When a great man or ruler dies, a lot is written or said about him. Many have written about Omar Bongo and there is a glaring unanimity about what all think about him. Without doubt, he has been vilified as one of the last African dictators of yesteryear. These are people who mostly started out in the colonial/post colonial military and later took power by way of military coup.
Bongo has for reasons said by many, been the longest serving one. But these guys are widely vilified and for the right reasons. Many presided over rich states in terms of resources but kept the majority of their people living in extreme poverty.
Instead they created a circle of loyalists with relatives as the inner members of the core circle that exclusively enjoyed the trappings of having “fallen into things” by being close to those in power.
Their rule was and remains tragic-comedy. Had it not been for the tragic consequences of their holding absolute power it would have been a great setting for great plays of comedy. But they left misery and death in their wake.
These rulers are well known and there is no need to list them. Then came the era of liberators-the new breed of African leaders as coined by their American Department of State allies or handlers, whatever you may want to believe.
These were welcomed with open arms and it was believed that they would be the hope for the continent. But save for one or two, the rest would in a few years demonstrate their anti-democratic tendencies and also show that they were not any better than those they had shown the exit.
It would dawn on everyone that they were as profligate as those they had accused of backwardness, obscurantism etc. They surrounded themselves with their relatives, and you would easily find their relatives or acolytes holding high level public service jobs without going through the traditional civil service recruitment and placement procedures.
Save for a few countries with skills gaps, young boys and girls fresh from school, because they had godfathers in the system would start from the top or be fast tracked at a supersonic speed.
Plus more other shenanigans, this new breed of leaders proved that they were just old wine in new bottles. Of course some have been positively unique, but on a large scale, they are all part of the African tragedy-failure of leadership.
Many of them be they from the old or new generation; have been surrounded by scandals of both public and private in nature. This brings us to the next issue. Where do these leaders come from? They are not from mars.
They are not direct agents of Satan and, neither are they sent by God as some would want the gullible to believe. They are from the very societies they lead.
So how come they are always subjects of scandal and at times exhibit the worst cases of debauchery as shown by the supposed case of Sani Abacha.
I would think it is because they are human. Since they are products of their own societies, their behavior mirrors the societies they come from.
Give power to anyone and you will know who they truly are. In most cases they are law onto themselves, and that’s why the worst comes out. This is true for every one.
But in issues of power, it is in most cases true that the “baddest” always come out on top of the many dirty struggles like the contest for power in most of Africa. These are the shameless kind and it later reflects in how they exercise power.
And sadly for them, they are in the public arena and whatever they do or say is watched and analyzed. This is well captured in disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s comments to Vanity Fair’s John Heilpern while reflecting on his own prostitution ring scandal that forced him to resign.
He said that it is because politicians are in public view, that they are surrounded by scandals. In any case, he said they are just like everyone else.
But all said they hold public office and should be beyond even suspicion, because they in normal circumstances are trusted by the people to hold office. So their public and private failures are moral failures and a breach of the confidence and trust put in them by the led.