of office, but they think they can hide them.
The government might be able to control a large section of the media and thus information flow. However, asymmetric communication channels arise. These are not easily monitored or controlled and the adolescent government cannot get a choking-grasp over information flow. This is usually the last government that does not work for the people.
A large majority of African governments are here at this stage.
Revolution, Change and the rise of an Adult government
If you want to see how wide the gap between the rich and the poor is, look at the average height of fence that the rich erect around their compound. What materials are used, and what makes the top of the fence.
After the Adolescent government oppresses the people and shows continuous blatant ignorance to the state of the nation or the plight of its citizens, there is rapid change either characterized by violence or excessive anger.
South Africa was at this stage but in the years of Jacob Zuma, they sadly retrogressed to being an Adolescent government.
Liberia, Ghana and Mozambique can easily fit into this stage of government growth. A few other Countries dotted around the globe may find a seat in this category too.
The people remember that it is them who gave power to a number of leaders. They decide to take back their power and responsibilities and give them to the right type of leader. The people unite once again and can no longer be divided. They start rightly fighting the government as they should.
There thus follows an adult government that takes care of its people. An adult government understands that its power comes from the people and thus is responsible and responsive to the needs of the people. The adult government restores national pride and waters the seedling of loyalty to country.
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