By Vincent Ikuomola, Addis Ababa
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said sit-tight African leaders cause the major problems plaguing the continent.
He said their failure to submit to the apparatuses of their countries propel them to change constitutions to suit their personal interests rather than those of the states.
Jonathan spoke in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, at the ongoing World Economic Forum.
He noted that it is for selfish interest that such leaders manipulate their countries’ constitutions to extend their stay in office.
Other panelists at the session were Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; Gabonese President Ali Bongo; Namibian Prime Minister Gideon Angula; and Angolan Prime Minister Paulo Kassoma.
Jonathan said unless African leaders obey their nations’ constitutions, the desire to make the continent compete with the rest of the world would remain a pipe dream.
Besides, he said leaders must have the capacity to deplore identified human resources for the development of the state.
The Nigerian leader blamed incessant instability on the continent on military juntas, saying they are the reasons the continent remains where it is today.
He said: “If you look at the African country historically, from where we are coming, we have been having states or different governments because of military invasions. But the leaders must not see themselves above the state and not put their interests above the interests of the state. This is the cause of most problems.
“Also, a leader may not be the best brain or the strongest, physically, to be the President. But he must have the ability to see potentials and use the right people. A leader must also be firm.
“If you are convinced that a certain thing is right, you must keep to it and, if you are convinced that it is the right way to go, you must continue in it in the best interest of the people.”
Jonathan noted that many theoretical solutions cannot always turn out to be the most practical, saying a leader must be honest to the people and be ready to admit his failings.
He said: “The key thing about leadership is honesty and being a person who is able to solve specific problems in different ways. He must find a way to solve problems. There is not always one way; a leader must find the best way. He must be committed to developing his people.”
Bongo reechoed Jonathan’s statement on the need for honesty from leadership.
He said African leaders must first focus on their countries by building strong institutions, adding: “It starts with house cleaning and making sure that we are under the rule of law. You always hear that Africa is rich and everyone wants to have a part of it. But Africans are poor. As leaders, we want to make sure that Africa is rich and Africans rich too.
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