Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Leadership: Lessons from Canada

Those who genuinely struggle to pull Africa out of its vicious cycle of poverty experience great headache occasioned by African leaders. However, there are some places where some noble people in power are doing the right things as opposed to Africa’s predators.

I’m bringing a leader out of Africa. This is none other than Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.This leader has proved to be totally off hook when it comes to money maniac. While Africa is groping with deadly and groggy thieves; his Province is safe in his hands.

While the rulers and their wives are plundering their citizens in Africa,Williams has a different mindset and take. Since taking office in October 2003, Williams has built a reputation as a politician who is never afraid to battle Ottawa, championing the Province's fight over fiscal balance and equalization as he dishes out his money for the sake of the province. This stance has oft-disturbed his boss, Stephen Harper, Canadian Premier so as to be seen as two bulls fighting over power.

Paul Martin, former Canadian Premier found out how tough Williams could be when he was Prime Minister.This junior premier ordered Canadian flags lowered because of a dispute over offshore royalties. Stephen Harper's relationship with Williams has also been trying, as the two men sparred over royalties from the oil industry. Williams called Harper a "buddy of big oil."

This millionaire Premier whose fortunes are smaller than those of Mwai Kibaki, Moi’s and his children even of Uhuru Kenyatta recently was in hot soup after being accused by a mere junior police officer for talking on his phone while on the wheel contrary to the law of his Province. He admitted the wrong and things were straightened up. What an ideal behaviour! If it were in Tanzania, Kenya or Uganda, what would have become of the junior officer? Wouldn’t this be asking for trouble?

To know how murky the situation is in Africa, Kenyan thieves behind Goldenberg and Anglo-leasing marriage of convenience and Richmond and EPA scams in Tanzania, are off the hook, thanks to their connectivity and commonality with the current regimes there.


Back on Williams, when he was elected with a large Progressive Conservative majority in 2003, he openly told the public that he was not in politics for money. As Opposition leader, the millionaire lawyer donated his legislative salary to charity and promised during the provincial election campaigns to do the same with his pay cheque. Who can do this in Africa?

What makes Williams a creature of another world for Africa is the fact that those thieves we have in power are even richer than him. But still they are stealing.

Williams is a Rhodes Scholar and high-profile St. John's lawyer. He made millions in the sale of the region's cable-TV utility to Rogers Communications. His success in business earned him a nickname in the legislature: "Danny Millions." He was still in law school when he led a group of business people seeking the first cable television license in Newfoundland and Labrador. He grew the company into one of Atlantic Canada's largest communications companies, before selling it for $282 million prior to getting into politics.

It didn't take long for Williams to make a splash on the federal scene after becoming premier. Williams was furious that Martin made election promises in June 2004 to give Newfoundland and Labrador royalties from offshore oil developments, then backtracked at a First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa. So he stormed out of the meeting. "Our pride can't be bought…. We won't say yes to less," Williams told reporters in October 2004. "We had a commitment and (the Prime Minister) has broken that commitment."

Thereafter Williams pulled down Canadian flags from provincial buildings during talks to give Newfoundland full protection against equalization claw backs on offshore royalties. A month later, the flags went back up and a deal was made.

Harper's government hasn't found it any easier dealing with Williams, who has criticized the Conservative government for refusing to support the province's push for higher royalties from the oil industry.

And when the federal government announced it would cut money from social programs to save money, Williams said Harper doesn't reflect Newfoundland and Labrador's "red Tory" leanings.

In 2006, the province was hit by an audit scandal that revealed allegations of misuse of public money linked to representatives of all three parties.Sparking the scandal were Auditor General John Noseworthy's investigations into spending at the house of assembly. The report found four politicians misused approximately $1 million from their constituency allowances- peanuts compared to millions swindled in poor African countries among which Tanzania’s government forwent 133 million dollars!

In June 2006, Williams announced that Ed Byrne, a senior member of his party, would step aside as natural resources minister while the audit into financial matters at the legislature continued. Can Mwai Kibaki, Jakaya Kikwete or Yoweri Museveni do this when it comes to their close friends?

Williams has excelled in business as well as law. He was involved in the province's offshore resources industry through an oil-and-gas supply and services company, and has been formally recognized for his entrepreneurial success and charitable works.

The story of Williams speaks volumes. If one is accountable and with probity, he can play a great role in politics despite being a millionaire. Who in Africa is cut this way? It is time our leaders borrow a leaf from Danny Williams.
Source: The African Executive Magazine, September 17, 2008.

No comments: