By Kayode Crown
The 93-year-old man held sway in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe for decades.
He was a strong man on the continent. Everything in that country was about him.
But recently he was edged out of office together with his ambitious wife which people were thinking he was planning to hand over to, after decades in office. That means the country could effectively be named Mugabe and the people called Mugabeans. But it didn’t work out that way.
He belonged to the revolutionary era, becoming the first black president of that country. And like many before him, he was bitten by the sit tight syndrome cum messiah complex.
The spirit of the African king becomes translated to political positions, and instead of a commitment to the rule of law to emplace fairness and equity, where the personality in power is described as a mere servant of the people, we have totalitarian regimes, people tinkering with the constitution once and again to perpetuate themselves in office as if they are afraid of their shadows.
They have put their hand in the cookie jar and seen what is there and their corrupt hearts want to corner everything to themselves, maintaining the feeling of power.
It is obvious that these people suffer from power addiction, and won’t stop until disgraced out of office. And when that happens, it should be a message to those coming after.
I hope the departure of Mugabe in something that looks like a a bloodless coup, will send a message to all in Africa for some time to come and would be a water shed moment, as a recalibration of the psyche of the average Africa leader.
A light on the African continent was late Nelson Mandela, who stuck with only one term in office, and you would think that other African leaders would follow suit. But it’s like people are waiting to be disgraced before they learn their lesson.
It seems people don’t get the point with “good examples” like Mandela.
Also it seems that when you see someone disgraced out of office, the dictator in another country would think: “this cannot happen to me”, or would start to consolidate power.
What gives other countries their strength is their constitution, but the totalitarian leaders in Africa, who see themselves as above the law, above due process, above everyone. The culture of service from leadership seems to be non existent.
The situation is so bad that years go by with no African leader given the $5m Excellence in African Leadership Award set up by Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim.
He established the award to foster good governance, so the presidents can be encouraged to be very clean in office, really serve the people and are awarded the money which would make them comfortably rich and also make them good examples.
But the African leaders are not biting. In a way, they have said to the man, “take your money, we want power more than we want money.”
Service to the people, a father heart that is not concerned just about yourself and your people is what is needed, but the leaders on the African continent don’t care for such.
Patronage is a big deal on the continent, nothing is fair, except for family and friends. The president and everyone around him are usually addicted to the kickbacks.
And we are mentally paralysed through that because corrupt minds cannot make the right decisions.
Patronage is a big deal. It is the need to hear, as the Yoruba will say, “baba rere baba ke”. To be hailed as high and mighty, to be praised and respected and hero worshipped.
The leader, one way or the other, has a way of dividing the nation into those with him (and he makes things to work for) and those perceived to be against him.
But nothing works when corruption becomes something like a state policy.
So for the African leader, it’s not just money, it’s more than that. It’s patronage, it is the image created as a lord of the manor, of having arrived, the feeling of being a god, the attention gets into your head and you just lose it, you see yourself as higher than others, a man to be differed to, and everything and everyone must bow to you including the constitution and the legislature.
So the electoral process becomes a mere charade, as something like a rubber stamp for the lord of the manor, with the whole country as the manor.
That is why people position themselves around potential leaders, with whom their proverbial bread can be potentially buttered.
Because of massive infrastructural deficit, everyone hangs on for handouts from the government and the one who is at the helms is ascribed superman status.
I believe the departure of Mugabe is a quiet earthquake, and the times have changed.
The man resigned.
Why is that a “stronger” signal than a coup, than the lure of money, than the lure of a good example?
This is because it shows African leaders that it does matter how strong your will is, you are not immune to the changing tides.
Mugabe is the quintessential strong man on Africa, he wanted (one can assume and believing it is his right) to continue to control the narrative in that country.
He felt he has everything under control with the sycophantic atmosphere he had built around himself over the years, immune from international criticism.
He had become a definition of all that is poster child for wrong with African leadership.
Mugabe’s resignation, I believe, is a watershed moment. If it was a violent takeover, we have been so used to that, it might not register in the mind of the dictator in another country.
But what this Mugabe debacle showed is a strong man whose will is broken. See his letter of resignation on the 21st of November:
“In terms of the provisions of Section 96, Sub-Section 1, of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, amendment number 20, 2013.
“Following my verbal communication with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda at 13:53 hours, 21st November, 2017 intimating my intention to resign as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in terms of Section 96, Sub-Section 1 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.
“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability.
“Kindly give public notice of my resignation as soon as possible as required by Section 96, Sub-Section 1 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“Yours faithfully, “Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
That cuts the picture of a man broken. It was reported that that day parliament was to commence proceedings to impeach him. So he “fell on the sword.”
This was the same parliament in which he had held sway, filled with his loyalists.
This is a man who had been very outspoken against people all over the world against whoever dares to oppose him, having hugged the limelight for long and having fed himself with the falsehood of his own popularity.
The move by the military to intervene after Mugabe sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa (who has now assumed the reins as president) to purportedly pave way for his wife to emerge as the president after him, made a mess of the myth around the man as a cat with nine lives.
This sure is a new thing in Africa.