A Tale Of Two Nations And Their Leadership

by Felix-Abrahams Obi

Life is full of tales that punctuate and define our past history which inadvertently impact our present realities. Tales and folklore have played a vital role in helping to transmit our collective heritage of our forebears to succeeding generations of Africans. Our institutional memories are not necessarily archived in museums and exhibition halls in Europe. We live within the slushy grips of the fading shadows of the past that deeply have been etched into our corporate psyche. Under the shadows of tree boughs, the shimmering and alluring rays of the moon will glow over our heads, as we encircle and listen with rapt attention to the “Story Teller” at the village square or kindred-playground. Each tale with its encoded morale had an objective; to transform and guide our developing mindset as African children with the values of truth, justice , equity and other virtues which are encapsulated in the ‘tales by moonlight’. Each story or anecdote helped to shape-up our sense of right and wrong such that the telling of tales helped in no small way to guide and inform our conducts and choices in life.

Life itself is storyteller of great repute. It records and stores the choices we make individually to which will help in crafting what our posterity and offspring will call history. The consequences and the ripple effect of all actions (and omissions) we take and decisions we make collectively tell an undeniable story for all to see and ponder. Hence when we tell and live a story with our lives, there is little anyone can do to erase or modify how it is recorded in the annals of the society’s psyche and history. This lesson of ‘story telling’ with our actions recently has been brought home in Africa’s two most powerful and politically influential nations that have been jostling to represent Africa in the Expanded UN Security Council. Nigeria and South Africa undoubtedly have played prominent roles in directing the flow of political energies in Africa. The two nations are economically entwined that they can hardly survive without the cooperation of each other. South African conglomerates and big corporations have dug their money-spinning rigs deep into the Nigerian economy. Thousands of Nigerian businessmen have South African partners, and a lot of South African-based Nigerian businessmen and professionals have stirred envy in the heart of average South Africans because of their successes and giant strides.

Interestingly, the presidents of both nations are ‘unavoidably’ absent at the ongoing UN Summit holding at the UN Headquarters in New York. Domestic problems have been singled out as part of the reasons for their glaring absence. The presidents of the two nations have witnessed an interesting turbulence in their political career in the past couple of weeks. While President Yardua is repositioning to prevent the self-fulfillment of the ill-foreboding prophesy of rumour mongers that he would resign after the imminent cabinet shake-up due to ill health , Thabo Mbeki since last week have had to add ‘ex-president’ to his titles. He could not survive the grinding of the rumour mills that led to his voluntarily ‘forced’ resignation before the end of his second tenure as South Africa’s second democratically elected president. While Yardua reportedly is trying to reposition to have a firmer grip on the government as well as reinforcing and strengthening the political powers of his vice, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Mbeki was supposedly shown the rear door for purportedly meddling and conspiring with detractors to stymie the political fortunes of his deputy, Jacob Zuma after years of painful political investments.

In Nigeria, the rumour was about a phantom presidential resignation plan, while in South Africa, the presidential resignation has now become a reality. Thabo Mbeki may have been coerced by his party to resign, but he had bowed out honourably to show an example to other African presidents who obviously are too scared of losing their political fortunes and return on political investments. While presidential resignation happened without much of fireworks in South Africa, the idea of a purported presidential resignation in Nigeria has generated a lot of shock waves because it led to a ‘breach in national security’ and the hapless heralds of the spam news faced the wrath of the suzerain class. The attendant resignation of key cabinet members in South Africa in solidarity with Mbeki has brought another dimension to political loyalty and selflessness. One wonders how many serving Ministers and Political Appointees would have voluntarily resigned had President Yardua been ‘forced to resign’ by his party for any reason as was the case of Mbeki.

Has anyone ever wondered what the ‘second’ democratically elected presidents of Nigeria and South Africa had seen in their deputies that motivated them to make overt efforts to prevent their deputies from ascending to the presidential seat after their second tenure? Could there have been something ominous that both Obasanjo and Mbeki had respectively seen in Atiku and Zuma that made them cringe in fear, which elicited that their obvious desire for tenure elongation? Why did Obasanjo ‘handpick’ Yardua to ensure that Atiku and other presidential hopefuls were frustrated out of the race? But in this one area where Obasanjo succeeded, Mbeki seem to have flunked helplessly. In the battle for relevance in their respective political parties, Obasanjo succeeded in cornering some degree of executive power in the PDP’s boardroom, while Mbeki has failed to become the head of his party, ANC. Mbeki’s loss became Zuma’s gain. Yet still, with all the perceived political losses in his kitty, Mbeki will be remembered for setting an epoch-making precedence for the present and future political leaders in Africa. He resigned for the common good of South Africans, and may not be remembered or vilified for his minor political sins!

Mbeki’s example gnaws rudely at the selfish tendencies of other sit-tight African leaders like Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe who had courted the help of Mbeki to prevent his political boat from a fatal shipwreck. His smooth resignation that paved the way for the appointment of an interim president in South Africa is no mean achievement. What used to be alien and unthinkable among Africa’s political leadership has now been proven to be as easy as dictating the text of the resignation letter to a presidential aide, and submitting same to the people’s representatives. Mbeki may be no saint to be canonized and venerated in every sense of the word, however, it’s my submission that Dr. Nelson Mandela will heave a deep sigh of relief for the mere reason that another African president has joined the rank of noble statesmen who will now be in a position to mentor future African leaders through their vision, courage, selflessness and humility!

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