By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim
While the controversy was raging on how to dislodge the military junta in the Niger Republic, another military junta sacked the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo in another coup d’etat on 30th August 2023. Ali Bongo had been in power since 2009 when he succeeded his father, Omar Bongo who assumed power in 1968 after the death of Leon M’ba who was the President of Gabon in 1967.
The ground for the military junta in Gabon this time around was that the last election where Ali Gabon was coasting to victory was marred with fraud. Just like a prophecy coming to past, I mentioned it in the wake of the Niger Coup that: “As long as the elected politicians in Africa refuse to live up to expectations, so long will there continue to be the military coup in Africa”. With the latest coup in Gabon, the question has been asked whether the ECOWAS or the AU will also move against the military junta in Gabon as being threatened against the Niger Republic. There was this statement attributed to Mr. Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia that “ African soil can feed the whole Europe, America , Asia but their problem is just one , their leaders”. The man has actually hit the nail on the head.
If you take your time to study the history of Africa you will truly agree that many African leaders are the problems of Africans. You will find the worst set of those leaders among those that took over from the colonialists or those that overthrew the Nationalists that got independence from the colonialists. Before many African countries attained independence, there were Nationalists that had great showdown with the colonialists as well as those that got their independence on the platter of gold without any bloodshed. Some Nationalists were involved in serious wars against the colonialists. What many African countries have witnessed after their independence under their African leaders are worse than what they had experienced under the colonialists. It is in the African continent that you see groups of soldiers hatching coups on various excuses only for those soldier to become worse than the regimes they overthrew. In the Togo Republic, Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled for 38 years and when he died in 2005, his Son , Faure Eyadema took over and has since then been in power in their own version of democracy. Similarly in Chad, Idriss Deby ruled that country for more than 30 years until his death 2021 when his Son, Mahatmat Deby also succeeded him and still in power till date. Gabon is presently in the news because in that country a single family had ruled for 50 years in the very act of son succeeding his father. One of the reasons I continue to respect the late Ayatollah Khomeini who led the Islamic Revolution in Iran and later became its spiritual leader was that when he was departing the world, he warned that his son (s) must not be involved in the leadership of Iran.
In these African countries we have mentioned they will not agree with you that they are practising monarchy, they will tell you they are practising democracy despite the fact that their own version is different from the one being practised in the civilised countries. In their own version of democracy their Vice President is not meant to succeed the President as being done in the United States of America upon the death of the President.
In the same African continent , you will see some countries where only a one party system is allowed to exist or even where multi-political parties system are allowed to exist, the people in the opposition political parties are seen as enemies of the States. When Ghana got her independence, it was a declaration made by Kwame Nkrumah that the independence of his country (Ghana) would be meaningless until all other African countries are liberated. Despite the Nkrumah’s great commitment to the Pan-Africanism through which many African Nationalists were positively inspired towards the struggle for independence, Nkrumah unfortunately at a stage tried to turn Ghana into a One Party State to become the life President of his country and the people in opposition were being descended upon heavily. This eventually led to the coup against Nkrumah’s regime when he was out of Ghana and his government collapsed. Some politicians and soldiers in different parts of Africa that later came to power after Independence either through elections or the barrel of gun (coups) refused to learn any lessons. For instance, Robert Mugabe who claimed to be a Pan-Africanist and a follower of Kwame Nkrumah became something else as upon attainment of independence for Zimbabwe in 1980, he remained in power till 2017 after a coup d’etat when was purportedly said to have resigned from power where he was for about 37 years.
In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi was in power for about 42 years. He took over power in 1969 in a coup d’etat which he called “revolution” as was done by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt in 1952. Gaddafi having ruled for that long and positively transformed his country, he had to later contend with the rebel force in his country that eventually consumed him in 2011. The historians and students of history will not forget easily the notorious regime Idi-Amin in Uganda who perpetrated wicked atrocities against his country men and women. Today, Uganda has been under the control of Yoweri Musevi for over three decades and he is still not willing to quit. In the Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has also been in control since 1979. With the latest coup d’etat in Gabon , some of sit-tight African leaders have resorted to sacking their top military officers to guarantee their continued stay in power. In Rwanda where Paul Kagama has been in charge and control since 2000, the latest report is that “the President has also approved the retirement of 83 senior officers, six junior officers and 86 senior non-commissioned officers, 678 whose contracts ended and 160 medical discharges”. In Cameroon where Paul Biya has outlived his usefulness having been in the corridor of power since 1975 first as Prime Minister and later as the President since 1982 till date. Biya has also approved changes in the military set-up of his country.
Emmanuel Macron, the President of France boasted recently that “without France’s military operation in the Sahel Region there would probably no longer be a Mali, Burkina Faso, and I’m not sure there would still be Niger”. According to the report, Macron said further that the military intervention were done on the request of the African States. The hypocrisy of some of these western countries particularly France is that while they promote tenets of democracy in their midst they encourage some of these African leaders to continue with their monarchy styled of government instead of the true democracy. Some western countries would even conspire the exit or fall of any leader that is not ready to ball as their puppet. Many of these African countries that practise this sit-tight monarchy system as irrational form of democracy were colonised by the France that continues to exploit their mineral resources to her own benefit and advantage. France allows these unpatriotic African leaders to misbehave and mismanage the economy of their respective countries by greedily engage in capital fight to France and other foreign countries while the Africans are living in abject poverty despite all the wonderful natural mineral resources the African continent is blessed with. It has been said for instance that 75% of people in the Niger Republic are poor and uneducated. Almost the same thing is applicable to most countries in the African continent particularly those colonized by France. To what extent have the France and other European countries assisted these countries in Africa despite all the exploitation for decades?
The problem with many African leaders is greed, selfishness and lack of great vision. Many leaders in Africa arrogate power and wisdom to themselves. They pretend to be smarter and wiser than those that have in the past fell victims of the greed, arrogance and foolishness. In the United States of America where the democracy has been defined to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people, a President is elected for a period of four years and at liberty to run for a second term of another four years making the total of eight years in a government. But here in Africa, some leaders practise monarchy but they ironically call it democracy. You have a situation in Africa where a group of soldiers will seize power on the ground that the previous regime is corrupt but the junta will end up being worse than the regime they overthrew. The spirit of arrogance can make some leaders to develop the false sense of egotism or superiority that they are the only ones that have the absolute solution to the problems of their countries as far as the position of leadership is concerned. They hold the wrong belief that nobody except them can successfully rule over their countries. It is very disheartening that despite the facts that some of these of African leaders have perpetrated themselves in power for decades, the people of their respective countries are yet to benefit positively from their sit – tight leadership as most of them still remain in abject poverty. The situations of some of these African countries are even worse than when they were under the colonial rule. Some African countries may claim to be independent today but they are yet to be freed from the greed of their indigenous leaders that have subject them to total slavery in African continent.
Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in his book: “I Speak of Freedom” once talked about the Africa’s great potentials:
“Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum .Our forests, contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the total potential water power of the world, as compare with about 10% in the Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far , less than 1% has been developed .This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty ,and scarcity in the midst of abundance.”
The failure of the most African leaders to adequately exploit these resources within their respective territories to the advantage and benefit of Africans that is dragging the continent behind in terms of rapid development. African lands are very fertile for the growth of agriculture and industries that are capable of apart from feeding other continents are sufficient to create employment for Africans and non-Africans that live within the continent of Africa. If these resources are well and properly manage by visionary African leaders, African continent is capable of being a super power that can be reckoned with and respect by other continents in the world. One continues to wonder, why you have leaders that have spent more than ten or twenty years in power but still do not want to leave and allow other people to be in control? Five years is enough for any competent and visionary leader to make positive impact in the affairs of his or her country.
Africa can only be truly free and progress if we begin to have leaders that are honest, patriotic and have the love of Africans in minds. Leaders that are greedy, arrogant and lay claim to the monopoly of knowledge and wisdom will not be proper for the progress and development of Africa. African leaders need to be very frank in speaking the truth to one another when it becomes necessary. While the sovereignty of each country must be recognized and respected, the leaders plying the wrong direction must be seriously cautioned in point blank. The western countries that are friends and backing some of the sit-tight African leaders will equally do well to advise them to embrace the true democracy where every Africans will have the right to aspire for leadership in their respective countries. One is worried on the kind of democracy that is being practised in the country like Egypt where Abdul Fattah El-Sisi as a Military officer overthrew a democratically elected President and made himself the President in 2014 and through constitutional manipulation he is expected to leave office in 2030 when he must have spent 16 years in power which is equivalent to the period that will be spent by 2 American President that will serve 2 terms each. Many African countries need the indigenous bold and fearless lawyers as well as other professionals, civil and human rights activists and organizations that will be peacefully clamouring for the strict adherence to constitutional democracy devoid of manipulating the term limit in power by the politicians that want to stay in power for life.
Nelson Mandela in his struggle against the apartheid in South Africa was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and was not released until 1990. In 1994 he won the election as the first black President in his country. He called it quit after 5 years in office and refused to run for the second term despite the pressure mounted on him to stay. Senegal seems to be one of the very few African countries that is yet to have a taste of the military coup d’etat and this has been made possible because of the fact that its first President , Leopard Sedar Senghor after the Independence in 1960 was smart enough after spending 20 years in power decided to call it quit. He organised election and handed over power to his successor, Abdou Diouf who was later succeeded by Abdoulaye Wade who was said to have won the presidential election after being in the opposition for about three decades. The incumbent President of Senegal, Mack Sall is now preparing to leave office next year 2024. Similar exit plan is yet to be seen in countries like, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Uganda, among others whose leaders have been in power for decades.
With the latest coup in Gabon checkmating the over 50 years rule of Bongo’s family, some African dictators have become jittery and now reshuffling or sacking their top military officers to erroneously guarantee or secure their continued stay or existence in power unknown to many of them that the best way to guarantee their survival is to do the right by embarking on exit plans by allowing the true democracy to prevail. It is always good to quit or leave the stage when the ovation is louder. When the bubble eventually busted the like of Idi-Amin of Uganda and Campaore of Burkina Faso were smart enough to flee for their lives to tell their stories later but the like of Samuel Doe of Liberia and Gaddafi of Libya were not that so fortunate to live to tell their own stories. No matter how wonderful a leader has been in the position of leadership, it will be irrational for such leader contemplating remaining in power for life. As the saying goes: “The like of God is not easy to come by but the like of man is too numerous to see” . Arrogance and absolute power lead a man to nowhere but destruction. It is only the Almighty God that is very indispensable. If the African dictators that have made Africa the continent of dictators have ears let them hear. African continent can only be truly free and progress when we begin to have leaders that are competent, discipline, selfless with great vision to make Africa a well developed continent.
NOTE: Anyone is at liberty to disagree with my above submissions as I will surely appreciate a balanced, fair and objective rebuttal.
3rd September 2023