Imperatives for good governance and political stability in Africa

  • Introduction

    Africa is the world’s second largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.2 million km2 (11.7 million square mi) including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of the earth’s total surface area and 20.4 percent of the total land area. With about 1 billion people, it accounts for about 15% of the world’s human population.  According to paleoanthropologists, Africa is believed to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earth, with the human species originating from the continent1.  At the earlier stage of the world’s history, Africans were living a peaceful communal and extremely selfless life. Nevertheless, at a particular point in history, things went wrong. Greediness and selfishness set in. African monarchs and chiefs began trading their subjects for senseless material gifts. The status was shrinking. The hitherto peaceful continent became violent. And consequently, there followed colonialism—the atrocious scramble for Africa by the western world.

    In the late 19th century, the European powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent creating many colonial territories. Imperial rule by Europeans would continue until after the conclusion of the World War II, when against all odds almost all remaining colonial territories gradually obtained formal independence from the colonial rule, thanks to the resilience and agitations of nationalist and selfless founding fathers who laid the foundation for Africa to dictate the pace and serve the interest of the black people across the world2. Africa started developing rapidly. Today, it is nonetheless so disheartening and demoralizing to watch in awe the rapid decline of a once prosperous continent like Africa with her cultural diversity, quality of citizens and its vast deposit of natural wealth which made her an envy of many other continents to have incredibly plunged into impoverishment, political and economic wreckage, insecurity and international condescension.

    What went wrong again?

    Leadership—visionless and corrupt leadership. It is glaring that the present crop of national leaders and politicians have deviated from the vision and principles of the founding fathers by abandoning the peoples’ interests to cater for their own pockets and formulating various policies about converting national wealth to personal assets. Chinua Achebe, while commenting on the problems with Nigeria, asserts:

    The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigeria’s land or climate or water, or anything else. The Nigeria’s problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leader to rise to responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership (Achebe 1983: 1).

    This display of leadership obscenity has plunged African states into the state of social unrest and political instability. Coups and counter-coups, corruption, violence and so on become the order of the day. For instance, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, Africa had more than 70 coups and 13 presidential assassinations. There was the Second Congo War, the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (in which 800,000 people were massacred), and the Angolan Civil War which lasted nearly 30 years. Of great note also is the Nigerian Civil War, the current Boko haram syndrome plaguing the nation, the civil cum political riots in Egypt and so on.

    It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that the essay seeks to examine the imperatives for Good Governance and Political Stability in Africa. The word ‘imperative’ in this context connotes literally an unavoidable obligation or requirement; a necessity that must be observed to achieve a desirable end. Therefore, our conception of the word imperative in this essay borders on those things that must be performed to ensure/restore Good Governance and Political Stability. Before discussing the imperatives nonetheless, it is equally expedient to shed lights on the concepts of Good Governance and Political Stability.

    Conceptual clarification

    Good governance:

    Good Governance is about accountability and transparency in government. However, the definition of good governance is not exhaustible and the delimitation of its scope commands no universal acceptance. It relates to political and institutional processes and outcomes that are deemed necessary to achieve the goals of development. It is the process whereby public institutions could conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee/ensure the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, with true regard for the rule of law. When there is Good Governance, there is bound to be Political Stability. Good Governance is lacking when there is an absence of rule of law, and absence of selfless leadership and informed and participatory followership. Good Governance exists when the leadership provides basic amenities such as; adequate and effective housing scheme, good roads, potable water, including laudable projects such as good health programmes, free and quality education, fair and effective legal system, maximum security, and so on. Good Governance is practically absent in a state when there is visible poverty, decrepit infrastructure, reckless abandon of education, health, transport, agriculture, industry and other sectors that have a direct bearing on the life of the people.

    Political stability

    An attempt to define political stability must begin by clarifying the concept of politics. Politics (derived from Greek politicos "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the art or science of influencing people's beliefs on a civic, or at the individual level when there are more than two people involved5. Chijioke Uwasomba (2006: 95) defines politics as “the science concerned with the state and of the conditions essential to its existence and development”. Quoting Hans J. Morgenthu, Uwasomba (2006) further defines politics as “the authoritative allocation of resources”6. Besides, the word ‘stable’ means ‘secure, predictable/reliable and hard to knock over.’7 Thus, political stability could be described as a situation in which the government is reliable and secure because the existential conditions of its subjects are favourable. Expressed differently, political stability exists when the majority of the population is happy, they have a constitution and laws that they follow, and the minority does not have enough power to pursue selfish interests that could threaten the peaceful existence. Political stability exists when people are living in relative safety, a situation where people can speak up their minds and voice their opinions without the fear of retribution. Political Stability is the product of Good Governance.

    Conversely, Political Instability stands in opposition to Political Stability. It shows the level of threat posed to the government by social protests. It is a situation whereby a country experiences political turmoil. It involves all forms of social malaise cutting across corruption, nepotism, electoral malpractices, political violence, economic deterioration and so on. Political Instability is the direct result of bad and irresponsible governance.

    Having clarified the concepts of Good Governance and Political Stability, it is glaring from the backdrop that the need for Good Governance and Political Stability is paramount in all human societies. Without them, there can be no security for either life or property, and thus man’s existence could never be anything more than chaotic, violent, and bloody struggle for power—‘a condition of Warre of every man against every man’ (Hobbes, 1968:196)8.

    Imperatives of good governance

    By this, we refer to the obligations that must be put in place to ensure the reign of Good Governance and Political Stability. These obligations, one asserts, reside in both the leadership and the followership—to extend Achebe’s assertion on Nigerian problems previously cited.

    From the leadership sector, Good Governance and Political Stability can be achieved when the leadership is democratic, focused, transparent, accountable, responsible and responsive to the plight of the masses. The youths particularly, in every society, have important roles to play. If they are gainfully employed, they contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of the society. If otherwise, they contribute substantially to the decline of progress in such societies. Therefore, one of the imperatives of Good Governance that the leadership must put in place is Youth Empowerment Programme as it is the one that can ensure the positive and productive impacts of the youths in the development of the societies.

    To ensure the reign of Political Stability, Good Governance must be in place. In other words, Good Governance is the password to Political Stability. Political Stability is ensured through a kind of leadership that provides qualitative and genuine governance based on the rule of law, people-oriented policies, constitutional and electoral reforms, principled visionary and value oriented programmes, zero toleration of corruption, good (civic) education for the masses, and so on. Proper financial accountability must also be ensured. For instance, while it is understandable that administration cannot be run without finance, the huge cost of administration where political office holders are paid stupendously unmerited salaries must be totally eradicated. Nevertheless, the emergence of a visionary leadership that can achieve Political Stability through Good Governance, as we assert, cannot be by chance. Visionary leadership can only be attained when there is proper electoral reform whereby the electoral body is truly independent and free of political pressure and manipulation.

    Correspondingly, the people (followership) should also strive to contribute their quota in ensuring Good Governance and Political Stability. The followers should effectively participate in the politics of the continent. ‘I cannot participate in the politics’ belief held by people should be done away with. Africans should be active and well enlightened in their choice of leaders so as to ensure that the selfish leaders Africa has witnessed over the years are totally voted out thereby clearing the ground for selfless and altruistic leaders. In other words, people should be properly enlightened to be able to perform their duties, claim their rights, and resist the political blighters who have solely been responsible for taking the continent down the slippery slope of political adventurism. African masses must collaborate with the leaders by ensuring that programmes outlined for their betterment are successfully executed and implemented. The African youths should know that they are the backbone of the continent’s economy and as such devote their youthful energy to the development of the continent rather than engaging in all sorts of criminalities, the most rampant being the cyber-crime.

    Africans must not relent in the quest for a continent of their dream where governance is truly from the people and for the people, where the corporate resources serve collective welfare irrespective of the artificial barricades like a tribe, religion, or political affiliation. These are the imperatives of Good Governance and Political Stability and it is only when they are put in place that the continent can stand upright in the comity of continents that are free of leadership irresponsibility, political violence, and governmental obscenity.

    In summary, the essay provides a brief historical account of Africa as a continent and defines the concepts of Good Governance and Political Stability. It further highlights the obligations that must be done for Africa to achieve Good Governance and Political Stability. Also, the essay contends that Good Governance is the password to Political Stability, thus there can never be Political Stability when there is no Good Governance.



    1. “Africa—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 
    2. Achebe, Chinua. The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1983
    3. “Africa—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 
    4. “Politics—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 
    5. Uwasomba, Chijioke. "The Politics of Resistance and Liberation in Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross.”The journal of Pan African Studies.1 (6),  (December 2006): 94-108.
    6. Social Studies-Essays-Zombielicious.” 
    7. Quoted in Young, Shaun P. “Political Stability and the Need for Moral Affirmation.

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