Political transition has long been a serious issue in Africa. Elections often turn into theaters of war, as incumbent political leaders are reluctant to easily concede electoral defeat.
In Africa, incumbent presidents rarely lose elections. That’s blasphemous!
This ugly trend has sadly resulted in the continent being filled with sit-down leaders who hold on to power at all costs. And the list is pathetically huge.
In Cameroon, 90-year-old President Paul Biya has been in office for 41 years. He has been the country’s president since November 6, 1982, after serving as prime minister from 1975 to 1982.
After 30 years, Omar al-Bashir’s reign in Sudan ended much the same way it began. Sudan’s long-term president, who seized power in a military coup on June 30, 1989, remained in power until April 1989, when he was overthrown and arrested by the national army.
The situation is similar in distant Angola, where José Eduardo dos Santos, 75, has been president since 1979 after the death of Agostinho Neto, the country’s first president after independence.
After a peace agreement was signed in 1991, Dos Santos defeated UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in the first round of Angola’s first contested presidential election in 1992, but Savimbi rejected the results. and resumed the guerrilla war.
Some have praised the septuagenarian for leading the country’s recovery after the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002, but he faces challenges including authoritarianism, over-tenure and a broader failure to distribute the proceeds of the oil boom. Some people criticize it.
Detractors accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian by choosing his daughter Isabel to head the oil company Sonangol.
In The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh was forced to step down after he refused to resign after his defeat in the December 2016 election. He defected after last-minute diplomatic pressure and the threat of a military invasion by ECOWAS forces.
Yoweri Museveni, 79, became Uganda’s president in 1986. Museveni, who has served five terms as president, maintains that Uganda is one of the most democratic countries in the world. In 2005, the constitution was amended to allow for an extension of his term.
Museveni was re-elected in 2016, overshadowed by arrests of politicians and allegations of bid rigging. Police arrested opposition activists multiple times during the vote, including his closest rival Kizza Besigye.
When I raised the issue of resignation with the younger generation of leaders as part of my campaign for re-election, I said, “Now that the banana plantation I planted has started to bear fruit, how can I leave it behind? ” he asked.
Of course, that is the distorted thinking of some African leaders. He considers his country to be private property. He regards his people as a conquered species. He sees his country’s resources as trophies to be plundered and used for his own fantasies. After 37 years of ruling the country, it is clear that the harvest is far from over.
In fact, Africa’s political leadership is in a state of disarray, with leaders not really knowing when to quit. Oh, may God give Africa more noble, selfless and visionary leaders like the late South African President Nelson Mandela. After Mandela completed his term, he chose to step down, emphasizing that the country needed a younger and more vibrant leader. Here was a man who spent almost his entire life fighting for the liberation of his homeland.
Will Africa continue to experience the privilege of having such leaders?
Well, it’s not all gloomy for our beloved continent. There is still a glimmer of hope that Mother Africa is not like the Biblical Nazareth, where someone cried out that there was nothing good about her.
Will anything good come out of Africa?
yes. can! A new Africa is possible.
A few days ago, Liberian President George Weah gave hope to Africa. He conceded defeat to his main opponent, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, in the recently concluded presidential election, changing Africa’s sordid political narrative.
What made this scenario completely “un-African” by any standard was that President Weah conceded defeat while vote counting was still ongoing.
Is that possible? In Africa? Yes, it is. And it happened. President Weah made it happen.
Hear his voice:
“Tonight, I stand before you with a heavy heart, but with the utmost respect for the democratic process that has defined this country.
“While the results announced tonight are not final, they do show that Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai holds a commanding lead.
“I recently spoke with President-elect Joseph N. Boakai to congratulate him on his victory and express my heartfelt commitment to work with him for the betterment of our beloved Liberia.
“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to President-elect Boakai, his supporters, and his campaign team. I hope his presidency will be a success for all Liberians and that our country will prosper under his leadership. like.
“Under my leadership, these elections were held on a promise to the Liberian people: a promise of fairness, transparency and credibility. I am proud to say that we have largely fulfilled that promise. The Liberian people have spoken and their choices will be respected and followed.”
One thing that stands out in the above message is the former footballer’s deep-rooted patriotism and unconditional love for his people. Unlike the sit-down African leaders of the old order, he cared more about his country and his people. It’s not about him!
On a continent where political contests often end in bitter battles and cause unnecessary sharp divisions among people, President Weah has chosen to be different. He chose the path of honor and dignity. His historic concession of defeat was not just a personal feat. It was a critical moment for his country, Africa, and democracy.
He proved that democracy can flourish on the continent when there are people with great consciences like him. Like former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, history will undoubtedly be kind to him and posterity will judge him right.
For democracy to deepen in Africa, those entrusted with the process must not be selfish in their thoughts and actions. They must be leaders who put the people first in everything they do. They must be people like former President Goodluck Jonathan who argue that their ambitions are not worth the blood of their fellow citizens.
Thank you, President George Weah, for making Africa proud! Thank you for choosing to be different on a continent where political leaders would rather cause unnecessary civil war just to stay in power.
Unrepentant African leaders who have taken their countries hostage are advised to sail to Liberia and learn noble arts from noble men.
Ogunbiyi is the Director-General (Public Relations) of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.