In July 2019, Theresa May declared: “…I tried three times. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign…” The Brits saw it coming for the former prime minister who fought tooth and nail to take Britain away from the European Union, and they were not taken aback by the development.
Similarly, the entire government of Lebanon resigned barely a week after a chemical explosion that devastated the capital city of Beirut, claiming hundreds of lives and leaving thousands injured.
“The blast was one of the examples of corruption in Beirut… Faced with this reality, we take a step back, to stand with the people… Therefore, today I announce the resignation of this government,” the prime minister was quoted to have said.
The above instances of resignation are but a few of what often happen in climes than Africa. Yet, Africa experiences more devastating incidents. A 2019 United Nations report claimed that over 35,000 people have lost their lives to Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. Yet, nobody resigned. In fact, elections continued as usual and the current presidency is even in its second tenure.
Despite the apparent failure in politics and governance which litters the African political scene, it is bizarre to hear political leaders resign. It will not be far-fetched to say that it is alien to the democratic landscape in Africa. Instead, leaders are rulers, and would love to hold on to power for as long as possible.
Of course, there are reasons for this unfamiliar practice and experts in the fields of sociology and psychology help shed light on the haphazard democracy being practised in Africa.
Sociology and anthropology expert and teacher, Dr Olayinka Akanle, gives some insights as to why the practice of taking a honourable bow is never an option for public servants.
“For those foreign leaders who resigned, they are only in power to meet the need of the common good. Once you can’t deliver, you resign. In their culture, there is dignity in resignation, and their system caters for them whether they are in power or not.
The situation in Nigeria and Africa by extension is different. The leaders are there to enrich themselves. If any leader thinks of resignation, his family, the religious group s/he belongs to, party, associates will be the one to oppose such idea. They may assume such a person is crazy.
Though we call it service, it is an empire for many. The failure of the government is never the fault of those in power. Blame is always put on previous administrations.
Apart from the leaders, the people also deserve their share of the blame because a public servant represents an ethnic group. Hence, whether the person performs or not, it is their time to be their and every other person can go to hell,” Dr Akanle added.
From a psychological point of view, Iyinoluwa Aina, a psychologist who holds a certificate in addiction from Harvard Medical School, explains the characteristic mental makeup of African leaders.
“When power is not checked by democratic controls, power-holders may show undesirable distortions in judgment, cognition and behavior as that gives a good feeling to the brain and status of the individuals.
The political leaders of the country like to exercise power across the nation knowing that nobody can question their acts. More so, the gains of being in power are huge in this part of the world, so leaders are tempted to continue to hold on to power for as long as possible.
Leaders are often fearful of stigmatisation, hence, the reluctance to resign. Stigma from people is one which could haunt them for the rest of their lives. People with self-esteem difficulties often think that being in power is the only way to stay relevant and help their esteem.
Another factor is the entitlement mentality which makes people believe that they deserve certain privileges for things they have not earned. Political leaders often have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, with the attendant ‘me’ attitude; have difficulty accepting others as equals; and also lack understanding of other’s needs and wants,” Ms Aina further stated.
Kola Muhammed has imprint across local and international media. He is passionate about trends in the domains of culture, communication and technology.