Dok: The Lost African Leader

Akol Dok

Leadership: An aspect that we all seek in ourselves and within in a society. Leaders pave the way for the future, set examples and propel societies towards a new vision.

In my third year in college, I am still unsure on the true meaning of leadership. I don’t know what it truly means to be a leader nor do I know what it takes to become one. Although, through my independent study of African history I have come across an individual who exemplifies leadership and progressive nationalism.

During a time when Africans were oppressed and lacked self esteem, a number of Africans stood up to instill self worth and positivity within their people. One person of which that did this was a man named Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso. Thomas Sankara has inspired me to  restructure my definition of leadership.

Sankara came to power in 1984 and pioneered the Burkina Faso cultural revolution. Sankara changed the country’s name from Upper Volta, a name given to them by the French, to Burkina Faso meaning Land of Upright People.

Sankara was a leader for the people, and serving the people first. When he came to power he reduced government officials salaries, sold off luxury cars for cheaper models, challenged his nation to be self-sufficient and not depend on the west for help, and he questioned a society that subjected women to second class citizenship.

Thomas Sankara believed women had a much larger role than only producing children and being housewives. Sankara appointed many woman into his administration angering conservative countrymen. 

-food self sufficiency in three years

-vaccinated over 2.5 million people in one week

-planted millions of trees to prevent deforestation

-implemented national exercise policies to increase health of citizens.

But what makes Thomas Sankara a leader?

Thomas Sankara was directly involved with all the projects that he administered. Sankara was seen planting trees, helping to build railroads, playing soccer and sports with citizens and he even took a pay cut. Sankara took a salary of $400 a month while he was Prime Minister. He rode a bike to work and believed the government shouldn’t live in luxury while the taxpayers suffer. He refused to ride first class or stay in five star hotels. Sankara did exactly everything that he advocated for.

He believed in women’s rights and their importance in any society. He banned forced marriage, female genital mutilatio, and polygamy. He went as far as appointing women to senior officer positions.

Sankara refused to allow government official to wear foreign clothes and to only wear local tailored clothing.

Thomas Sankara inspired me to be a revolutionary and to start with myself. Before I can lead a movement I must be able to lead myself, and be committed to a cause. I must be a leader through action as well as through words.

First I must educate myself and understand the world I live in. This is done through reading and learning many new things. I must allow be committed to the cause of the African people, and ways to progress African from the nadir of society.

I believe the African people have copious potential to revert decades of low self esteem, identity, lack of self love and development and become a people on top of the world. For Africans to become great they must be leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of their people.

Do we have that today?

No we do not. African leaders live in fancy homes while their citizens suffer, and don’t inspire self value or worth into their citizens.

The future of Africa falls on the new generation of leaders. Leaders will emerge from ordinary people. A leader is someone selected because they are so committed to cause, have passion and love for their people, and a burning desire to overcome the current adversity the choke the beautiful motherland.

Thomas Sankara was killed in 1987 through a coup funded by the French, but like he said “Though revolutionaries may be murder, their ideas can’t”.