Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Sometime in 1983, Chinua Achebe, that most distinguished African statesman and man of letters, sat and wrote arguably the best nonfiction treatise that will remain relevant for many years. He had not written much since the turbulent years of the late 1960s and 1970s. His return with “The Trouble With Nigeria” was a much welcome relief for his admirers, the better that it was so painstakingly honest, urgent, and decisive criticism of the Nigerian country, its Leadership, and the people. Furthermore, the book may as well as be called, The Trouble with Africa.
It is a small book, most versions are like 63 pages, and you can finish it in one sitting, maybe with a beer or tea break in between. However, I guarantee you that it will be worth every cent. Here is how he opens the book:
“The Trouble with Nigeria” is and squarely a failure of Leadership…” Moreover, he punches in some more, “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of persona example which is the true hallmark of true Leadership…”
If you replace the word Nigeria with The Gambia, you will see that there is not that much of a difference 56 years later. There are two types of people globally: Those who believe that people get the leaders they deserve and those who know better. I have been working on a book about the African Leadership Challenge, and I hope, one day, in between paying bills and pressures life, I will finish it. I have been thinking about Leadership a lot, and I always turn to Achebe for inspiration. All his books are about Leadership at every level.
However, in no book did he dedicate so much energy to everything to do with Leadership than this small book. In the book, he talks about all that plagues our continent: Tribalism, False Image of ourselves, Leadership problems, our dubious sense of patriotism, social injustice, and the Cult of Mediocrity (man, ain’t we mediocre, what shall we remember the current parliament for again?), indiscipline, corruption and he went even more personal and addressed what he thought was the Igbo problem, something he would elaborate in his memoir, There Was a Country.
Fatoumatta: In between, he talked about the few examples of good leaders Nigeria has had and on the topic of indiscipline singled out Murtala Mohamed, Nigeria’s fourth president whose brief rule, cut short by the standard bullet of the assassin as was the norm, who reined in the chaos and within a day, there was so much discipline that civil servants were in office by 7.30 a.m, even the notorious traffic that had defeated every solution and defied every regime vanished overnight from the street.
Fatoumatta: The Gambia, amid the December 4 Presidential election, is faced with a difficult question of Adama Barrow’s succession. We are stuck with the same bunch of moribund leaders whose solution to every problem is tinkering with the constitution or having a new charter. Not cool. I am not opposed to periodic changes to the constitution or have an acceptable constitution for our country, presently we need to level things at the top if only to give a sense of equity, but my beef so far is that nobody wants to talk about the complicated stuff. We always focus on the bread’s division, never how to grow the wheat, harvest, and make the bread.
Alagi Yorro Jallow