Alexander III, King of Macedonia was a man of inimitable achievement. That he ultimately earned himself the eternal moniker of ‘Alexander the Great’ is not a matter of conjecture but something borne out of solid achievement. As stated in an earlier blog he conquered the entire known ancient world from Western Europe to Northern Africa stretching all the way to Asia at the bank of the Jhelum River in the Hydaspes Valley in Modern day Pakistan. Before that he was already regaled as not just one of royal upbringing and the heir-apparent to the Argead dynasty which then rested on the lap of his father Emperor Phillip II but also as a great intellectual and military tactical savant of his time. He once quipped in passing, “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity.” He was ultimately proved right but rather fatefully. He was of such exquisite military poise that he never tasted defeat in battle in his prime. However, despite his acquisitions and holding steadfast to the path of the sublime and personal fulfillment, his life came to that anticipated end at the tender age of 32 ostensibly from a bout of Malaria! Who said the anatomically insignificant mosquito is not dreadful? Like Hip-hop great Tupac Shakur, this icon personally presaged the small vial that was to be the confines of the days numbered for his life (Sic)! But I digress.
A sage of his time once uttered that if a hero lives long enough he will inevitably suffer the transformation into an unrecognizable villain, abhorrent and an utter anathema even to the principal beneficiaries of his reign of beneficence. The World over, most especially in Africa this statement has rung ever so true. Venerable orators, intellectually gifted political minds of the day and military strategists fought and attained the independence of their nations. Later they were hailed as heroes when they presided the downing of the colonial standard-bearers and hoisting of the new and audacious flags of the fledgling, pristinely-minted African states. Many basked in the brilliance of the great inferno that burnt to ashes the final vestiges of colonialism and ushered in self-determination. The aforementioned heroes almost automatically became Heads of State and Government. They reveled in all the euphoria, good-will and legitimacy as leaders of the masses. Then came the Coup-d’état craze of the 70’s as a means to regime change by either those who became disenchanted by native rule or the expected horde of know-it-alls and the perennially dissatisfied. In a critical mass of African states the coups were successful after both the blood of patriots and tyrants was shed to forcefully effect change of power. All the same, a few of the independence leaders successfully maintained their grip onto state largesse. Then came the 90’s and the new fad was democracy which was force-fed down the throats of many African ‘strongmen’ by Western Powers fuelled by Bretton-Woods institutions as a pre-condition for the acquisition of donor funds after the primordial leaders and their acolytes had already plundered their areas of jurisdiction to bankruptcy.
Fast-forward and the year is 2001. What moral authority does a man who took over power in the 1960’s still have to still be called ‘Mr. President’ sir? Many still bark like rabid mongrels about being Independence heroes, revolutionaries, Fathers of the Nation, Last King of Scotland and Great Conquistador of the British Empire, Professors of Politics, ‘Kuku Ngbendu wa Zabanga’ loosely translating to Libido-In-Chief; Chancellor of all Universities on Land, water and Air; great hunter who ensnared & expropriated the white man back to Europe, Economic Moses leading his People to the promised land of fiscal stability, the Commander of the Praetorian guard and many other bizarre titles these now rickety old men have now conferred upon themselves. What new ideas can they possibly add to their nations 30 yrs after coming to power? What additional stratagems on national progression can a man who has had 4 decades to sit on the Presidential throne still have in reserve to pull his ailing nation out of a rut of his own creation?
Of course these owls have been fermented to a fine blend of cunning and sagacious by the winds of time so they hire Ivy-league university trained political advisors, who will infuse into them the fables they regurgitate to the masses about external powers with vested interest to re-colonize them when the story of the passing of the baton to the younger generation of leaders comes up. Prevarication of the age factor becomes a way of life as hair-lines are replenished and dyed a darker hue. They forget the well-touted sentiments that even the dancing virtuoso must live in cognizance of the most opportune time to exit the dance floor! Democracy though implemented on paper becomes an exercise in musical chairs where the votes of the victorious opposition candidates are shunted to another room outside the national tallying centre and burnt to a cinder by the incumbency and that particular man or woman beaten to a pulp for merely being the inadvertent manifestation of meritocracy! Ultimately the ‘Strongman’ succumbs to the vagaries of age; he is taken to a London, Lisbon, Singapore or Paris hospital for a ‘routine’ medical check-up which could as well be the motions of final rites before passing on! News of the colossus’ demise is kept a national secret for a fortnight before irrefutable footage is streamed by the Diaspora community of bloggers confirming that the ‘Elephant’ is no more. The Vice-President; now acting as President, hurriedly convenes a press conference to confirm these reports and save his team blushes. Both legitimate and the usual crocodile tears are shed while the nation plunges into mourning all the while breathing a sigh of relief. But I dare query why a man should grip the helm of power so hard that it must take the icy scythe of the grim reaper to dissociate his fingers from it?
A few weeks ago there were reports from Sudan that long-time President Hassan Omar Al-Bashir, ICC-resistance emeritus had been gently nudged by the military from office and now they held power in his stead at the behest of the People of the Republic of Sudan in reaction to popular protests. While I was going to paper, reports from news outlets both verified and otherwise seem to indicate that Sudan is to be kicked out of the African Union if they don’t move with haste to put authority back to the hands of a Civilian leader soonest possible. This is a clear case of hypocrisy as many of these other African countries in the same token have pot-bellied, Amherst College alumni rulers who are only proxies of their National Armies & the deep state! But what do I know? I am just but a mere ‘Inferus cum-Laude’ Graduate of Engineering and not even Political Science!
Many a long time leader has been forced to vacate office in pretty much the same fashion lard is melted off a knife by fire this being equated to the irresistible heat of change. Like a bush-fire; the Arab spring of 2011 fronted coincidentally by the self-immolation of the Paladin & Martyr of the Fight for Economic Emancipation – the youthful & most venerable; Mohammed Bouazizi proliferated as a new consciousness disabusing the norm among the sons and daughters of Africa. In his honour followed the crumbling to dust of the reigns of hither-to untouchable Kings of Kings of the names Muammar Abu-Minyar Gaddafi of Libya, the Neo-Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and titan Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia portending that the iron curtain had finally come down on the age of titans and demi-god rulers in Africa.
Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire followed hot on their heels after election defeat and insistence to cling to office. A blueprint on how to deal with errant leaders was made out of him, being the irreverent recipient of a donkey-kick where the good Lord split him from his own armed forces and for good measure an unsolicited indictment and successful prosecution at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for Crimes against Humanity for fomenting needless post-election violence. Later also tumbled Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, answering to the ethereal clarion call pertinent to long-term illness ending a hide and seek game on his presence here or in the after-life with the media in August 2012. Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso also found himself in headlong flight from his long-cherished throne after holding power ever since yours truly was ‘in the oven’ to October 31 2014. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia was soon forced into a free and fair election contest he was ill-prepared to rig and fell to the will of the majority to Adama Barrow at 6 in the morning come 2016. Angolan longtime supremo; Jose Eduardo Dos Santos too had to call time on his tenacious grip on power in September 2017 that saw citizens of the oil-rich nation figuratively let-their –hair-down for the first time since 1979. A week before the penning of our article; long-time nemesis of this very former president so much as to be christened a rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi had been granted his long-awaited, dignified nay heroic funeral in Lopitanga village, Bie Province!
When things could not get any bizarre and they did; the military that had long propped the 37-year former bread-basket turned basket-case, pariah-state regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe did the unthinkable and simply let go. Casualties included his ex-secretary now prima-donna spouse Grace Mugabe who was accused of trying to engineer a sexually-transmitted acquisition of the leadership in ZANU-PF party! A resignation speech was read to Parliament, but you can tell that to his former right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa as comic relief! After lengthy dithering and growing of the ‘Prophetic’ snow-white beard, Joseph Kabila was forced to call for elections in DRC and finally retire from office. Penultimate out of the door was the previously thought of messiah in Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. After ending a bloody civil war in the earlier years of his regime in 2002, he governed in so much apprehension that he eternally reserved the Ministry of Defence for none other than himself! That is how skeptical despots are forced to become. Though elected in 1999 and thought of as an outsider due to his origins in the Oudja protectorate of Morocco, he only knew peace when he took personal control of the national defence in 2003 in the dual role of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces and Defence Minister. He ended emergency rule in 2011 but had recently come into focus due to ineffective governance, high-handedness and you guessed it overstaying his tenancy in the Presidential palace. His announcement to contest for a fifth term in April 2019 was the last straw that broke the Algerian camel’s back and violent protests forced him out. Last but slightly more benign, the revolving door that is the ANC democracy down south caught ‘Jay-Z’ more wildly famous as Jacob Zuma by the coat tails and he was thrown out in favour of Cyril Ramaphosa. There is more of a feeling of Karma about this as many fingers were pointed at J-Zee over the manner in which the gentleman President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki was forced out of his tenure. Let’s see how that one pans out!
A Theatre of the Absurd played out in Guinea-Bissau in 2009 when a sitting president spuriously and unprovoked assassinated his own headstrong Chief of General Staff and the following day revenge was swift when he was ushered into the ethereal realm himself in one of the most unheralded occurrences in Africa. On and off President João Bernado Vieira thought he had finally been ridded of his scourge only to be cleaned off the floors himself in a bloody mess the following day by his own previously loyal and patriotic national guard. Many of these tyrants have presided over kleptocratic regimes that have impoverished, brutalized and killed the enterprises of their own unassuming populace. Authoritarianism and dictatorship have become the staple in our resource-rich yet dust-bowl poor continent as her wealth is carted away by the truck and cargo-plane loads to be invested in Europe and South-East Asia. After that, protests are put down by use of internet and broadcast media shutdown orchestrated with the sole intent to brook division, anarchy and ultimately blindness among the revolting faithful. Press freedom is an unknown concept in most countries in Africa. It’s merely a return to the age-old divide and rule paradigm that our colonial masters and now perfected by the newly independent darker colonizers. Also masses in the presidential home turf are hoodwinked that they are in power and consequently will fight tooth and nail in one’s corner at real and perceived threats to their man’s authority. Fueled by narcotic intoxicants and a few tots of the local brew, every political rally of the opposition will be interspersed by heckling and havoc caused by no other than these partisan hoodlums. Elections have become merely a ritual to burnish our image in the eyes of our Western trading partners and benefactors that we are progressing as mature democracies when in the actual sense that is an aberration of reality. Opposition has been cast to the periphery and even banned resulting in the execution of the veracity in flesh and bone of the sentiments averred by Thomas Jefferson nearly two and a Quarter centuries ago, “when injustice becomes law resistance becomes a duty.”
Over to you Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Paul Biya, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Idriss Deby, Isaias Aferwaki, Museveni, Nkurunzinza and Kagame. The axe awaits you if you delay your decisions. No matter how good you are sooner or later popular fatigue catches up with your people and you need not suffer the ignominy of being kicked out. Pack now and leave! Take a cue from African statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Paul Kaunda and even Daniel Moi. Despotism and the era of Methuselahs have no place in modern day Africa.