Power is the ability to control things and people. Power is what makes the United States the greatest nation on earth. Power is what makes South Sudan the poorest country in the world. Power is what makes education practical and applied in the UK, and it is the same power that makes education theoretical and cumbersome in Zimbabwe. Power is what makes Nigerian government officials enjoy medical tourism overseas while resident doctors in the country go on strike due to the decay of the health care system.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.” This statement speaks volumes because the colour of man’s character could either be good (green) or bad (red) once power is given. Man has two natures which co-exist together- the good and bad. Power can help tilt one side of man’s nature against the other. The power test for good and bad clearly shows what power can do to Man and the world at large.
Power test for good (green)
When I look at the world today, I see men who the Almighty infinite has made tremendous power available to them in the form of vast wealth and influence. With some of these men, their combined wealth makes them richer than some countries. Some have great influence over a billion people (the population of China or Africa).
These men have decided to use the power they wield not for self-aggrandizement but for collective good. Bill Gates of the US, founder of Microsoft and the current richest man in the world through his Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, has been able to take healthcare services around the world to where power has failed to provide one. The American, Mark Zuckerberg, who is the youngest billionaire in the world, through his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is trying to shape the future of science, education and technology. The Nigerian billionaire Dangote, the richest black man, is the largest single employer of labour in Nigeria. Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese British born founder of Mo Ibrahim foundation, uses his foundation to ensure that African governance is a top priority among African leaders by awarding a prize for good governance to African heads of states based on their leadership and achievement during their tenure in service.
Power for good is not exclusively for billionaires, look at what the founders of NUHA Foundation are doing to ensure education is at least available. Amnesty International is at the forefront of holding governments for their actions against human rights, Transparency International fights corruption anywhere it rears its ugly head around the world.
Young people around the world are also rising in numbers in different fields like ICT, energy, agriculture, and media. They are shaping communities, bringing hope to the poor and giving light to the future by replacing unemployment with entrepreneurship, changing poor government with their votes, creating their own world by living their dreams.
Power test for bad (red)
On the flip side, I see a world where some people are given the power of the people, by the people and for the people. These individuals hold on to the power as they refuse to relinquish it on expiration of their mandate, they refuse to use it for the benefit of those who have entrusted them with it. Many of these people have twisted the trust given by their people by using the power to elongate their hold over the people. Many of them will crush opposition to continue to stay in power. Some will move to amend their laws, to ensure that they can extend their rule, even if they have to offer bribes to lawmakers. Others will want to blame the opposition or foreign states like the current leader of North Korea and his predecessors continue to blame the US for trying to cause a power change in the country.
The African continent typifies how power has gone rogue. Zimbabwe is a country that became independent in 1980, Robert Mugabe has been in power for 37 years, he is 93 years old, yet the country does not have quality education. On one of my trips in 2011 to Paris, for a world Bank conference on Development Economics, I met a Zimbabwean lady then studying computer science in South Africa, she told me that life is better in South Africa than in Zimbabwe. She had to leave her family to get a better education in South Africa.
Paul Biya is the president of Cameroon, he has been the leader now for 35 years, yet Cameroon as a country is not better looking than the ghetto side of France (if there are any). Many years of cooperation with their former colonial masters has not translated into development, but the president continues to see the beauty obtainable in France, yet closes his eyes when he comes back to Cameroon. Why is Yaounde a sharp contrast from Paris?
Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo took over the helms of the country affairs in 2005 after the demise of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema through a forceful military installment, without the people’s support and coercing the Parliament of the nation to approve this move. His father is not Queen Elizabeth, neither is Faure crown Prince Charles; yet power is transferred through blood lines when the country does not operate a monarch system.
On my trip to Vienna, Austria, via Netherlands in 2015 to attend Peter Drucker forum, I continued to have one question on my mind up until the time I left the country. The question is: are the leaders of these countries superhuman? Because things are working there compared to where I come from. When power is used to enslave others and freedom decides to fight back you witness that those who have misused the people’s power are killed while those still clinging to power are vanquished from the land they had called their paradise. Examples include the Late President of Libya, Mumar Gadaffi, Late President of Iraq, Sad am Hussein, more current is the former president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh who was exiled to Equatorial Guinea after he insisted on remaining in power after the people took power from him.
We also witnessed conflict and instability in countries where the leaders have decided to hold on to power forever. Libya has become a country where separatists and militants have emerged. Iraq has become a ground that breeds terrorists and exports them to nations to forestall their ideologies, South Sudan has become a shadow of itself because the quest for power continues to ravage the country. Syria is a place where countries like the US and Russia are using it to fight a proxy war as a pretense for fighting for the government against rebels or fighting for the people against a tyrant.
Power of the mind (neutral)
The battle for good or bad is being fought in the mind of mankind. Power has the ability to turn man into an angel sent from heaven or the devil unleashed from the pit of hell. In the super book, lucifer (now Satan) allowed power to becloud his judgement and that brought him down. Power will obey the will of the individual who wields it. Man has a free will to either do good or bad. The choice to do good or bad is at the disposal of every man.
The truth is that power is not given to a certain elite group. Everybody has power in their own right. As a parent you have the power to train your child in the right way or allow the child to go the wrong way. As a teacher you have the power to give your students the best of you by inspiring them rather than demoralizing them, as a civil servant you have the power to reject bribes rather than accept it. As a student you have the power not to indulge in malpractice rather than becoming a culprit. As a cabinet commissioner or minister you have the power to award contracts without taking bribes. The onus lies on the individual not to choose the way which entirely leads to destruction.
It is worthy to note that power can influence a great man to act badly, but not all great men are bad. We have had leaders in Africa like the late Nelson Mandela who took power to lead South Africa from 1994 to 1999, made his mark, stepped down and died a hero. The real man is that which is able to sacrifice all for the freedom of others rather than enslave them. In 2015, the former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan set an example for the rest of the leaders in the African continent by being the first incumbent that lost an election and stepped down to respect the wishes of the people. Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama also followed suit in 2017.There is light for Africa at the end of the tunnel and time is revealing it.