The former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has disagreed with the assertion that, Africans need big institutions and not big men.
He argued that Africans need effective leadership and institutions that are strong and well-managed to endure the test of time.
In 2009 when he visited Ghana, the former United States President, Barack Obama, said that African needs strong institutions, adding that the continent does not need strongmen.
But holding a contrary view, Nigeria’s former President Obasanjo, who had his turn at the Presidential panel discussion at the African CEO Forum in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, said: “Strong institutions alone, without a strong leadership, cannot be the answers to the problems of African countries,”
The panel discussion was anchored by Patrick Smith, Editor-in-chief of the Africa Report, whose other guest was Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It is with strong institutions and effective leadership that Africa can fight corruption, Mr Obasanjo said.
“It’s good to have a law that sets up a strong institution. But you have to have the men who go with them…effective people. If not, we will not complete our mission. Our goals will never be achieved,” he said.
Allow Civil Societies Organisations
Mr Obasanjo advised that African leaders should allow Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to function to serve the course of ordinary people, saying the latter should also refrain from interfering in politics.
“When civil societies appear to be doing the bidding of the executive in our continent, you will never hear any complain.
“If Transparency International comes up and says something that we like, we hail it. if Amnesty International says something that we like, we hail it. I think it is all part of wanting a particular institution doing your bidding.”
He added that, the local CSOs, which might not really be doing the bidding of the executive, but are, as well serving the ordinary, should be encouraged.
Mr Obasanjo, however, advised CSOs to be watchful not to be interfering in politics.
“If your objective is humanitarian, make it humanitarian and live it there.”
Bottlenecks Of Land Acquisition
The former Head of State of Nigeria said Africa, as whole, has vast arable lands that can help to improve growth but, often, land acquisition becomes a deterrent to investors to venture into it.
Mr Obasanjom, therefore, urged leaders to make things easier for farmers, emphasising that agriculture could help increase economic growth by increase food exports.
No CSO Should Say This Is Our Aspirations Follow It-President Mnangagwa
The President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa, on his part, said he has no problem with any CSOs supporting communities in terms of logistics and training in his country and Africa as a whole.
According to him, there are several CSOs, whether foreign or domestic, that are ready to provide clean water or borehole water to countries whose people need it.
But some will also interfere in the directions and aspirations of a particular country, by introducing what they think would be better for that country.
He, however, said what he was not ready to accept is for the CSOs to try to interfere with governance and try to impose their laid down plans.
President Mnangagwa lamented that, the CSOs that would usually organise individuals from different countries, during elections and say they are going to train people on how to vote “Some they come with gifts, rice sugar” are not necessary.
African Leaders Need Vision And Mutual Aid
Speaking on challenges facing Africa, he believes the problem of leadership in Africa is the absence of vision, saying, “Africa needs leaders that have visions for the future.”
He also addressed the importance of agriculture to African economies, and how it can help increase economic growth by reducing food exports.
Sharing his thoughts on how Africans can support each other for mutual growth, he said “Geographically, my country is far from Nigeria but that did not stop Nigeria from helping us when we needed it.”
He reiterated that, the vision of African leaders sharing mutual aid would go a long way to help, adding that “Africa needs to learn how to manage its own problems, and this starts with the balance between leadership and institutions.”
By Maame Agyeiwaa Agyei