The Corruption &; Crisis of Black Leadership

, Robert Mugabe, King Mswati III, Thabo Mbeki, Morgan Tsvangirai, Jakaya Kikwete, Armando Gebuza, Hafikepunye Pohamba

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Pan-Africanist, which means that I am concerned with the plight of people of African descent from all over the world.  I’ve always really cared about my people, but I haven’t always been the most aware, and even still, there are things that I just don’t know.

Since all of my known ancestors were born, here, in America, my view of the world often centers on things here.  (Note: My last name came to me through marriage for those reading this with raised eyebrows.)  I have been fortunate, however, to have people in my life who can school me about such things.

In learning more about Black people from around the world, one thing that I have noticed within almost all of the countries is what I will refer to as the crisis of leadership.  To be clear, it is not that we are lacking people who are willing and capable.  People of African descent are some of the brightest and most industrious people on this planet.  Ability and intellect aren’t areas where we struggle with our leaders; instead, it seems as if those who are in leadership positions are using their talent(s) to defraud our own people.

I understand that this is a generalization and that not all of our leaders struggle with corruption, but, many do, a statistic that can’t be ignored.  I will also add that while many non-Black governments and institutions are dishonest, the corruption that has become prevalent under Black leadership threatens the vitality of Black people, the group most often served by these organizations.  There are many examples of different types of corrupt practices under Black leadership throughout the world.

One of the most recent examples of this was during the most recent World Cup.  I am not a soccer/football fan, but my husband, a Ghanaian-American, is a huge fan; as a result, I watched a lot of World Cup games and subsequent news coverage.  Though I didn’t grow up regularly following soccer, I have always known how serious the rest of the world took these games.  I’d always heard stories of players being killed for missing or failing to defend a goal.  What I saw in this particular World Cup from the African nations was not about violence, but it was still disturbing, to say the least.

Of all of the five African nations that qualified for the World Cup (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Algeria), three of them were saddled with corruption issues concerning the mismanagement of funds, fixing matches for money, and the like.  There were only two countries that didn’t have those types of issues, Ivory Coast and Algeria, and of those two, only one of them is a “Black African” team, Ivory Coast.  It was ridiculous, especially in Ghana where there were alleged physical altercations over such mismanagement, leading to an early exit from the cup.  Similar cases involving corruption charges occurred in Nigeria and Cameroon.  None of the other continent groups had such sweeping allegations and challenges.

This corruption, unfortunately, extends beyond soccer and into everyday politics.  In many of these African nations, the rule of law is not clearly defined.  As such, militaristic, dictatorial style governments are often the norm, and the people suffer.  Similar assessments can be made about Caribbean governments under Black leadership.  The wealth gap is tremendous as corruption runs rampant, leading to more Blacks suffering under the weights of poverty.  These claims of fraudulent behavior are not limited to Africa, the Caribbean, and Afro-Latin America.

To find this crisis of leadership in America, we need to look no further than our own government and institutions of higher learning.  While no legitimate links to corruption can be made concerning President Obama, there have been instances of corruption in non-federal areas of government run by Blacks.  Do the names Kwame Kilpatrick and Ray Nagin ring a bell?  What about Jesse Jackson Jr.?  While I do understand that corruption has no color, the practices of these leaders disproportionately affected the well-being of Black people in the regions where they served.  If you don’t believe me, then look at Detroit, New Orleans, and Chicago.

Additionally, our own colleges have been plagued with so many scandals that corruption has literally become a characteristic synonymous with many of our HBCUs.  There seems to be no end to the corruption charges and poor leadership that have befallen many of these institutions.  To this day my soul still grieves for the graduates of Morris Brown, all casualties of our own corrupt practices.

This scenario, and others like it, saddens me because I do not believe it to be an accurate reflection of our ability to lead, yet it has come to characterize many instances of Black leadership.  Some would say that we should, instead, focus on the positive, and I think that’s great. I also, however, believe in cleaning up the negative.  There will always be corrupt politicians and leaders because of the old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The problem with our corruption is that it is leading to a lower quality of life for Black people or, at the least, not allowing us to ascend to the heights to which we are capable.

As hard as it is for me to write this, we need to clean up this mess: in Africa, the Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin America, and in the U.S.  To do that, we have to acknowledge the corruption and establish rules that will protect us from those who would put their own selfish interests above the group.  Additionally, we need to hold all of our leaders accountable.  Finally, we need to unify for the benefit of our people worldwide.  I could write more about that final point, but, alas, that’s another blog for another day.

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