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The sub-Saharan African countries have suffered the consequences of dictatorship and bad governance ever since they became independent. We have seen leaders stay in power indefinitely with neither accountability to the people they serve, nor any democratic process in place to ensure peaceful and constitutional transition of power. The fall of the Berlin wall in the late 1980s brought the first wave of change in governance to these sub-Saharan nations. The Arab spring of 2011 – as being phrased-- may very well be the subsidiarity that sweeps these nations into modern forms of governance.

In this article, I am assuming that the African people are slowly transitioning into the position to freely choose their leaders. The question then becomes, what are the basic criterions that the people should be looking in someone who aspires to become their leader. In modern democracies, presidential candidates go through a thorough vetting process and a very strict public scrutiny before power is handed to them when they get elected. The premise of subjecting the candidates to this eligibility test is to evaluate their inherent strengths and capabilities with respect to governance, a test to the character of the individual's leadership credentials. How do we know that someone possesses the character, the inner strength and the gravitas to become a good leader of a nation? How do we know --with some degree of certainty-- that someone is equipped with the right set of credentials to lead a nation? How can we be assured --to the extent that it can be-- that once in power, the leader will remain faithful to the constitution of the country and to the oath he has taken?  How could the people of Cameroon, for example could have known in 1982 that M. Biya would make a good leader or not. How could they have predicted with some degree of relative certainty how power would transform the leader? How can we bid our trust into someone’s uncompromised moral integrity and ability to stay faithful to the trust the people have bestowed upon him? This article attempts to answer these questions.

The answer is vetting: The African countries must have a vetting process in place that will allow the people to test and evaluate the eligibility criterions of any given candidate. A process by which the candidate is subject to public scrutiny based on his past and present records, which includes his educational background, his intellectual profile, his professional experience, his leadership credentials and experience, his family life and his opinions on several general topics and subjects of the time.

Let’s take the case of Cameroon. What is it that the Cameroonian people should be looking for, when selecting a modern leader for the Country? 

 Family background: We should seek to know the family history of the candidate. Where he was born, how he was raised, where he did go to early school. Is he married? How many children? How is he running his family? What’s the level of happiness of his family? How responsible has he been as a father, a husband or a parent? These questions can reveal a lot about a person’s character and what kind of leader he would make.

 Educational background: The modern Cameroonian leader must have some higher education. Say a Bachelors degree at a minimum. My personal preference would be that the candidate must have studied in part in Cameroon and abroad and lived abroad for some time. Experience has shown that Africans who have studied abroad have a broader and better understanding of the world than those who have never travelled out the country. This is by no means a disqualifying criterion for someone who has never travelled or studied out of his country. But I think we can all agree that travelling the world is truly a great asset to anyone and certainly to someone who aspires to lead an entire nation of people. Given that part of governing a nation in today's modern world requires an almost constant interaction with other nations of the world. The educational background of the candidate will demonstrate basic knowledge and competence in their understanding of the affairs of a country. While a terminal degree like a PhD may be desirable, it should be not an important requirement. It should be noted that while people with PhDs may have the capacity of becoming intellectuals, not all PhDs holders are active intellectuals in the sense that they may not be actively engaged in critical and analytical thinking on the problems of society. In this lies the distinction between a learned person and the intellectual. Leadership is more about conviction, commitment and integrity than it is about the type of degree held.


 Professional experience: We must look for people who have had some long professional experience in some area. I would say about 10 years of professional experience in some area with some experience in Government. The professional experience of the candidate will give us some idea of his character and his ability to make good and sound judgment. We can look at his past record to evaluate his achievements, his successes and failures, his strength and weaknesses. We can also have some basic estimate of his personal moral integrity in areas of corruption, abuse of power, respect for the rule of law, respect for human dignity and freedom. The candidate must have lived in Cameroon long enough to understand the ethnic and tribal dynamics of the African society. He must understand how to design and implement smart mechanisms and processes to overcome the sectarian barriers of our society while still leveraging on the positive aspects of the tribal nature of the country.

 General opinion area: What are the general views held by the candidate? Who is his idol? What kind of books does he read? What does he think about Africa and Cameroon? Why does he want to be president? What makes him different from the current leadership? What does he want to see change and how would he go about changing the system? What is his vision for Cameroon? What does he think needs to be changed in Agriculture, education, economy etc... What does he think about France and the CFA franc ? What is his international policy statement? Answers to these basic questions from the candidate can demonstrate competence and broader understanding of how the modern world works. We must seek candidates who have been actively engaged –for a long period of time – in critical thinking and analysis of the problems of our society. We are looking for someone who has demonstrated a deep commitment and desire to transform society for the better. My preference would be for someone who is between 39 and 60 years old. Someone who is part of the new generation of Africans and can relate with the current mind set of the young people of Africa.

 Style and language: In Cameroon, we must look for someone who is bilingual in English and French. Leadership is also about style, presentation and content. So we must be looking for someone who is eloquent, brilliant, smart and sharp. Someone who is very articulate and trustworthy with a proven record of high moral integrity. The candidate must embody the message of hope, unity, tolerance, inclusiveness and moderation. His formulations must transcend ethnic, tribal and lingual origins. Candidates with extreme views such as exacerbated nationalism and xenophobic inclinations should be avoided. The modern African leader must be clairvoyant, moderate in tone and not ascribe to extreme views.

This may all sound and feel like a lot of requirements for any one person to meet. But we must understand that given power to any one man to the extent that our current constitution does, requires that we the people be very thoughtful in the process of selecting who will lead our country. The candidate must at least be among the best our society can produce. We the people of Cameroon must make the evolutionary leap of change that embodies the desire and capacity to transform our society. Remember, only great people deserve great leaders. The people – in many respects – deserve the leaders that they get at any point in time of their history. If you don’t like the current leadership of Cameroon, well that’s what – to some measure-- we all deserve –as a people-- at this point in time.  It’s the price we pay for not being thoroughly thoughtful in the process of selecting a leader.



"Remember, only great people deserve great leaders." –ANST--

“Power, especially without accountability, will overtime corrupt the human mind.” –ANST--

"When in captivity, the virtuous mind will remain restless and unrelenting in the pursuit of liberty, until it achieves the level of freedom known to its consciousness." –ANST--

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." –Benjamin Franklyn.


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