Human civilisation is about lives lived by people who are held together and motivated to co-exist by moral and ethical beliefs to be better human beings or the fear of failure or death. In their pursuits or a better future for the children they bring into the world, people develop a value system as the center that guides all members as a compass into the unknown future.
The center assists its members individually and collectively. This is how they are able to interpret codes of behavior either to avoid past failures and bad experiences, or improve on what already exists.
This is the backdrop against which we as human beings invented political systems centers based upon contracts to help us navigate our very complex relationships in our families, our friendships, our organisations, our societies and now our countries or states. Contrary to other creations in God’s providence, human beings are the only one species that examines its past rationally, can admit that its members are not perfect, can self-correct and make greater efforts to be and do better.
Other species are motivated strictly by the primordial desire to survive. That is why we remain in the perpetual state of being and improving the centers, and in political terminologies, the structures that hold us together. Animals and plants are what they are, but we are still becoming, constantly trying to get to be better than yesterday.
An essential aspect of the center pre-colonial Afrika was the relationship people had with their Creator and Permanent Protector by whatever name they used to refer to that God. In whatever Afrikan communities did, there was the presence of Shakendengere, Kalunga, Ndjambi, Thixo, Unkulunkulu, Modimo, Elob, Mulena about whom people were always conscious in their dealings with life in general and one another as persons in particular.
The Afrikan center had two vertical (towards God) and a horizontal (towards other people) lines that intersected at the leadership level. In other words before Afrika’s self-development was intercepted by the process of globalisation, the Afrikan mind had a cultural value system that informed the way in which power was acquired, utilised and even lost.
These customs in turn influenced the political socialisation and the education that was given to the young – all monitored by a hierarchy of human and life-supporting values that accounted for the mitigation of conflict and in the end guaranteed peace and stability.
The center to hold people together is very important for any situation to be sustained. For instance, during the independence struggle, the center was around the sacrifice and commitment to be part of the noble goal of freedom and the human act of self-rule.
Personal power and material gain did not frustrate their indomitable commitment to the goal of bringing about a Namibia that was better for all. Come political independence, the Afrikan is left without a center, without a common value system to oversee the manner in which power is acquired, used and abused. We have seen in a few clear examples that when the center was lost, everything was possible, including the end of all kinds of freedoms.
A towering figure of Afrikan literature, Chinua Achebe in his 1958 Things Fall Apart, preferred an alternative Afrika from the one we inhabit now which is devoid of its pre-western center and which is strewn with self-destructiveness. In 1984, Achebe authored another seminal book, The Trouble with Nigeria, wherein he issued an unreserved indictment of the Nigerian leadership as the main source of that nation’s woes.
Today’s political elite in Namibia is without a center. Leaders are self-serving, self-centered and self-congratulatory, and have become excessively intolerant of different viewpoints. Avarice and greed have taken over as the political leadership conflates political governance with acquisition of wealth, and the flaunting thereof. Leadership is measured by wealth by any means necessary. History teaches us that when political leaders enter the realm of competing for real estate development, national incohesion and instability are unavoidable. There is where the ANC of South Africa went wrong.
In the end we end up with leaders with no centering and who cannot lead because they themselves do not know what leadership is all about. John Maxwell is right when he teaches that the foundation of successful leadership is the leader’s knowledge and understanding why he or she is there and what purpose he or she is to fulfill for other people.
The leader’s passion must come from a particular center and this center is what fuels the leader’s passion and gives the energy to continue to reach higher. Knowing one’s purpose also centers one to be the best one can be, instead of imitating others who did/do their best from their own centers.
Where is our center as a nation? We need to find our center. Once we find it and name it, we are able to coalesce around it with a new openness and a new passion. This center cannot be individuals, and it matters not how powerful they are or what they say ‘when they died’ for our country. Democracy cannot grow and flourish without democracts. The future cannot be well without the youth that mortgages and prepare it! The past and the future must come together somewhere. We need a joined-up way of thinking!
In our immediate context, SWAPO held that center admirably well. But the strong center Namibia had is visibly slipping away. The liberation movement’s strength of listening to others as equals is gone. Fear, opportunism and career insecurity rule. The system that once existed is no more. Governance is by episodes, moods and expediency. No one is willing to stand up as a witness against abuse of power.
The SWAPO that gave the nation meaning and direction is now a trade union of the scarf draping political opportunists stomping the ground in search of rapid wealth and positions. We have become a nation where poverty is to be prayed away, dentists to fix the people’s eyes and traditional healers to teach modern medicine at our only medical school. We should be getting scared as the center that once stood is going, going and will be gone, before our eyes.