Thursday, January 30, 2014

LEADERSHIP AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS OR IMPOVERISHMENT

Many of the development challenges in Africa are attributed to weak leaders (leadership) and institutions. Well, the former pre-occupies my thought in this article. I dare to put forward that show me your leader and I will show you the level of development you have attained. Yes! Great leaders inspire a vision of hope, a belief of progressive change, a demonstration of the will and commitment to this vision, service to the people they lead and their greater good, and the appreciation of the good sense of judgment. These are but a few of the good traits of a leader.

Depending on of the kind of leader you have, you may be led towards happiness or impoverishments. True, what a leader does or does not do has an implication on his/her followers. For national and local development, it is even more crucial and leadership can be catastrophic or liberating. John Locke in his book Second Treatise on Government in 1952, Sections 85, 88, 94 and Chapter IX (and other places) explains that legitimate governments are put in place to ensure a more effective protection or enforcement of natural rights, and may not abrogate an individual's natural right. Therefore leaders, and for that matter, governments are subordinate to natural rights-- life, liberty and property. Locke (1894, p. 348) in his book  "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" also emphasizes that “The necessity of pursuing happiness [is] the foundation of liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action…” 

The responsibility of governments therefore is to appreciate this inherent desire to pursue happiness and support citizens’ abilities to gain access to liberty and property. Efforts contrary to this is a travesty of the natural right of the individual. Unfortunately, many leaders have failed to live up to this expectation-- the expectation to facilitate the protection of people’s natural rights. 

As a communal unit, a society, a community, a district, a nation, a region, there are a collective visions shared by everyone although these manifests differently. Yes! Happiness underpins the daily struggle of the young, the old, the able and the weak. The desire to be free from the vagaries of socio-economic entrapments, the liberation from ignorance, and liberation from oppression influences the daily activities of all and sundry. Unfortunately, this desire which stems from individual interests can in conflict with the overall communal goal. Human societies thus come together to have rules, regulations, and codes not to constrain their liberty or their efforts towards happiness but to guide and strengthen their efforts towards the attainment of these aims. Leaders, governments in this context, have the responsibility of ensuring that these individual interests are in harmony with each other and the greater good of society. 

Unfortunately, many leaders forget this fundamental responsibility—the responsibility to enforce the rules, regulations and codes that guide the life of members of society. So what happens when these laws are broken? It is apparently not simply by condemnation but by pursuing justice with respect to the appreciation of the individual and the collective interest in the pursuit of happiness. 

You may wonder why this lengthy attempt at a philosophical disposition. Well, when a leader allows "ill" to perpetuate and tend back to crucify members of society for their derelictions raises concerns for the greater good. Where justice seems to be absent and the individuals abetting these problems continue to be free speaks "ill" of a leader’s commitment to the pursuit of life, liberty and property.

Ghana is urbanized now. Over 50 percent of her population lives in urban areas. Unfortunately, the rapid pace of urbanization and their spatial morphology and a poor regulatory spatial response has perpetuated uncontrolled development. Many properties have been tolerated in areas they are not supposed and several others continue to spring up amid limited action of control. There is thus a great dilemma as to how to manage these process

January 2014, a couple of some of these structures were demolished in Tema. The Tema Development Corporation in a bid to reclaim her land from encroachers went on a demolishing spree leaving scores of people without places to rest their heads.  At the same time, many of these property owners claim to have legal documents suggesting the sale of land to them. The question that many are asking is why wait for such a time to act when the TDC alleges that the property are theirs. Interestingly, this is the agency responsible for controlling development in the area and so the question remains why have they not been working? Surprisingly, as one government agency creates havoc in society, another (NADMO) calls for support for these victims.

I am not suggesting that illegal activities should be tolerated. My contention is that where were these leaders when these development started springing up? Why did they allow this to fester? Who are those individuals selling land to individuals when they are not supposed to? Were these victims informed to relocate and given ample time to do so? 

Moving forward, government will need to control these urban growth by mainstreaming already encroached lands in a manner that does not lead to impoverishments as was evident from this story? These and many other questions come to mind as I try to appreciate this event. Leaders responsible for taking decision making must do so proactively to advoid such a havoc in a later date, urban planning process should start reflecting on a vision that aim to prevent and manage this urban challenge-- encroachment and livelihood management. 

This is not the first and neither would it be the last if we do start acting soon. As governments and their leaders, as custodians of the our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness should begin to appreciate that they are also guilty of urban encroachment and must not simply make encroachers liable for their dereliction.

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