The Leadership Lessons From Morsi’s Fall.

The Leadership Lessons From Morsi’s Fall.

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
Arnold H. Glasgow.

In the last one week, so much has been written on the Egyptian experience and Morsi’s fall. There have been arguments for and against the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. Some of the analyses have been very incisive with some attempts at objectivity. Some others have been very partisan and patronizing.

Irrespective of the slant of the various analyses, the ultimate losers from what has happened are the Egyptian people themselves while the culprit (I expect there will be some disagreements here) is Mohamed Morsi himself. I say the Egyptian people are the ultimate losers because even as I write, there are increasing reports of escalating violence in different parts of the country. Scores have been killed and injured. After two years of revolting, the end is not in sight. In fact, the revolt or revolution has gathered fresh impetus. Those who started as comrades when the “revolution” began two years ago have now found themselves in opposing camps. What will happen to Egypt’s economy?

Mohammed Morsi was elected as Egypt’s president in 2012 on the platform of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and was sworn into office on June 30, 2012. Considering the circumstances that preceded and precipitated the elections, the expectations were high both within and outside of Egypt that he would rally the nation together and put the country on the sure path to peace and prosperity. Less than one year after he took oath of office, it became clear to the Egyptians that their revolution had “entered on chance”, to use a Nigerian expression. And just on the anniversary of his government, Morsi was shooed out of office.

This is not an examination of the propriety or otherwise of the method Morsi’s ouster. At the end of the day, it seems the Egyptians, to my mind, have opted for their own version of a “home-grown democracy”. Even the major world powers seem to see it along these lines judging from their reactions. For instance, the almighty US with all its democratic posturing chose a middle-of-the-road approach (See the full text of the White House statement on the change of guards on Egypt here: http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3…). The focus of this piece is to highlight useful leadership lessons for the rest of Africa from the Morsi’s experience.

Jim Rohn says that “the challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly”. In otherwords, leadership must be to able balance contending interests and find a way forward. In this regard, Mohamed Morsi failed. Apparently, he forgot that the victory that brought him to power was a slim one – a 51.7% win. What he needed to do was to form an all-inclusive government to unite all the forces that campaigned in the Egyptian Revolution. He did not do that. In fact, his party was accused of playing majoritarian politics, another expression for the “winner-takes-all” brand of politics that has not taken African anywhere.

In retrospect, it does seem like Morsi was an “accidental public servant” (with due respects to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai). It is a moot point that many in Africa do not spend enough time preparing for the highest office in the land and is part of the leadership problem in Africa. In many other climes, particularly in advanced democracies, it is possible to trace the paths of leaders all the way back to how and when they started. Here in Africa, there’s still so much of the politics of opportunism where people who are ill-prepared for office suddenly find themselves thrust on the political scene. Without preparation, such people finding themselves in power end up being overwhelmed, struggling to coast along or plainly misusing the power. The end always is disaster. This may have been the case with President Morsi and the Freedom and Justice because the Muslim Brotherhood did promise not to field a candidate for presidential elections early on after Hosni Mubarak was toppled. Eventually, when elections came, Morsi’s name was on the ballot. Was this an indication of things to come?

Another lesson to be drawn from the things that happened in Egypt is that reforms must be fundamental and touch the lives of the common man. Security and the economy were two areas that did not receive the right attention. According to a New York Times editorial, “. . . They failed to make any real progress toward the economic and social goals for which Egyptians are desperate — security, jobs, education, a check on inflation.” (Follow this link for the editorial: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/opinion/military-ultimatum-in-egypt.html). If there was a plan at reforming the hated police that brought people to the streets during Mubarak, the people of Egypt never felt it. The security services and the Interior Ministry were not purged. Crime was said to have gone up. In the same upward trajectory went the price of bread. Ironically, at the start the revolution in January 2011, the people’s demand had been “bread, freedom, and social justice”. Surely, a hungry man is difficult to govern. Egyptians experienced fuel shortages under his watch and power outages and blackouts became common. The streets again became the more attractive proposition.

The opening quote of this write-up is credited to Arnold H. Glasgow. It means that a leader must be able to see what the followers see and farther. Leaders must scan the horizon frequently, recognize where problems are likely to arise from and put in place measures to deal with the problems. Didn’t Morsi and his cabinet realize that there was a problem before even Egyptians started gathering at the famous Tahir Square again barely thirty months after? In retrospect, it is clear that the government under-estimated the protest. It is also apparent that he was unable to build a relationship with the military. Did he forget so soon that the military had long held the reins of power in Egypt both on stage and behind-the-scenes? And, by the way, who gets a 48-hour public notice from the military to “fix the problem or be eased out of office” and still does nothing? He could easily have opted to cut short his presidency and conducted early elections or offered to share power with the opposition. He did none of these and the rest, like they say, is (recent) history.

The summary of all this is that even while the protests continue on the streets of Egypt, African leaders should learn the lessons. From my reading of the situation, it would appear that African leaders are not seeing this through the right prism. I do not know whether they noticed it but the word “coup” has just been redefined. Rather than suspend Egypt over what happened, the African Union should have offered to mediate in the crisis. Let African leaders learn. A truism is that you MANAGE things, but LEAD PEOPLE. An extension of this is that you must also manage events and happenings that INVOLVE people.

There’s a mass of hungry, unemployed and restless youths all over Africa. The time to tackle this problem with every sense of responsibility is NOW!

You can follow this author on twitter @ehissman

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