This week in Burkina Faso, congress ‘annoyed the people’ and the people chose to ‘ban’ parliamentary building by burning. Could this be an example of an African solution to an African problem of leaders who ‘overstay’ in power?
Look at it this way, the people wanted to get rid of President Blaise Compaore so they set ablaze the national parliament which was planning to hold a vote expected to allow him to further his 27-year-old reign.
President Compaore has since abdicated power creating a leadership vacuum that has been filled by a military council which now promises to restore constitutional sanity in 12 months.
But as Africans whose new mantra is ‘African solutions for African challenges’, where’s the method in the madness of burning down a national parliament, a key symbol of a country’s sovereignty?
Where’s the patriotism? Why burn a parliamentary building and leave its members, responsible for the decisions made therein?
This is not to suggest that the people should have burnt members of parliament, I am simply questioning the logic behind destroying a country’s infrastructure which only creates new challenges of nation rebuilding for the next administration.
A better alternative would have been to occupy the parliamentary building until the demands of the people were met.
This destructive transition from one government to another can’t support African sustainable development if all new governments have to rebuild from the ruins incurred while removing their predecessors.
My views on long serving leaders are pragmatic mainly because I have a monarchial background; my uncles are kings who reign till death.
But away from that, I strongly believe that had Compaore focused his 27 years in power truly serving the people, improving their lives, getting them out of poverty and making them feel proud to have him as a leader, no one would be wishing him away the way they’re.
When you lead and not rule, the people will technically force you to stay longer so they could continue enjoying dividends of good leadership.
If a leader creates a safe and conducive environment for his people to prosper, ensure smooth service delivery, equal opportunities and rights for all, the people would force such a leader to stay even if he wanted to retire.
Philosophically, it’s more expensive to retain power if the leader in charge is unpopular among the people…the leader feels insecure and permanently worried of the people’s anger.
Yet for a popular leader who invests his time serving the people and protecting their interests, such a leader’s security is guaranteed by the people whose interest is to continue enjoying dividends of his good leadership.
Do you get my point?
Blaise came to power through a 1987 coup-de-tat which was funded and supported by western governments that disliked former President Thomas Sankara whom they regarded as a communist leader.
Sankara’s was pro-people who cleverly renamed the country from ‘Upper Volta’ to Burkina Faso using words from two of the country’s major native languages, Mòoré and Dioula.
According to friends in Ouagadougou, Burkina, in Mòoré means “men of integrity”, while Faso which in Dioula means “fatherland’ and together, ‘Burkina Faso” translates to ‘land of the upright people’ or “land of honest people.”
Blaise’s overstay in power was supported by his western cronies, USA and France but who as usual have already shifted goal-posts to position themselves for a new political season under a new government.
Compaore is accused of rigging four elections to retain power and the latest ploy to remove term limits proved to be the last nail in his political coffin.
If you want power, serve the people well and if you want more power, serve them even better; that way, they would force power on you. Most people don’t want power but they want those in power to use it to serve them well.
I believe Africa’s problem is not leaders who serve many terms; the problem is what those leaders do while in power. Let’s look at the voting public as shareholders in a listed company and leaders as the company CEO.
Shareholders would never let go an excellent CEO whose leadership has earned them huge dividends, to retire; they would seduce him to stay on so they continue reaping benefits.
In reality, if people are happy, economically progressive, healthy, and safe and with enough food on their tables, politics is always the least of their concerns.
Good politics which is characterized by good governance is very rare and in countries where people enjoy good headship, they never want to let go of their leaders, even if the leaders wanted to leave power. The opposite is also true.