Last week, the picture of the Prime Minister of Netherlands Mark Rutte riding a bicycle circulated online. The reaction from many of those on the continent was rapidly followed by the question, “which African leader can ride a bicycle to work?”
Comparisons were drawn between the imposing convoys of various African presidents such as Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Rutte’s simple and modest mode of transportation.
It is fascinating how during elections many African leaders go as far as doing odd things such as buying maize from the streets, and interacting with the common people. After election time they then protect themselves from the same people that voted for them riding in convoys escorted by machine gun wielding security operatives and in bullet proof cars.
— Ride With GidiCab (@Gidi_Traffic) March 17, 2016
There are no leadership principles African leaders take from their European counterparts. A total antithesis to the fact that the West is seemingly what African leaders look towards. In theory the rhetoric is usually anti-West. However, in practice African presidents tend to outdo their Western counterparts in terms of spending on unnecessary security. It is reminiscent of the selective use of biblical passages employed by some pastors across the continent in enforcing their desires and agendas.
The high amount of salaries and benefits most of those in positions of power on the continent go home with is incomparable to that of their European counterparts.
The continent is still grappling with political figures who get in power for self enrichment not for public service. The concept of service is lost once power is attained. Will Africa ever have a president that would decide to ditch large convoys of cars, bureaucracy, and unnecessary politics to focus on giving its citizens the dividends of democracy?
It is rather apathetic that the quest for power on the continent has become a do or die affair. From Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni’s scheme to remove the age limit from the constitution, Togo’s Faure Gnassingbé’s persistent hold on power, Jacob Zuma’s controversial statue in Nigeria, down to the consistent medical tourism embarked on by Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari. The concepts of service delivery that are supposed to be espoused through the system of democracy are proving to difficult to implement for many of the presidents of many African countries.