Nguema And Appetite For Political Power
AFTER 36 years in control of the tiny West African State, Africa’s longest serving ruler, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obian Nguema plans to run for another seven-year term. That plan is no more than the scheming of a despot; the manifestation of a man whose ambition is turning his country to a fief. Nguema, sadly, is not alone. Many other African leaders have no restraints either.
And it is shameful that such countries’ parliaments timidly and openly abuse democratic principles, or are induced to manipulate the legal instruments of democracy, just to do the biddings of the leaders. Such circumvention of the people’s original resolve as depicted in the countries’ constitutions, stand condemned for being hinged on selfish reasons, and for the gross disrespect to the state’s fundamental objectives. It is an ugly trend, and the African Union has a duty to arrest the rape on democracy in member states and lift the continent’s image.
At 72, it leaves much to the imagination what President Nguema is still gunning for by his tenacious hold on power in the oil-rich state. He belongs in the class of self-serving leaders who have chosen to change their countries’ term limits mostly against the will of helpless citizens. They significantly, by their action or inaction, are under-developing Africa and their countries in particular.
Africa has had its fair share of leaders afflicted by sit-tight syndrome, each with peculiar characters. Only a few leaders have done the continent proud with dignified exits from office. Notable are Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade in 2012, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique two years after and lately Goodluck Jonathan. The circumstances surrounding such exits matter less.
Apart from Nguema, other presidents to watch in the macabre dance of tenure elongation include Rwanda’s Paul Kagame – in office since 2000; due to leave office in 2017, and has already received the nod of the lower house to contest next elections; and DRC’s Joseph Kabila. Both reportedly have 2016 target dates to make fresh moves. But there are doubts. In Togo, Faure Eyadema is in for a third term, regardless of the Eyadema family’s cumulative rule of 48 years.
Yet there are others who hang on, faced by the dilemma of ‘should I stay or should I go?’ In the category are Uganda’s Yoweri Musevini, the doyen of East African Community (in power for 29 years and will contest in 2016), Paul Biya of Cameroun; Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi) since 2005 is hardly bothered by the violence (and over 200 deaths) that attended his third term mandate following constitution amendment; Denis Sassou N’ Guesso (Congo) for 31 years or thereabout – initially from 1979 to 1992 when he was ousted before his reelection in 1997.
Generally, 2015 may have sign-posted good stories emerging from Africa on elections, but the implication of sit-tight leadership and repression of oppositions is that it is still a long way to a fair opportunity for many Africans to choose their leader or representatives.
Even with an abysmal rights record, Nguema who took office in an August 1979 coup announced the other day that he had won the support of the ruling party to run for a fresh mandate next year. That was a strong message of intent to keep ruling. He had first given a hint in 2012 with his unequivocal declaration that he would continue to contest elections for the President.
Nguema, along with about seven other African leaders who have been in office for more than 25 years (his own contemporary being Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos who was also elected in September 1979), ought to reassess their obsession with power and stop the mockery of democracy and embarrassment to the continent. Besides, their sit-tight disposition is a constraint for fresh impetus for their country’s progress.
Ironically, President Nguema during the announcement listed “too much delinquency” as one of the ills of the tiny state. He should search his conscience, as he has been variously accused of iron-fisted rule, violent opposition of political opponents, suppression of civil organisations and the media, and widespread corruption.
Moreover, the vast wealth occasioned by the discovery of oil in the 1990s which to a large extent funded lavish purchases by the Obiang family has only further pauperized the people who constantly grapple with alarming poverty, low life expectancy and high child mortality. This cannot be a proud record of any leader in a country with means to make citizens happy. Despots should be reminded that life is not all about keeping a lavish wine and art collection.
Africa needs to move on from its predominant negative stories of leadership, from wooliness to openness in conduct of political affairs. Sanctions are important against errant leaders but who would impose them for the breaches? Significantly, AU has of recent put its foot down against coups and crooked leaders. The body can do more to bring sanity to the political space.
President Muhammadu Buhari should avoid close contacts with such denigrated leaders; for instance, by refusing to attend their inaugurations. Such leaders are clearly drawing the continent further back in ages. Certainly, Africa deserves better deals.