Thursday, 31 January 2013

Village Mentality --by Yimika Ilori

they carried the village with them to the city and converted the city to a village.
--Mensa Otabil

Though the practice of democratic governance is now widespread in Africa, one soiled attitude (termed the village mentality) has extended its roots into the mental fabric of several African leaders and is diminishing their efficiency at solving the continent’s problems. Over the years, each foregoing generation of leaders seemed to have passed on the baton of village mentality to its successors. As Mensa Otabil once put it, “they carried the village with them to the city and converted the city to a village. By “they”, Mensa referred to the ancient leaders who once lived in royal palaces.

Before I establish my thoughts on the transition of this meretricious mentality from the village to the city, let's make some facts known. Preceding the dramatic revolution in the political ideas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the prosperity of an European country largely depended on the quality of its monarch (whether King or Queen).  If you had a good king, then you had a good kingdom. If the royal leader was a stupid one, then the kingdom followed that order.

Now, let's compare the good King’s frame of reference to the approach used at the founding of the United States, one of the societal entities whose democracy model has been adopted by many political states in Africa. The critical questions at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were not "Who should be the president? Who is the oldest? Who is the richest among us? Who would be the best King?" No, they weren’t. The founders of that country probably considered the processes that will help them create a system capable of producing good presidents long after they were dead. As a matter of fact, they rejected the good King model and created a constitution to which they and all future leaders will be subservient.

In Africa, the pre-colonial rule of thumb of the good/bad King model has continuously evolved. Now, there is a twist to kingly rulership. It is operating as the rule of thumb guiding a democratized setting. The "King" here is none other than our leaders, many of whom promote the school of thought that the King must be one of the oldest men in the land. When he speaks, no one must object to his decisions. He must be dressed in ways that show his domineering and authoritative position and the citizens must readily pay obeisance to him. These are some of the features of the village mentality.

This village mentality, which is popular among many African leaders, promotes the evolution and growth of the country in a way that is dependent on the president only. It makes them think less about creating an environment that would continually self-mutate from within; the kind that is propelled by the ability of citizens to exercise their individual initiative.

To lead efficiently, African leaders need to ask themselves paradigmatic and pragmatic questions like, “What processes can we create to continuously produce good leaders long after we are gone or dead?”  In most African nations, the citizenry perceive their leadership as the kind that concerns itself with overall power and personal profits. Also, a large number of leaders are said to be insensitively responsive and selfishly thriving on the ignorance of the populace. When they loot, instead of creating industries that can provide employment with the privatized public funds, they will rather build a tank or underground store and hide it for their personal use. The relative few who invest the stolen money prefer to build multiple gas stations that offer them lots of subsidy cash profits. Yet, they employ very few individuals and offer them merger salaries. Such employed persons are hardly empowered to build their own startups. Their principles are in stark contrast with what a visionary leader, the former CEO of Ford Motors –Don Petersen, termed as the three Ps: ...People should come first, Products second and Profits third". And let’s remind ourselves that looted funds are not the profits of democracy; the good welfare of the masses is.

In addition to the solutions necessary to solve this chief of Africa’s leadership problems, the customs, beliefs, and creativity of our tribes or social groups must evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century. We should seek diverse means of applying our education to improve the quality of our culture without removing its essence. This can be done in fashion, music, drama, business and even education itself.

Truly, the African leaders of this age are not just those at the helm of affairs because each and every African is a potential leader; at the minimum, most African youths will either lead a home or assist their spouse to do so. Again, we all are leaders in our own respect so there is a need to change our mentality for the benefit of our continent. If each child is thought leadership from the home and while in nursery school, then all future African leaders will be partly equipped for any position they may occupy later on.

Yimika Ilori is a purposeful and prolific writer living in Nigeria. His articles have been published on Nuggets for Nobles and CFA Leverage amongst several other e-platforms. He blogs at and can be reached through the same. His debut article with Deliberation & Contemplation can be read here.