By Njundu Drammeh
Above all else, I place leadership. Everything rises and falls with leadership. The effectiveness of an institution, an organisation or even a country is directly proportionate to the effectiveness of the leader. It is said that “a fish rots from the head”. Thus, we must grow leaders and invest in leadership to reach our land of Canaan.
We, unfortunately, seem to be deficient or are found wanting, to a greater extent, on growing leaders. Those who are leaders seem to be more interested in developing or growing followers than leaders. Succession plans are often not in place. Everything, or rather most things, are concentrated in one person- he or she is the sole gate keeper and custodian of information, knowledge, the organisation’s affairs, etc. He or she alone is the centre of attention, the cynosure; the only planet around which lesser satellites revolve.
Take a look at our organisations, civil (NGOs) and political (parties). Our political parties of yore, have they developed leaders or just a multitude of followers? After Baba Jawara, the PPP became a shadow of its former self. The 1992 Mansa Konko Congress showed the leadership deficit when Jawara announced his intention to step down.
“Gambia Jawara ntangwor”, everyone wailed. Then Jammeh’s unconstitutional, treasonable act put the final nail in the coffin. It is now a flicker of the old ember, being stoked by a one man cook. NCP is in comatose even in Baddibu and nearly dead in all the other regions. NDAM? Dead and buried. The APRC? Yahya was the head and the life line, the only leader. Who did he grow? He was APRC and vice versa, the alpha and the omega. It is apparent this party is struggling to remain relevant in the political landscape, clutching to a straw of delusion that it still enjoys a high popularity rating among the masses.
The current political parties: founding fathers in place and in the limelight. Since leadership is not necessarily positional or titular, I am not so much bothered by who the “head” is. I am concerned about the reproduction of leaders, the building of more giant killers within the parties. How many Darboes, Halifas, Hamats, Mais have been produced and known like the Messrs themselves? From the party cell in the village right through to the Executive? It is not enough to point out 4 or 5 leaders produced; the rest a legion of followers. What is there to indicate that enough investment is being made in leadership reproduction? What is in place to avoid the fate of the forerunner parties which have disappeared into oblivion or are flickers of a once glowing ember?
For far too long though we have left party politics to the elderly and scorned politics as dirty and corrupting. From our comfort zones and ivory towers, we watched as these old men and women wrestled with the tyrant, for our freedom. However, leadership grooming, in political parties, is possible though when we all begin to actively engage in party politics, especially those interested in influencing, handling, managing or directing power. It would require joining a political party, accepting to be mentored by a political leader, growing up in the party and climbing through its ranks. One not only becomes politically “mature” through this process but also connects one with the people. One becomes prepared to lead. Leadership is a process and to be a leader one must be willing to learn. “Champions don’t become champions in the ring; they are merely recognised there” J.C Maxwell.
The founding Father (no Founding Mother yet) belief permeates and stagnates non-political entities: “We founded it so we cannot trust anyone to properly lead except us”. This belief excludes potentials which it sees as threat and builds a dynasty which comes to regard power as the birth right of a specific class.
And there is also that feeling of indispensability, the importance that comes with the feeling that nothing can be done or thought or achieved without us. We don’t trust to build. We want to be the cynosure. We become synonymous with our organisation or party. “What would happen to us if you leave or quit?” If you hear this question asked, then know you have reproduced only followers. Haven’t you seen organisations which come to a standstill when the head is absent?
Unless we grow leaders, our organisations will pass into oblivion with the passing on of those at the helm. Our current “giant killers” should produce many other giant killers, not just a handful. When we have an exponential growth in the number of leaders at every level of our organisations and parties; when our current leaders become transformational and help others to find the riches within themselves; when we join political parties to be mentored or become actively interested in realpolitik, our society will progress in leaps and bounds.
And J.C Maxwell:
Leaders pick up the phone; followers wait for the phone to ring.
Leaders invest time with people; followers spend time with people.
Above all else I place leadership.