Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about leadership in Africa: the endless complaints about our poor leadership, or the killing of our good leaders, and then my friend said talking about Mali, “I wish we had more Assimi Goïta, Choguel Maïga, Abdoulaye Maïga, … on the continent.” Although my heart warmed at this statement, it reminded me that the fight starts at the bottom with each of us. We have to be the leader we want to see; we have to be the Assimi we want to have as a leader. Leadership starts with us, at the individual level. We cannot leave all the task to Assimi or whoever is at the head, we have to do our part; that is the only way to move forward. Otherwise, if something happens to the leader, what will become of our cause? In the article “How do We Continue the Fight when the Head has been Cut Off?”, I wrote, “the prize of freedom is too great to lay on the shoulders of one man, one leader, or a few… we do not follow men, we follow ideas… we are not fighting for men, we are fighting for our right to dignity, our right to humanity, our liberty.“
Very often it is said among Africans, that we have the leaders we have because that is, at the root, who we are. When you have watched Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Modibo Keita, Kwame Nkrumah, Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Moumie, Sylvanus Olympio, Ernest Ouandie, Barthelemy Boganda, Mehdi Ben Barka, Muammar Kadhafi, and many others get assassinated by or in conjunction with foreign forces because of their vision for their countries, it is easy to cower away, and just bend the heads and accept whatever comes in silence. However, cowering in silence, perpetuates the problem endlessly. People often say, we all come on earth and will have to leave at some point, why not leave with dignity? Why cower away? If we start at our level, getting involved in our communities, doing our part (whatever our talents are), being there for each other, do you really think corruption will persist? Let us not wait for Messiahs (and we know how rare those are), but let us start laying the bricks to the foundation of the home we want to live in. If you are an educator, make sure to lay the foundation for the best education possible; if you are a brick layer, do your work with integrity; if you are an okada driver, drive with integrity; if you are a housewife, raise the next leader; if you are a business man, make sure honesty is at the core of your business; if you are a student, arm yourself to be the next leader; … If you want to be led by honest people, then deal with honesty in your daily encounters; if you want to have a transparent government, start with transparency at your level, etc. As my favorite quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr goes, “ If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great sweeper who did his job well.” ” We all play a part in this whole that is our homeland, and each one of us is needed!
Thomas Sankara once said in one of his interviews, “if you kill Sankara, you will have a million Sankaras.” Let’s have a million Assimi Goïta, a million Choguel Maïga! Let us have millions of African leaders! Let us have a billion exemplary leaders and more!