BY MICHAEL OBERABOR
“These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots as we did today” –Barack Obama. 6th November 2012
HE supported the Arab Spring that toppled the governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. He hunted down Osama bin Laden in a dare-devil operation that caught the Pakistanis napping in Abbotabad close to a high security military facility and ended a decade long war in Iraq and Afghanistan that severely reduced the capacity of Al Qaeda to inflict harm on the American homeland. The Taliban is on the run and Iran treads a cautious path in its quest for nuclear weapons. He took America out of the biggest recession in history since the Great Depression soon after he assumed office in 2008.
By a thunderous affirmation, Americans gave him leave to lead for another four years. The first black president of the United States with African roots in Kogelo, Western Kenya from whence his father descended is a shining example of democratic leadership. In contrast to Obama’s America, Africa parades a sorrowful and pitiable array of despots and autocrats masquerading as democratic redeemers while impoverishing their peoples and setting back the hands of the clock of development across the continent bringing with it disease, poverty, illiteracy and vast insecurity. Wars are rife and strife looms with attendant apparent endemic corruption and outright pillaging and plundering of the people’s resources.
There is no end in sight to the cycle of insecurity and underdevelopment across the continent. Lest one is accused of crying wolf where there is none, take a look at these few examples:
While Obama was making his acceptance speech, Paul Biya was celebrating his thirtieth year on the Cameroonian throne with his police firing at protesters. He is 79 years old and surreptitiously succeeded another dictator Ahmadu Ahidjo. He goes by the moniker- lion man- after his country’s once successful football team, the Indomitable Lions. In 1982, the French had managed to convince Ahidjo who had ruled Cameroon since independence to resign on account of a prostrate “cancer” and hand over power to his prime minister of seven years, Biya whom had by now earned the trust of the old man.
When the “cancer” failed to kill Ahidjo after a year as predicted by the French doctors, he staged a comeback which proved to be his undoing. Biya sentenced him to death in absentia after surviving the second coup attempt in 1984. It also provided him the opportunity of purging the government of all Ahidjo loyalists while consolidating his grip and iron fist on power. When Ahidjo died in exile in Senegal, Biya never allowed his body to be returned to the Cameroon for proper burial. He has won re-election four times after being forced to embrace democracy in 1992. An aloof and absentee president, he has never met most of his ministers and remains abroad for up to four months in a year. He pays the army well and it has remained loyal. He won the oil-rich Bakassi peninsular from Nigeria through the International Court of Justice, securing another gold mine. His second wife, the country’s First Lady, Chantal is known as “Queen of Hearts” and they both have a lion and lioness named after them in Mvog Beti zoo, Yaoundé. All his political opponents are either in jail or have been hounded into exile. Earlier in life, he had wanted to become a Catholic priest.
Jose Eduardo dos Santos is 80 years old and has ruled Angola for 33 years. Following the death of Augustinho Neto, Angola’s first president in 1979, dos Santos assumed office as president and commander of the MPLA and has remained there ever since. Forced to conduct elections in 1992, he could not muster the required 51 percent for an outright victory and was forced into a second round against his major opponent, Jonas Savimbi of UNITA. Dos Santos put paid to any hopes Savimbi had through the infamous Halloween Day Massacre of 1992 where thousands of UNITA loyalists were rounded up systemically in one night and executed leading to the resumption of the civil war that pitted Savimbi’s UNITA against dos Santos MPLA.
When Savimbi was killed in 2002, dos Santos put his body on display for two days.
A trained petroleum engineer, dos Santos has managed Angola’s rich oil resources as his personal fiefdom. Luanda, the country’s capital is one of the most expensive places on earth amidst rundown schools and hospitals as well as other infrastructure. His daughter Isabel is the bag man and one of his sons last month was appointed to manage Angola’s sovereign investments for future generations. He has manipulated elections four times and has no intention of leaving the presidential palace. He escaped an assassination attempt in 2010 and revolt against him amongst young Angolans grows in social media circles.
After presiding over Uganda for close to 27 years, 78-year old Yoweri Museveni believes there is no other good enough to occupy that position. His supporters credit him with bringing relative stability to a once restive country characterised by endless public looting, rebellion and a civil war.
*Dr. Oberabor, a medical officer, wrote from Warri, Delta State.