Woman Power: ... Does It Affect African Leadership?

Article excerpt

"Behind every successful man, there is a woman" goes the old saying. If this is true, as it seems it is, what impact have African First Ladies had on their husbands, who are generally said to have mismanaged Africa in the post-independence era? Or are they mere "flowers" decorating State Houses? This month, we devote our cover story to the "woman power" behind the African throne and how it influences (or doesn't influence) governance on the continent. Tom Mbakwe reports.

Do African First Ladies have any impact on their husbands? If yes, what has their impact been over the last 50 years of African independence? If no, are the First Ladies a breed apart from women in general the world over, who routinely use their God-given feminine power to get what they want?

For millennia, men, having deceived themselves that they are the "stronger sex" (going by their physical strength), have described women as the "weaker sex". But by the time you finish reading this piece, you would be a very courageous man indeed (if you are a man) to still live in the illusion that women are the weaker sex.

The recent fall of the 62-year-old Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK), the powerful managing director (he has since resigned) of the powerful International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the feet of a 32-year-old woman from Guinea-Conakry (a "chambermaid", the international media have cared to let everybody know) has brought to the fore the power that women have over men--and this is irrespective of the man's station in life!

DSK was a giant of the global financial world. When he spoke, markets shook, and nations (especially those in Africa) paid attention! The organisation he headed could make and unmake any African country of its choice - as it regularly did in the past. When the IMF spoke, Africa listened. And yet, the leader of this powerful organisation just collapsed like ninepins before the power that nature has invested in a 32-year-old "chambermaid" from Guinea!

Is this not proof that although men may claim to be the "stronger sex", they are still at the mercy of the so-called "weaker sex"? In effect, who is the "stronger sex"--man or woman?

Extrapolated to cover the "big" men who govern (or have governed) Africa in the post-independence era, who are said to have largely run the continent into the ground, how has this feminine power worked on them and their performance in office?

Have they ever suffered from the DSK syndrome--ie, falling to pieces at the feet of woman power? If yes, how has it affected their psychological wellbeing and, by extension, the way they govern? If no, have they not been real men? For every real man tastes the power of woman power at some point in his natural life. It is part of the growing up process.

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To gauge how this works, one needs not to go any further than James Baldwin, the African-American writer, who said: "Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did."

Here, Baldwin was talking more about men than women. In Britain, there is a general belief that men think about sex every two minutes. That makes it 30 times every hour, and 720 times every 24-hour period (one day). If you multiply that by one week of 7 days, you get 5,040 times, which makes it a tidy 60,480 times a year! In that context, Baldwin's philosophy becomes even more dire for men. The relevant question is 'What do men do if they don't have it?' Baldwin says they think of "nothing else". And if that man happens to be a head of state, or the managing director of the IMF, what impact does this have on his state of mind, his performance in office, and on the country or the organisation he runs as a whole?

In that context, what has happened to DSK, and by extension the power that women have over men, is a serious subject that needs to be looked at seriously. …