By Abdurazaq Magaji
Lucky man. Macky Sall, that is. Were he a Nigerian, he would certainly have had to wait till he was, at least, a hundred years old to become president. Even if he had all it takes to defeat a fumbling, less credible opponent and even when the electorate would have been happier to see the back of his opponent, he certainly would not have had the honour of a run off, talk less of recording a resounding victory. Chances are that he would have been rigged out in the first round and after endless court cases, he would have been told to go lick his wounds. In Nigeria, the powers that be have decided that opposition politicians, people like Macky Sall, will have to wait for sixty years before they can ever become president.
In Nigeria, the beautiful ones are, indeed, not born yet. Going by simple arithmetic, and in line with the decision of the powers that be, a man the age of Macky Sall to become president is yet to be born. The new Senegalese president is 50 years old. So if you deduct 50 from 60, it means the next candidate from another party outside the ruling party to become president is not yet born; he will be born ten years from now. See why Macky Sall is a lucky man? The message here is that Nigerians are, permit the choice of word, stuck with a behemoth and there is about nothing anybody can do to change the prevailing socio economic miasma in the country; no matter the level of insensitivity and, certainly no matter the determination of Nigerians for a peaceful change through the ballot box.
More vexing is the fact that Macky Sall will now have the honour of shaking the hands of leaders who make peaceful change impossible in their countries. Clearly, he must have received congratulatory messages from some of these leaders who, in private, see him as nothing but a spoiler for unseating a fumbling leader through the ballot box. Pray. What, on earth, did he think he has done by gate crashing into an elite club of fumblers? He is on his own if he expects a garland to be hanged on his neck for giving hope to citizens next door that peaceful change was possible. Beyond the façade of fake smiles from State Houses across the continent, Macky Sall should not delude himself that he is on the same page with fumbling democratically elected despots next door; he is not.
The struggling people of Senegal, especially members of the Senegalese Armed Forces, must be congratulated for speaking through the ballot. For whatever reasons, members of the Armed Forces watched from the sides and watched their Commander in Chief destroyed in an election instead of rolling out the tanks to chase out an old man who did not know when it was time to say good bye. The soldiers could have driven out Abdoulaye Wade to the eternal gratitude of the Senegalese, as was the case in Niger Republic when Mamadou Tanja was thrown out after he changed the constitution to elongate his rule. That was Tanja’s undoing; few Nigeriens accused him of non performance in the ten years he ruled. He simply failed to go when he should have.
For similar reasons, Abdoulaye Wade should be congratulated. Like any other fumbling leader, the old man did not do much to stem the tide of growing poverty in Senegal. And like his peers next door, he could have rigged the first ballot or caused the second ballot to be tinkered with. He did try to influence the run off; at least, there were credible reports of his field workers moving from one polling booth to the other with Ghana must go bags, the usual practice of desperate politicians, to hand out pittance to hungry voters. The voters must have taken the money and voted their conscience. But what apparently dissuaded old man Wade to go the whole hog to massively rig the election was the fear of a back lash from the Armed Forces. Mind you, few days to the run off, soldiers next door had thrown out Toumani Toure from State House, Bamako for his poor handling of the rebellion in northern Mali. And though some opposition politicians curiously justified the coup by citing poor handling of the Malian economy, the reason adduced by the soldiers to throw out Toumani Toure was a signal to Wade that a coup was possible in Senegal where there has been grumblings in the Armed Forces over the handling of a rebellion in the Casamance province.
Any lessons here? One good thing going for fumbling leadership in the continent is that Africa has enough humanitarian crises on its hands than to watch akimbo and allow for more. Take Nigeria: you can imagine the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring countries if a quarter of its population, some 40 million people, are forced out to acquire refugee status. It has always been the fear of a humanitarian crisis, not a satisfaction with the performance of its leadership, that has been responsible for dubious pass marks awarded to fraudulent elections in Nigeria. It was this fear that brought Nigeria away from the brink over the June 12 crisis. Don’t blame Nigeria’s neighbours: they will always prevail on the international community to allow a sleeping giant to sleep on so as not to trigger a real long trek with its attendant dislocations. After all, a sleeping giant worries no one: the deeper it sleeps, the better the peace of its neighbours.
There are two ways to ensure the giant continues to sleep. One is to quit pretending that a select few, in spite of their failings, will rule for eternity. Nigeria is top on the receding number of countries where fumbling governments continue to post ridiculous figures in elections. And by continuously telling the electorate to literally go to hell, we are consciously nudging the sleeping giant; we are riding the tiger. The other, of course, is good government, something you don’t get when ill-prepared people are imposed on the people. Or, when people get to leadership positions on compassionate grounds.
Does this sound sensible enough?