Moments before his assassination in June 1992 in the city of Annaba, the Algerian Head of State Muhammed Boudiaf was reported to have said prophetically that “The life of human beings is very short. We are all going to die. Why should we cling so much to power?” The late Algerian leader’s observation wasn’t only foreboding, but also he was underscoring an indisputable reality of human mortality to all his contemporaries, especially, the African leaders who view political leadership position in the context of “life presidency.”
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is heartbreaking to watch leaders such as Robert Mugabe, Obiang Nguema, Paul Biya, Yoweri Museveni, Yahya Jammeh, and a host of other president-for-life crowds holding tight to power as if their respective countries can’t survive after their demise. Under these inexplicable circumstances, the question that readily comes to mind is that after decades in political saddles, at what point will the “life presidents” in this part of the world come to accept the Shakespearean axiom based on human ephemerality that “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” In other words, no matter how long the dramatis personae want to hang on to the stage, the lights will definitely go off at some point in time. So is human life on earth.
Yet a close look at a good number of African leaders’ behavior in office makes them falsely appear larger than mortal life. The rational inference here is that political leaders who ascribe and practice “life presidency” are narcissists with transgressive personality and lack of internal fortitudes. There are countless of such political characters all over Africa and beyond, but the focus now will be on Yahya Jammeh, the recently deposed “life president” of the Gambia Republic.
Keep in mind the ex-Gambian dictator is not the only “life president” available in the African continent but for his bizarre and erratic conduct after the general elections in the tiny West African nation. In the full glare of the whole world, Mr. Yahya Jammeh had shockingly but magnanimously conceded electoral defeat to his main challenger, Mr. Adama Barrow of the United Democratic Party. But in the split seconds as his “president-for-life” instincts kicked into high gear, Mr. Jammeh turned around and told his surprised fellow Gambians and the world at large to disregard his earlier concession of defeat.
Mr. Yahya Jammeh’s postelection eccentric behavior is an all-too familiar movie that has been shown over and over again in African political theaters, often manifesting into deadly social unrests and internecine civil wars with its accompanied spillover refugees’ crisis across the continent. To say the least, it is in these grim and humanitarian contexts that any level-headed person/African should view the lofty effort of the ECOWAS in helping to oust the defeated “life president” of Gambia from power. Without military force or the threat of invasion from the ECOWAS combined might, many of us wouldn’t be surprised waking to witness increased widespread assassinations, detention of political opponents, and most likely Gambia descending into civil war.
Thanks to ECOWAS’ proactive moves and its determination to take the West African sub-region’s sociopolitical destiny into its own hands instead of depending excessively on external agents’ help for every problem that confronts the region. For far too long the continent of Africa has been disdainfully viewed as the problem-kid of the so-called civilized world. We live in the globalized world; so, it is within the norms of interstates relations to collaborate or seek assistance from other country. However, what is not normal is for a modern country or an entire continent to constantly look up sheepishly to another sovereign state/region to solve almost all its problems for her.
Without doubt, almost all the problems in Africa and its sub-regions are created by the self-centered leaders and their underlings in the continent. It doesn’t make any sense when the corrupt African leaders attempt to engage in buck-passing. Mr. Yahya Jammeh alone created the electoral imbroglio in the Gambia. If he had gracefully relinquished power after the defeat in the polls as true democracy demands, the ECOWAS’ wouldn’t have threatened to force him out. Hence it is uplifting to hear that through the combined ECOWAS sub-regional and international pressures, the ex-Gambian despot, Mr. Yahya Jammeh, with his egocentric tail between his legs had reluctantly departed his marginalized country into oblivion.
As the exile negotiations were unfolding behind the scenes between Mr. Yahya Jammeh and the ECOWAS’ peace team, sadly there were also concurrent news reports of fading chorus of voices from some Ghanaians and other citizens across the continent, second guessing the noble motives of the African sub-regional leaders’ efforts. Let’s consider the alternative scenario in Gambia had the embattled leader was not pushed out by the ECOWAS’ pressure. The ECOWAS had to take the noble role to right the ship before the desperate and power-drunk Yahya Jammeh had thrown his country into flames. Africa has had enough of these thoughtlessly lethal rigmaroles.
For those critics who apparently might be knee-deep in political naivety, they thought the ECOWAS leaders’ should have allowed the “life-president” Yahya Jammeh to set the pace and terms of when he would leave the very position the majority of his own compatriots said they didn’t want him to occupy any longer. Well, let it be known to all the sympathizers of dictators out there that, like all presidents-for-life, Mr. Yahya Jammeh has reached his wits’ end. He belongs to the political endangered species club dotted in the few areas around the world. It is a matter of time; and, even if they are not swept away by the weight of their selfishness and crass obstinacies, the all-powerful death will eventually stretches out its icy hands toward these supposedly “life-presidents” who are making life miserable for their fellow human beings because of power. Nonetheless, for now, let’s “give thanks and praises” to ECOWAS for kicking the former Gambian empty-headed leader to the curb, as Americans would say.
The writer is United States-based social critic; he can be reached: [email protected]