Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

Daily Sketch, Nigeria, July 4, 1985

The task before African leaders

African leaders - at least those who do not have to look over their shoulders all the time make sure that a scheming, power-hungry deputy is not up to some political chairs mischief - like to travel, like to see the sights in developed and more organised societies, and generally have a good time.

Some of them are virtually political hobos, always on the time. road, hardly ever having enough time to minister to the needs of their people. One of these peripatetic African leaders, a year or so ago, stayed two months in a foreign land, hours of flying time from his country!

There is a redeeming factor, or there ought to be in all this. Some of the trips combine pleasure with a little business. Former colonial masters are begged for more aid, and promises of help are made. Some of them actually redeem these verbal debts.

But this could mean more physical debts for these countries as their benefactors later turn round to milk them in ways that are sometimes subtle, and others that are contemptuously blatant.

African leaders also visit their continental counterparts. Though these visits are not as frequent as those outside Africa, they are clearly the ones that should be more encouraged. Africa can only but gain in all-round development by these visits within the African continent. But the saddening thing is that these visits have not done much for the common people of Africa. Their leaders elaborately sign potentially mutually beneficial agreements, but these are never translated into practical things. A road agreement is signed, for example, between two countries, a road that is to link them, but years after, the agreement remains a mere agreement - nothing on the ground.

Such bilateral, regional and continental agreements have become mummies in official files throughout Africa. Some of the countries that append their signatures to these agreements know from the beginning that they won't deliver on their side of the pact, but go through the motions all the same.

They are not helping Africa and Africans, as Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, rightly pointed out at a banquet in honour of Sierra-Leonean leader, Dr Siaka Stevens, in Lagos on Tuesday night.

African leaders need to be more sincere in their dealings with each other, and among themselves. Bilateral and multi- lateral agreements should be honoured in full. Co-operation should be stepped up.

It makes more economic sense. There are many countries in Africa that have, for example, facilities to refine crude oil in excess of their needs. Will it not pay better those countries that cannot meet their refined crude oil needs at home to ship their crude to those countries- sometimes neighbours - that are under-utilising their facilities, instead of to Europe and the Americas?

The task of developing Africa rests with no other people but Africans. The sooner African leaders recognise this, the sooner the first step on a journey that is going to be long and rocky will be taken.

talking drums 1985-07-15 guinea sekou toure's legacy - writing for young africa