Tandja and the Big Man syndrome

As “African solution for Africa’s problems” gathers heat in post-Barack Obama Accra therapy, new generation of African development thinkers are analyzing Africa’s advancement from within Africans’ cultural values and institutions in relation to the global prosperity ideals.

As “African solution for Africa’s problems” gathers heat in post-Barack Obama Accra therapy, new generation of African development thinkers are analyzing Africa’s advancement from within Africans’ cultural values and institutions in relation to the global prosperity ideals.

The term syndrome derived from Greek roots means “run together.”

Medicine aside, syndrome is culture-bound where a set of symptoms have no evidence of an underlying biological cause, and which is only acknowledged as a “disease” in a particular culture, such as Africa’s Big Man syndrome.

Big Man syndrome, a neo-traditional paternalistic autocratic practices where African elites, intellectuals, elders, rulers, wealthy folks and traditional kingpins, mired in high volume egocentricism and megalomania, believe they are the only ones destined to rule or have monopoly over ideas.

Big Man syndrome is anti-democracy, anti-freedoms, anti-human rights and anti-the rule of law.

Mamadou Tandja, 71, President of Niger, is current example of Big Man syndrome.

Tandja is scheming to extend his constitutionally mandated two-term into infinity. Under the existing Nigerien law, Tandja should step down in December, 2009 when his second presidential mandate comes to an end.

But Tandja can’t let go the Big Man syndrome. Tandja believes he is the only man who can rule Niger, as the juju-marabout spiritual mediums might have told him.

Tandja is a throwback to Africa’s period of paranoid one-party systems and military juntas that darkened most part of post-independent Africa.

Tandja had his first taste of power after a 1974 coup. As a symptom of the Big Man syndrome, Tandja will is oblivious to criticism from the regional body ECOWAS, the African Union, politically born-again democratic African leaders, African democrats, opposition parties, religious organizations, trade unions and human rights activists as well as the international community.

Tandja is hell bent ruling Niger for life by scrapping such constitutional presidential term limits and stifling democratic voices.

In Niger, Tandja is overturning the country’s infant democracy (since 1999) by appropriating its democratic tenets to create a domineering President-for-Life system a la Sekou Toure’s Guinea.

The psychology informing Tandja’s thinking is no more than a page from the unelected Jerry Rawlings telling Ghanaians “To whom,” when asked to hand over power in the 1980s and give way to democracy.

Africa’s Big Man syndrome emanates from certain inhibiting parts of the African culture where juju-marabout medium, spiritualists and witch-doctors give stimulation to the Big Men in the form of high level traditional spiritual rituals that can come in renditions such as God has destined the Big Man to rule for life against the realities on the ground.

The superstitious Sierra Leonean will say “Na God make am.” As an irrational activity, most times it results in disaster – look at Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

What is the antidote to the Big Man syndrome and in dealing with the likes of Tandja? Education. The rule of law. Human rights. Freedoms. Democracy. Continental, regional and civil society pressure.

kakos064@uottawa.ca

 

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