opinionBy Idang Alibi
This piece was written on a wave of inspiration as soon as Macky Sall was elected president of Senegal in April. However, because of competing demands of events for commentary, I wrote on what I considered more important and more topical issues at the time and completely forgot publishing this.
While checking my system for something a few days ago, I ran into it, so to say. On re-reading it, I felt that it should see the light of day, in spite of the fact that the event which inspired it took place some four months ago. I feel that in our continuing search for a solution to the peculiar behaviour of African leaders who feel extremely reluctant to leave power when their time is up, the modest proposal in this piece is very timely and relevant. Please, share in my humble thought and let me have your comments, if you wish.
Many persons in the civilised democratic world have been falling on top of one another to congratulate Macky Sall on his victory over Abdoulaye Wade in the recent Senegalese presidential election. Many newspapers have written nice OP-ED pages articles and editorials celebrating the victory of democracy in Senegal. I do not share in the jubilation of these people. Before you consider me a kill-joy or a contrarian, hear me out first.
You see, I have been forged in the furnace of bitter disappointments by African political leaders. I have therefore learnt over the years not to be easily given to euphoric emotions concerning the emergence of an African political 'hero' because sooner or later, he will go the way of his predecessors. Remember, this Abdoulaye Wade who is now a villain was the same man we hailed as a hero ten or so years ago when after over 20 years in the cold as a dogged opposition leader, he defeated the then 'tallest' president in Africa, Abdou Diof, to become president.
Can you begin to understand my pessimism? The 'hero' you hail today may become worse than the 'villain' he succeeded only yesterday. That is why I have chosen to refrain from joining in the celebration of what happened in Senegal. I do not want to suffer any further disappointment from a hasty celebration of a so-called hero who may well turn out a horrible villain.
One of the tricks I have learnt that has helped me to keep my sanity in the face of the poor, irresponsible and unconscionable political leadership in Africa is that I rarely write or say something effusive either in praise or in condemnation of anyone especially if such a person happens to be an emerging African leader. I have also learnt not to take side either in favour or against African leaders contending for power. I see none of them as either a hero or a villain. I just happen to believe that neither the one in power nor the other seeking to replace him is any better or worse than the other. I just hold unto the belief that they are all the same so why bother to take sides. To me, they are all like football coaches: either one is being fired or the other is waiting to be hired. We are yet to have the "Special One" such as Mourinho who is either being begged to stay or being wooed to be hired because his achievements are too visible to be unnoticed.
I am not a political philosopher or physician but I have since come to a conclusion that African leaders seem to suffer from a peculiar political disease which makes them too readily disposed to discard all tenets and norms of democracy and want to subvert them as much as possible in order to satisfy their greed for political and ultimately economic power. Sanctions, public outcry, political isolation and other forms of rebuke do not seem to be able to cure this peculiar disease which has had a very ruinous effect on the continent. I have therefore thought to myself that rather than celebrate the victory of any African leader at the polls, our concern for now should be to call on scientists from the Western world to help us (as usual) develop a serum or a computer software or micro chip to be implanted in the brain of any African leader as soon as he takes office. The content of this implant should be high doses of democratic tenets and disposition, basic honesty, a sense of honour and integrity, frugality in the management of public funds and strong anti-bodies against tribalism, nepotism and the proclivity to privatise the public realm or estates.
I humbly suggest that since the Americans and the Europeans say they love democracy so much and have shown practically that they don't give a damn to use undemocratic means, namely their war planes and smart bombs, to bomb out of existence any country they perceive is not practising this system as they did in Iraq and Libya, the task of developing this new 'vaccine' should naturally be given to them. After all, these people have developed sodium pentothal the so-called truth serum which their intelligence agencies use to ferret out information from terrorists and other dangerous criminals. Ben Carson, that 'gifted hand' Black neuron-surgeon, should be recruited to do this implant. It should be administered as part of the oath of office ceremony of every incoming African president.
There is no use pretending about it: there is a gene in every African leader which makes them to be extremely reluctant to leave office once they get there. Perhaps we all inherited this gene from our ancestors who did not particularly love democracy, especially the brand favoured by the West. I remember the famous saying by the late Ivorien leader Houphet Boigny who was in power for over 30 years. He once famously said that "a Bauole Chief does not know his successor". You see, apart from being president, Boigny was also a chief of his Bauole tribe and he did not see any distinction between the demands or ethos of the two offices. As the man was getting old, the people of Cote D'Ivoire who had embraced the notions of Western democracy were getting agitated as they could not see him grooming anyone to succeed him. What Mr. Boigny was saying in effect was that it was rude or impolite and possibly treasonable to talk of a new king when the old one is still on the throne! According to him, and other members of the tribe of African leaders, the man on the throne has to die first before you start thinking of a successor. You see what I mean?