Map of the World
Cameroon on a Map of the World
A leader is that distinctive individual in a given community who is expected to possess, share and/or exhort qualities that are rare and progressive, and who is expected to act in a way that people can relate to. The leader is expected to be the most extraordinary ordinary man in the community he is leading and the exceptional individual with the uncommon touch to most, if not all of the social entities in the community. Naturally looked upon as the most important person in the community he is leading, the leader is expected to make most of the decisive decisions over the fate of his people, at most times with the counsel or consent of his people. The role of a leader in a given society is expected to be exemplary.
Being a leader carries power with it. However, it is the extent and direction of the utilization of that power for or against the interest of the community that determines the worth of the leader. Fundamental questions that cannot be ignored abound about the purpose of a leadership. But the question that dominates is this: What does the leader seek with the power?
Is it to achieve glory?
Is it to gain fame?
Is it for the sense of elevation or for self-actualization?
Is it to gain wealth?
Or is it to realize an ideal that would be for the advancement of humanity (His people, related peoples or mankind as a whole)?
Most leaders with fame and glory as their ulterior motive, including those who seek power for an exclusive idea, eventually end up disappointing their people and giving a bad name to the idea they brandished. Contemporary examples are Stalin, Nicolae Ceausescu, Milosevic and Pol Plot.
Those who go for elevation and wealth end up as dictators, kleptocrats and megalomaniacs whose rule survive through an antidemocratic culture and oligarchic system based on repression, corruption and division (Social, ethnic, religious and racial).Examples abound especially in Africa with names like Mobutu Sesse Seko, Sani Abacha, Ferdinand Marcos, Idi Amin, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Paul Biya, Gnassingbé Eyadema, Jean-Baptist Bokassa etc.
Those wise leaders who strive to do their jobs by effectively utilizing the powers of their position to realize a purpose that is far above themselves, especially one that is for the advancement of their people or for the advancement (whether wholly or partially) of humanity, stand out as the consciences of their people and mankind. Living legends like Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II; and dead legends like El cid stand out in this regard. These conscious and conscientious leaders are the movers of their times and the revolutionaries for revolutionary situations, demands or solutions. These are the leaders to enhance a right or right a wrong.
The seekers of fame, glory, elevation and wealth end up as heads of regimes or systems that are dominated by a clique that is out of touch with the rest of the community or humanity as a whole; a clique that uses repression, oppression, discrimination, terror, extortion, blackmail and crimes against humanity to stay in power. Even while surviving their people’s disapproval, such leaders are nothing more than cowards, negative perfectionists and long term illusionists.
It is true that the levers of power always produce an effect. Whatever the original intention and the effects of the utilized power, something that cannot be avoided is the resultant legacy that arises from the rule of a leader. The legacy can be positive or negative depending on how the people embraced the leader’s years at the helm of power. However, in striving for advancement, humanity generally tends to emulate positive legacies. Negative legacies, which are the embodiment of criminality, are always short-lived. The repetition of crime against a people is no history at all. The world has seen more than enough of such horrors.
It has been observed with clarity that most anti-people leaders who sought for fame, glorification and elevation, and who enshroud themselves in myths end up losing their attachments to the people; blinded by the drunkenness of power; and oblivious of the realities, needs and desires of the community they are supposed to lead. The ephemeral legacies of such leaders rarely survive them. In the aftermath of their deaths, anecdotes based on the worthlessness of blind power often arise, weaved by the very people they had trampled upon. Here, we find examples raging from ancient leaders like Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar and Nero, to contemporary figures like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Plot, Yeltsin, Mobutu, Bokasssa, Saddam, Idi Amin, Eyadema, Ahidjo and Biya.
In today’s world; in contemporary Africa that is lagging behind the rest of the world as a result of the negative legacies of leadership problems of the last century; in a Kamerun that is trying to give birth to “The People’s Rule” and a leader that can take the country out of its political lethargy and the impasse created by the fatiguing anachronistic French-imposed system, the search is for leaders that can lead their people to a future of world consensus, liberty, freedom and development. It is possible to achieve Leaderships capable of meeting those demands only if we find; the link between power and a positive legacy; the path to progress, freedom and harmony; and the restoration of our trust and self-confidence. Of great importance is the restoration of self-confidence, because in this expansive land that is haunted by negative legacies of misrule, betrayals, treachery, oppression, repression, corruption, distrust, ethno-centrism, racial and religious division; yet is being gradually pervaded by the liberating fervor of new and revived concepts, new ties, new visions and breath-taking strides at recovery through certain revolutionary paths that our backwardness demands; we are still haunted by a sense of victimhood. This sense of victimhood is an oblivious one and persists because of our inability to comprehend our situation. Yes, we are still traumatized. We are a haunted people, haunted even by ourselves. We need to liberate ourselves, create a new people, a new nation and new standards. Leadership, which is indispensable in realizing that liberation, must assume a revolutionary fervor, one that has the ultimate intention to bequeath a secured, progressive and advanced legacy to the generations to come.
Hard and merciless is the task of a revolutionary leadership in a revolutionary situation of taking the people out of an impasse where they are still highly haunted by the negative legacies of past misrules. With such a colossal task to overcome, a leader in a revolutionary situation is virtually left with little or nothing of his personal life. He is a slave to the radical or overwhelming process of change (revolution), and must be completely dedicated to overcome the accumulated past wrongs within a limited time frame. In his leadership role, he should expect to live a life of endless series of deprivations, self-sacrifices and nervous exertions. He should expect no reward in his life time, except the most satisfying feeling of all—self–fulfillment that arises from realizing the objectives of a cause that involves righting the wrongs of the past and giving the people the ability to live up to their potentials. Or if the leader finds such a cause of liberation and enhancement too demanding, he might abandon the revolutionary task, lead the people along a path that is midway between the horrors of the past and the revolutionary vision. Such a compromise would be nothing more than a procession of endless series of compromises which would neither fulfill the revolutionary objectives nor cause a return to the horrors of the past. Unfortunately, such compromises end up in futility. And with such an outcome, the revolution would be said to have lost its direction.
Today, in our communities that are still suffering from the wounds or scars caused by the negative legacies of bad leaders, true revolutionary leaders often find themselves plagued by time constraints, and likely get misunderstood by the people whose interest they are out to serve. This is so because the people whose lives the radical or overwhelming process of change is meant to advance often misunderstand the new rules and demands that:
Things are done right in the interest of the people.
Affairs take a straight course.
Logical truths are revealed in order to avoid future mistrust and distrust.
The leadership be genuine in their actions and intentions in order to create true understanding.
These are all necessary factors for the advancement of the cause for a positive change. Unfortunately these factors are sometimes perceived as indications of dictatorial tendencies when speedy but unavoidable implementation is attempted. Such a perception arises from the fact that the detractors fail to see the truth and genuineness of the cause because they have decided to close their eyes to the intentions of the revolutionary leadership and the objectives of the revolution within the frame work of time constraints.
The people’s revolutionary leader is always supposed to be on fire with love for his people and his country and should be prepared to confront danger at all times to ensure the establishment of liberty, freedom, development, progress and harmony. Yet, as a secular leader confronted by the horrors of the past and dedicated to ensure the prevalence of the people’s right over the accumulated wrongs they have endured, the people’s revolutionary leader may go to hell in the orthodox sense of things. Confronted by the colossal task of righting the wrongs from the past and faced with the resistance from the reactionaries who were the custodians and beneficiaries of the old system, the leader becomes susceptible to mistakes, despite his noble intentions.
The fact that the people’s revolutionary leader is determined to ensure that the wrong never again prevails over the right, since it is impossible to convert all the reactionaries to change to live up to the demands of the new society and its democratic tradition, and because those who try to sabotage change and progress should be rendered impotent or even crushed for the sake of protecting and realizing the objectives of the revolution, the general advancement of humanity and the wellbeing of the majority who constitute the struggling class; the people’s leader in this revolutionary situation may act badly, acts which for the sake of progress and humanity are unavoidable. Such acts which in reality are tragic but necessary are right, even though in the orthodox sense of things might not be considered good. That is the fundamental cross of the people’s leader in a revolutionary situation when he is confronted by the desperate reactions of the custodians and beneficiaries of the old system. The right choices and decisions must be made to ensure that the people’s interest survives the situation and prevails over the wrong (the embodiment of our past horrors).
It is true that past revolutions have shown that few revolutions succeed, and even if they do, fewer of the few successful revolutions achieve their objectives. However, a critical analysis reveals that few of those revolutions were for an advanced ideal that was for the genuine interest of the people or for humanity as a whole. And even so, the principal reason for the failures or derailment of good-intentioned revolutions was that the leadership failed to bury the horrible past in all its wrongs. Some of the negative legacies of the past were merely given new clothing in the form of change. That is why firmness and the avoidance of delusional traits are expected from a revolutionary leadership.
While it is true that role of the people’s revolutionary leader is to inspire the people to strive for a purpose that makes them better human beings; the leader’s firmness in propagating the ideals may spew accusations of dictatorship. Nevertheless, we should not fail to figure out that true dictators are those leaders who cherish absolute power, praise and self-praise that is a reflection of publicity in its worst forms. But the people’s revolutionary leader who is wrongly perceived as a dictator is usually the good-intentioned personality who abhors extravagant praise, knowing that it belittles not only him the recipient, but also those who are expressing their approval or admiration for him in songs or words. The leader for the future should be someone who understands that absolute power over fellow humans—friends and foes alike, destroys the human touch, and places a leader in a lonely position in life in its real form. The leader with absolute power becomes a dictator who gets the publicity but is not popular.
Disheartening as it may sound, the dedicated, wrongly perceived, but good-intentioned revolutionary leaders tend to have few people who are truly close to them. The values they cherish are too scarce in the communities they are out to advance, especially in a situation where the genuine demands of the revolution outweigh the human and material resources necessary to realize the ideals of the revolution. In a curious way, the peoples’ revolutionary leaders are virtuous. Because of the sacrifices and self-sacrifices that they have made for their causes, they can be regarded as pursuers of a selfless dream in a selfish world, and in a way, lonely men in their overcrowded worlds. That is the harsh reality, which is all the more true because in a revolutionary state, many tend to have the revolutionary enthusiasm, but few are fully aware of the true essence of the revolution. It is for the above reasons that very few revolutionary leaders who have splendid legacies are worthy of canonization. Even those who can or have been canonized are or were sinning saints. Nelson Mandela accepts that too.
August 08, 1997 JANVIER TCHOUTEU