Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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Champions Of Progress 

By Azore Opio

Can any ruler ever escape the verdict of time and history? Every man, and sometimes woman, who sits on the presidential chair or royal throne or stool, whatever the furniture may be, must suffer the dilemma of rulers.

The passing years have strengthened my conviction that African leaders play the most significant part in the drama of the continent’s perennial virtual poverty. The current saga between long-serving North African and Middle East despots and their long-suppressed subjects is as remarkable as it is mundane.

It is has become the stuff of everyday life in city squares and streets all over the countries where gangs of brigands purporting to be leaders of the people move the public till into their bedrooms. I have never stopped admiring Americans when they formulated their historic constitution. And I keep on repeating it that they started with the basic assumption that those who wield state power would be ‘men of questionable character.

They would be rapacious, criminal and unreliable and must, consequently, be girded firmly so as to protect the people against any possible abuse of power…’ Many African leaders fit perfectly this description of voracious dictators. Let me start with Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Bob rod on the crest of a liberation war and shot to fame in the 80s. And it was believed that he was Zimbabwe’s St. Gabriel the Archangel.

Far from it. Mugabe transmogrified into a horned beast; his legacy, the further devastation of Zimbabwe’s political and socio-economic life. Mugabe sometimes makes Old Smithy look like a saint. We have seldom met with a more perfect compound of bully and monumental mealy-mouthed than Mugabe. He has remarkably screwed up Zimbabwe’s democracy making it a dreadful scheme. Even his foul language doesn’t bring food on the tables of Zimbabweans.

The glories of Zimbabwe’s landscape, soils and minerals are all wasted upon Zimbabweans who are all sunk in deep misery.The tragedy is so common, so complete and of such enormous personal importance to so many Zimbabweans that they are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and utter confusion and disgust.

When Yoweri Kaguta Museveni emerged from the bush and took over power in 1986, the first words that escaped through his lips, I am sure he is regretting why he ever uttered those words, were, "the biggest problem in Africa is leaders who want to hang on to power. No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years." But 25 years later, he is still here, "winning" every election. Today, as it was yesterday, Museveni has transformed the Uganda State House into his personal gravy train. He has vowed that he will do everything not to allow the North African flu catch Ugandans.

Kaguta forgets easily that he conscripted children under the age of 15 years into his guerrilla forces and used them to commit atrocities actively; that his regime conveniently failed to protect northern Ugandans when they needed it most when the so-called Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army massacred thousands and displaced millions more.

He has also forgotten, I am sure, for his convenience, that his fellow guerrillas broke into a Uganda commercial bank during the bush war and stole people’s money. Museveni is happily overshooting his mouth because he is still in America’s good books as a proxy warrior against Islamist fanatics, or is it fundamentalists? He will remember that as soon as America deems that he has outlived his usefulness to them, he will be a goner. Like Mobutu Sese Seko, Gaddafi and the rest of Uncle Sam’s stool pigeons.

Cameroon. Most people will agree that celebrating May 20 or the purported National Day in Cameroon is probably good for budget holders in Government, and most top civil servants. Top CPDM brasses even take pleasure in the experience. However, many wonder if the celebration, however, enjoyable, isn’t a waste of time and money; public money, or, at least, an annoying event.

On the surface, it is the stuff of praise-singers chorusing for their dinners, glamorous actors who have succumbed to old-age yes-manship; roaming the corridors of Unity Palace, begging, canvassing, cajoling the old fox; humming a tune of praise here, intoning a lyric of false endearment there. In fact, disowning their very manhood and womanhood all in the hope of currying favour with the giver and taker of better-buttered bread. They, like Museveni and others, forget that there will be a time of reckoning; when luck runs out.

Despite all the lurid Hollywood sheen that the "big days" assume, this type of drama barely conceals the perpetual misery in the urban as well as rural areas. The perception changes once you talk to the locals; they think the National Day is a raw deal and is like a passing-out parade of soldiers and a display of military hardware as well as CPDM militants.

It is not uncommon for Cameroonians to switch suddenly from electric lights to candle power or torch light. God bless the candle makers. Cholera has just fought Cameroonians to a stalemate. There is no ambulance service, no para-medical service; no fire brigade, the police make arrests without dignity, the highest bidders go to professional schools; no regular water and electricity supply but regular cutthroat bills. Rural roads are not priority. It is amazing. The difficulty here is to detach people like Mugabe, Museveni, et al, from the power house.

Nevertheless, let it be remembered that whenever popular uprising rears its head in a country where the inhabitants have pride of spirit, it is hard to suppress it. The Arabs are asking nobody for freedom and dignity; they are negotiating with their dictators in the language they understand best. As long-serving African despots come closer to their demises, the sad story carries with it the strains of a Greek tragedy.