African leaders’ sit-tight syndrome

In the light of the sit-tight nature of African leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari has recently appealed to ECOWAS leaders not to elongate their tenure beyond what is stipulated in their respective constitutions. He made the call at the 57th ordinary session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments in Niamey, Niger Republic recently.

President Buhari’s appeal is not unconnected with the misadventure of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Kieta who was re-elected in an election marred by irregularities in 2018 which has been the reason for protests, unrest and discontent in Mali. Malians had been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption and worsening security challenges. Until he was ousted out by mutinous soldiers sometime in August this year.

The political axiom that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts relatively has become a phenomenal syndrome that is common with African leaders. The list of leaders who perpetuate their power and over stay their welcome in office is inexhausive. They include 75 years old, Oumar Al-Bashir of Sudan who had ruled for 30 years, Abdeziz Bouteflika of Algeria who ruled for 20 years (he was in his fourth term in office planning to seek a fifth). Others include the infamous Idi Amin of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Libya’s Moummar Ghadafi, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Paul Biya of Cameroun, etc.

Notwithstanding their geographical locations and personalities, these African leaders had the same blood running in them; their stories were the same. They started well, celebrated as heroes or saviours. However, along the line, their leadership was replete with power drunkenness, corruption, abuse of power and insensitivity to their citizens’ cry. At the height of their unpopularity, they perpetuate themselves in office and use every means to hold on to power indefinitely.

In most instances, these African leaders came into office through democratic process. It is quite unfortunate that while in office, they use the power at their disposal to manipulate the institutions that are supposed to check their excesses, like the legislature and judiciary to elongate their tenure and to suppress their opposition.

Ghana’s late President Kwame Nkrumah fits the above description aptly. After leading his country to independence in 1957 and contributing his quota to the realization of a free state, he became Ghana’s President in 1960. By 1964, he declared his party CPP as the only legal party to participate in elections. Nkrumah was toppled nine years later through a military coup.

In Buhari’s words “As it is, the challenges facing the sub-region are enormous, from socio-economic matters to security issues, the ECOWAS sub-region cannot therefore afford political crisis in the guise of tenure elongation”.

Tenure elongation is a breeding ground for political crisis (as alluded above), discontent, protests to register discontent, unrest, lack of peace and of course corruption. It is retrogressive and could lead to civil war.

Governance should be government of the people, by the people and for the people. Where it is self serving, a state is sure to face a problem which is a bane to developmental strides.

African leaders need to respect constitutional provisions and not overstep their boundaries. After serving your country, respectfully bow out for the next person to come and serve. Any action geared towards imposition of self in government would not only rob a leader of respect, but the state has a lot to lose especially when it involves the destruction of lives and property.

In this respect, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria (Chief Mentor, ECOWAS Commission) and President Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger Republic deserve commendation for peacefully relinquishing the baton of leadership to their successors. Africa needs more leaders like this.

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