The role that leaders play in the achievement of a common objective is one that cannot be undermined as it contributes greatly to the success of the group as whole. In this respect, a leader should be someone who displays commitment and passion towards the achievement of a set goal and is able to inspire and motivate others to join him in working towards the realization of the goal for mutual benefit. It follows, therefore, that whenever citizens are identifying leaders that represent them at local and national levels, great emphasis must be placed on the qualities that they possess which enables them to adequately address the issues faced by those they represent.
Voting patterns in Africa, as in other parts of the world, indicated that the elective process is swayed by divisive rather than uniting factors such as ethnicity, race, regional groupings, socio-economic status, gender and religion among. There has been a long standing belief that electing ‘one of your own’ with regard to the above mentioned factors will guarantee improved livelihoods and address the challenges faced by the particular classification or group of people which is reinforced by established norms of favoritism by the leaders.
The report by the Centre for Social Change in South Africa detailing preliminary findings from an exit poll of voters indicated that voting patterns vary substantially by ethnic identity. Matching the ethnic background of the African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leaders, isiZulu-speaking respondents were especially likely to vote for the ANC (69 percent) and Sepedi-speaking respondents were especially likely to vote for the EFF (31 percent).
Onapajo, H., 2012, in the “Politics for God: Religion, Politics and Conflict in Democratic Nigeria” notes that the 2011 elections appeared to be a political battle between the Muslims and the Christians as Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari signified the major contenders of the presidential elections. The outcome clearly confirmed this observation as the voting pattern largely reflected religion and ethnicity. While Jonathan, the eventual winner had a landslide victory in Christian dominated areas of the country, Buhari swept in many northern states dominated by Muslims.
Morrow & al-Omrani, 2011 offer a look into the gender related challenges in elections whereby the Muslim Brotherhood, a major political party in Egypt stated their support for women’s rights to education, employment, and even to become a Member of Parliament or government minister. This support does not however is limited and does not extend to the right to occupy the position of national sovereign.
These inhibitions stretch into age related barriers whereby most African cultures portray youth as people who are unwise, unserious, naïve and many other negative qualities which make them unfit to lead. This is demonstrated in some of the ancient African sayings such as “When an elder is speaking, youth must be quiet” and “Old people’s speech is not to be dishonored—after all, they saw the sun first.”
While proposers and opponents of these biases may present different arguments to back their points of view, the prevailing statement is and should always be; “Who is better suited to address the challenges faced in the area of governorship and uplift the livelihoods of citizens?” in a diverse community, once a man/woman is voted into a leadership position he/she serves all members of the society not just the group that put him/her in power. The focus should then shift from what tribe, religion, gender, age group they belong to towards their leadership manifestos and the plans they have for the village, city, county or country that they lead.