Buhari: The Imperative Of Abdication
After 38 years of an authoritative presidency, the Angolan strong man, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos (74), has just abdicated power having appointed a successor, former Defense Minister, Joao Lourenco, one whose loyalty to both the ruling MPLA Party and the retiring old leader is never in any doubt.
Dos Santos relinquished power voluntarily when he discovered that his health was deteriorating, and could therefore no longer cope with the rigor of the exalted office. The President had been in and out of hospitals in Lisbon and elsewhere much like our own ailing President Buhari, the Zimbabwean nonagenarian, Robert Mugabe, and so many other dictators across the continent.
Earlier this week, Angolans went to the polls to elect their legislators since the constitution of the Portuguese-speaking country stipulates that the party with a majority in the chamber would nominate the president. The MPLA won as widely predicted. In a few weeks, Dos Santos would be replaced in a parliamentary system of government. With petrodollars flowing in (much like Nigeria) but poverty ‘terrorizing’the majority of the population, Dos Santos’ stewardship could be said to be mitigated by the creation of wealth for family and friends leaving the masses to continue the daily struggle to eke out a living.
Yet, despite whatever anyone could say for or against his methods and tactics, the wily despot in Luanda has made history by quitting when the ovation is still audible enough. It represents threading a path of honor many old-generation gerontocrats in Africa hardly follow. There is indeed life after power, but few appreciate this fact or play politics with shame. Even when qualified doctors prevail on them to quit given their fragile health, they hardly hearken to such medical council — much to their peril!
The late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua was advised by his doctors reportedly to resign and concentrate his energy on nursing the syndrome afflicting him, but he spurned that medical opinion of professionals. He died without any formal transmission of power to the then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan. Today, we remember the former lecturer from Katsina as one imposition on the country by the Aremu of Ota, whose third term gambit was defeated by the legislative arm of government despite huge bribes.
In Algeria, President Bouteflika is still playing God, and refusing to cede any power even when he operates from a wheelchair! As a strong man, he has dominated the political landscape in Algeria for decades. In Harare, the Mugabe muddle has since become a conundrum as the old Bob goes from one medical vacation to another in Singapore and elsewhere. Sometimes he dozed off in the middle of crucial meetings or manifested signs of sagging health, but he has refused even to appoint a successor leaving the political space open to all kinds of brutal behind-the-scene schemes and maneuvers by aides and ministers of the ruling ZANU-PF Party jockeying for the imminent post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.
Resignation (for whatever reason) is never considered significant or patriotic by anyone concerned in this part of the world. When the health of a president is failing, he would cling to power until the grim reaper removes him from office. When a minister or a legislator is caught, for instance, lying shamelessly or stealing, he or she is less often than not named and shamed, but resignation is out of the question or equation.
As a people, we are so corrupt morally and immune to shame and dishonor that we see holding power or office as equivalent to making money or commanding and controlling the lesser mortals. Instead of using our positions to render service to our fatherland and suffering compatriots, we see it as an opportunity to loot and pauperize the people even further, empowering few cronies and smiling to the banks.
President Muhammadu Buhari (74) returned back to the country recently after over hundred days in London attending to his health challenges. Upon arrival, supporters lined the streets of Abuja to catch a glimpse of the emaciated “lion-king” rumored to have been on a life-support machine or to have given up the ghost! The retired general is back home triumphantly, but he is still not hale and hearty. Perhaps the prayers of the faithful had been answered by Allah! Or the Londonian doctors should be given the credit and not the supplications?
We saw President Buhari drained physically and almost at the end of his tethers. Though not on the fat side in his prime, we could deduce from seeing him that he was humbled by the ailment, whose nature we know nothing about. We saw a hard man almost reduced to “skeleton” by a serious malady never before witnessed in his entire life — as he had confessed during his first medical asylum in London. Watching him on the television online making that early morning broadcast to Nigerians, one could notice that Buhari’s best option would have been to honorably abdicate power in his best interest and that of the nation he loves and serves. A quiet retirement in Daura, far away from the prying eyes of pressmen and probing questions of Nigerians would have been a great act of patriotism.
Alas, there he was issuing orders and insisting on one Nigeria. He told us about how hosted the late Biafran warlord, Emeka Ojukwu, in Daura, and how they reached a conclusion that living together was better than separation. That was a good point to the pro-Biafran elements in the south-east, but restructuring Nigeria may be easier an effort than preaching unity no one believes in. Power corrupts good manners! And the cabal around the general would not let the man go home to have some deserved rest for they are afraid of losing certain privileges.
Unlike Buhari who detests corruption and corrupt enrichment, Dos Santos is stupendously wealthy. He had amassed a huge fortune for himself and family members in a poor country like Nigeria with natural wealth. His daughter, Isabelle, is said to be one of the richest women in the continent. She has her hands on the oil and gas industry, telecommunication sector, and other juicy state investments. Nepotism in Angola seems to be an accepted way of life.
Dos Santos could be said to be comparable to Nigeria’s former dictators, Ibrahim Babangida, the late Sani Abacha, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But who stole more among them is better left in the realm of imagination. Fiddling with the treasury in a closed society like Angola means practically nothing to poor Angolans who live dangerously in a Marxist-like enclave where the secret police are ubiquitous.
For Muhammadu Buhari, we hold that there is this imperative of power abdication waiting to be activated officially. The sooner he does that the better for the socioeconomic political health of our nation. Otherwise, the prevailing otiosity of authority at the center will continue to cripple governance in the country.