In his address to participants at a 2007 TED-Talk-organized event, George Ayittey, a Ghanaian economist who for years has spoken out against the corruption and complacency bedeviling Africa, referred to the continent as a begging bowl that leaks.
In his captivating and passionate speech, he attributes the underdevelopment of Africa to the corruption that Africa has been known for. He lashed out at the new system of governance that we inherited after colonialism as a system being manipulated by unscrupulous leaders to siphon financial resources like vampires from their people.
In this article, I want to look beyond just failed leadership, which most of us have attributed Africa’s underdevelopment to. Many people attribute our failure to a so-called “system” they claim is manipulated by the leaders.
I want to challenge the very thought that our leaders are the sole bane of Africa’s underdevelopment. I agree in part that the performance of most African leaders leave much to be desired. I understand that leadership has more to do to push the African continent forward.
Who is really responsible for corruption? If you ask me, it is you and I; every one of us who are Africans. It is you and I who give bribes to the police when we fail to observe traffic rules and need to be prosecuted. It is you and I who will skip the queue for preferential treatment because we know whoever is attending to those in the queue.
It amazes me when we speak as though our leaders, who we refer to as being corrupt, are some aliens from Mars or Pluto. These leaders are a part of the African society. Most of them were born and bred in an African setting. Thus their attitude of corruption, as far as I am concerned, is just a reflection of how corrupt a people we are.
If we were any less corrupt or saints, as most of us would want to deceive ourselves into believing, why would we not likewise produce non-corrupt leaders? Our leaders are a reflection of what we are at the very core. If we are any morally astute, then it’s such a leader we will have.
Corruption has eaten into the moral fiber of the African society. We are all guilty of corruption in one way or the other. If you go to the office and all you do is work half day and then go out to attend to your own private affairs, aren’t you robbing the state of that lost time? Aren’t you just as corrupt as our leaders we solely attribute corruption to?
We cannot grow as a people until we transform our thinking. Our growth is a function of our level of transformation. The African is the leaking bowl; leaking in his/her morality, attitude to work, speech, and acts.
If we created the system, and yet manipulate it to our advantage, often at the detriment of others, who is more corrupt? If we can siphon our state of huge sums of money in the name of intervening in our societal challenges, who’s more corrupt?
Let anyone reading this article or the many other Africans out there raise their hands up that they have never indulged in any corrupt act, and I will refer them to the story of the woman who committed an act of prostitution and was taken to Jesus by men who desired to stone her.
Corruption is not an alien to us. Corruption is a thing in our minds. Until we are transformed in our thinking, and seek the good of all; until we cease being selfish and hoarding anything that comes our way, I am afraid to say it will take us longer to get to our ‘Promised Land’.
A local Ghanaian adage says, “A crab begets no bird.” A corrupt society can never beget a non-corrupt leadership. We are who we are, because that is what we are.
By: Jonathan Adzokpe