Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gerontocracy, the bane of effective governance in Africa


African societies have been known for their gerontocratic nature. In communities, the elders ones are treated with respect and reverence. Age most time seems to be a prerequisite to assuming certain roles and authority positions, because it is believed that youthfulness and strength is like a pinch of salt when compared to experience and wisdom. This trend is replicated in all facets of the African reality, as it eldest not the brightest is expected to lead the way. In African political institutions, age once again determines the allocation of duties, responsibilities and functions. In the traditional societies, this is exemplified in the different roles one assumes when in different age grades. This has spilt over to contemporary times, as most of African leaders who are mostly grandfathers assume important political positions. The average age of the African president is 70. Paul Biya of Cameroon (70), Santos of Angola (68), Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia (75), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe(87), Jacob Zuma of South Africa (69), Musveni of Uganda (66). There are very few African leaders under 65, and fewer under 60.
     Using the thesis that there is a correlation between age and effective leadership, it may be safe to assume that African leadership is in dire consequences given the current state of the continent. The continent today is a catalogue of conflicts, strife, poverty, diseases and underdevelopment. The continent has been playing catch up with other continents for centuries. Its leaders who are meant to be ‘wise, given their ages even partner with foreigners to exploit and oppress its people. The African leadership is caraterized by democratic monarchy, tyranny and sit-tight despots, who manipulate the constitution at will.
     Using the thesis again, this time comparing with other nations, we can once again draw a correlation between age and effective leadership. Barrack Obama(48), David Camron of Britain (43), Medvedev of Russia (45), Sarkozy of France (55), Angela Merkel of Germany (56) and Luis Zapareto of Spain (49). These societies have achieved a high level of development in all ramifications, and their indices are used as parameters to distinguish developed from developing and under-developed nations.
     Perhaps, it may be wrong to use western societies as a benchmark for evaluating African societies especially with a variable such as age which has cultural undertones attached to it especially in the African continent. For this purpose, we would go down history lane. The 1960s was the golden age of Africa, as most African countries were granted flag independence this was also the period that pan-African ideologies such as afrocentrism, negritude, ubuntu and others originated. Thus Africa had leaders such as Milton obote (37), Julius Nyerere of Tanzania (37), Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia (39), Patrice Lumumba of Zaire (36) et al. This was also the continents made exploits in education, science, human development and others. Ousted Libyan leader Gaddafi and Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe were in their thirties when they wrestled political power from their colonial masters. Comparing and contrasting the Africa existential realities in the 60s and in present times, we would see a gradual decline in all aspects of human endeavour and civilization.
      In view of this, would it be wise to still assume that gerontocracy is a viable option for the African continent? Would it be wise to say that our elders are most equipped to take the continent to the top most echelon of development? I disagree with this happenstance. the issue of generational interpretation of social phenomena and the appropriate value system which should address such phenomena would be incompatible, as it would be like using old theories to explain new things. Africa and its elders should give the young a chance to direct the course of society. The Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership did not find any worthy candidate in 2010. This should give any well-meaning African a cause for concern. The key to Africa’s emancipation is still predicated on sound leadership. Any social system that does not provide for succession based on merit, relying solely on age as a prerequisite would surely drift into oblivion.

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