Opinion

If BBI heralds a dictatorship, that would be a catastrophe

If BBI heralds a dictatorship, that would be a catastrophe
  • Lack of empathy in our leaders explains why they find it easy to spend a health budget solely on themselves or why dictators are blind to the people’s suffering.
  • There is nothing weak about retiring when your term ends. There is nothing weak about having a hobby either. Politics is not a hobby.

I have always wondered if African leaders have a hobby — say, something like golf — which could keep them busy when their term comes to an end.

I am also thinking of volunteerism or knitting, baking or even painting. Things they enjoy doing, not what they employ others to do, such as farming, as The Gambia’s deposed Yahya Jammeh does in exile.

Former US President Jimmy Carter has been busy joining in to help build houses for the poor — at 95!

Former Presidents Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo are the only three African leaders that come to mind who have been busy working to advance good governance in Africa.

The rest hold on to their seats as if their lives depend on them — which it does in many cases.

President Paul Biya of Cameroon, at 86, who is one of the longest-serving African leaders — with Equatorial Guinea’s Nguema in second place — was filmed struggling to walk in Paris this month to attend a summit.

DICTATORSHIP

Incidentally, it was reported that Biya has run his country from Geneva, Switzerland, for the better part of his presidency.

Who would forget late Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe sleeping away during conferences in his 90s trying hard to fight off death!

Next door, Yoweri Museveni is using Africa’s tried and tested method of intimidation of the opposition to hang on to power in Uganda.

The whispers being made of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) — whose task force report could be released Tuesday — aiming to change the Constitution to give President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga future tokens in the name of premiership — have the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

It will be a travesty if the BBI heralds a dictatorship at a time when dictators are becoming extinct.

It boggles the mind to see African politicians going hammer and tongs to accede to power in a poor country which they leave worse off when they depart.

TERRIBLE END RESULT

Africa has very rarely benefited from overstaying presidents. Dictatorship has caused agony to both its subjects and the masters — the former falling foul of bad leadership and the latter ending up dead or kicked out in a smoke of controversy and bloodshed, ruining not just their legacy but those of their kith and kin.

If a leader has not succeeded in emancipating his people economically in the 50 years of his rule, what new magic wand does he have to do it in five years of rolling dictatorship?

I watched a documentary some time ago on how a villa that was built by late President Idi Amin of Uganda had been left in rack and ruin.

The location in Uganda — “The Pearl of Africa” — was a feast for the eyes, given the beauty of the rolling green plains and blue skies.

The perfect place for retiring and holding counsel with other leaders and grandchildren. But the reeds and the trees that grew out of the walls of the crumbling villa are now a jungle overrun by wild animals.

There are many such presidential homes in Africa that fell into disrepair because the owners fled after uprising against their dictatorial rule.

PSYCHOPATHS

Mugabe’s marble-and-gold palatial home was built at the height of economic hardship for many Zimbabweans.

Ironically, he is not around to enjoy it, and neither could he take it to his grave.

On the other hand, former President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, dubbed “the poorest president”, retired into a Bungalow in his village with just his dog, wife and an old VW Beetle car. He has since declined his pension as well.

Sometimes one is forgiven to think all the psychopaths were packed together and sent to Africa to lead.

You ask who a psychopath is? Dr Robert Hare, the psychologist who came up with PCL-R (Psychopathic Checklist-Revised) testing model found that a higher percentage of psychopaths were among prison population and company chief executives.

The PCL-R test uses 20 checklists to diagnose a psychopath. Some of these are superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, lying pathologically, narcissistic, lack of empathy, manipulative and promiscuous sexual behaviour.

Lack of empathy in our leaders explains why they find it easy to spend a health budget solely on themselves or why dictators are blind to the people’s suffering.

DIGNITY

I guess it might even be useful to subject Kenya’s political aspirants to the PCL-R test as a way of fighting corruption. Who knows, it might be the solution to corruption!

Former US President Barack Obama must have been speaking to African leaders recently when he said, “There’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There’s nothing weak about looking out for others. There’s nothing weak about being honourable. You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”

And, I would add, there is nothing weak about retiring when your term ends. There is nothing weak about having a hobby either. Politics is not a hobby.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. @kdiguyo