President Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe may be an octogenarian but senility cannot be said to be afflicting him for now. He may manifest certain traits of paranoia sometimes but the old dictator is as fit as a fiddle. He is roundly educated and understands how to survive politically even when everyone else thought his political demise is nigh. Mugabe may symbolise a Zimbabwe that has virtually collapsed economically but the old Bob is not in any hurry to go down in history as one of the Presidents that voluntarily retired or resigned when the ovation is loudest or at its lowest ebb.
That is why at any given opportunity he not only barks at his political opponents at home and abroad but bites. More often than not he chooses never to ignore any derogatory statement from any quarters. Academically unchallenged President Mugabe is respected worldwide for his brilliance even though most of his admirers have an issue with his local dictatorship. At home he is seen in some quarters as a hero and in others as a villain, a murderer and an illegitimate leader.
Taking on retiring President Bush or the British PM Gordon Brown is one of his favourite hobbies. For President Bush and Prime Minister Brown Mugabe is the problem with Zimbabwe and nothing short of his exit from power is good enough. Recently the Bush administration was reported to have castigated Mugabe declaring forcefully that the moribund power-sharing arrangement with the opposition MDC party no longer enjoyed the American support since Mugabe is hell-bent on sabotaging it for his selfish power gains. In fact the Americans inadvertently advocated for a regime change as a way out of the Mugabe muddle in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe characteristically mounted the podium and fired back telling whoever cared to listen that he was not ready to follow President George Bush to his political grave. He maintained that Bush was set to die politically soon and he was not prepared to accompany him to his political demise! Never mind that the American food aid has saved millions of Zimbabweans from starvation.
And for Gordon Brown he raised the issue of Mad Cow disease wondering if the British PM was not one of its many victims. Mugabe was reacting to the British PM’s statement that linked bad governance to the cholera epidemic that broke out in Zimbabwe killing hundreds and stretching the medical capacities of the Zimbabwean doctors and health facilities.
And President Mugabe does not spare the African leaders or countries that failed to mind their own business either. Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, whose diplomatic tactlessness and impetuosity could be compared to that of Tom Ikimi under the Sani Abacha tyranny, had issued a castigating statement that sought to convey the Nigerian government’s stance about the presidential election or the re-run in Zimbabwe that produced a one-man candidacy and ‘victory’ of Robert Mugabe with the MDC having withdrawn from the race. The Nigerian government criticised the outcome saying it does not recognise Mugabe’s presidency based on the unfair outcome of the poll. That incensed Mugabe who came out smoking with blistering counter-attack. He declared that Nigeria was not qualified to give lessons on electoral standards or cleanliness.
His argument was based on the April 2007 presidential electoral scam nay heist in Nigeria that produced the Yar’Adua presidency. He literally told us to put our house in order before seeking to recommend to others how theirs should be maintained! Just see the mess ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Maurice Iwu has put us into! The African giant can no longer issue a diplomatic statement without some little countries and despots talking down on her? The big brother can no longer rebuke with moral capital on her side?
Imagine the Yar’Adua administration sending General Ibrahim Babangida to Guinea to deliver a strong message of discontent with the coup d’etat that brought in Captain Dadis Camara after the death of dictator Lansana Conte! IBB, a chronic coup plotter and embezzler of political morality, went to Guinea to ‘congratulate’ Captain Camara and came back to Nigeria to justify the coup. He declared that the coup was a popular one like his and that the Guinean boys had saved their country from ethnic strife. Whatever had anyone expected from a military coupist in matters like this? Chief Ojo Maduekwe was issuing warnings and deadlines to the coup plotters in Conakry as if they were students under his command only for the ‘evil genius’ to contradict him saying in essence that Captain Camara and co needed the support of everyone.
Just few hours from now President George W. Bush is programmed officially to ‘die’ presidentially in America after eight turbulent years in majestic power. President-elect Barack Obama will be taking over on Tuesday January 20th in a four-year presidency that is roundly challenged. The inauguration of the first-ever ‘black’ President is epochal in many senses. But before the current President of the free world dies politically there is need to examine briefly his stewardship and his legacy.
George Bush came into the White House controversially after a presidential battle in 2000 against Al Gore. Then VP Gore lost out narrowly in the Supreme Court. Al Gore has since moved on with his life winning awards for his environmental campaigns and sensitizations. Gore without any shred of doubt would have made a better President but Americans saw something most of us never saw in a Bush dynasty. As G W Bush mounted the most powerful post in the world his young presidency was rudely subjected to a catastrophic awakening as the terrorists struck on Sept. 11 sending shock waves around the world. Bush exhibited courage in the face of the worst attack America had ever seen as he launched the global war on terror.
Eight years on the Bush presidency has suffered its lowest approval ratings and he is indeed leaving office with the highest disapproval rating since Richard Nixon was consumed by the Watergate scandal. A legacy of two foreign wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) that have cost American lives and billions of dollars to prosecute will be one of the challenges facing President Obama as he works on a pull-out. Another is the crisis facing the American dream.
The famous American can-do spirit is at its lowest ebb, something the in-coming President Obama says he is coming to reclaim. The worst economic recessions triggered by the worst economic collapse since the 1930s has reduced the hope and trust in the American capitalist regime with a global knock-on effects. As President Bush said in his farewell speech: “Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. And there are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right.” Sadly there is no other “chance” to correct the mistakes!
But the Bush presidential score-card is not all negatives. The security of American lives and property has improved post-9/11. The Homeland Security network is working. He must be remembered as the President who donated the fattest fiscal envelope in form of developmental aid to Africa. That gesture alone showed him as a friend of Africa in need of development. The 43rd president will also be remembered for his decisiveness and forthrightness, a cowboy from Texas who was not afraid to take on the terrorists.
Osama Bin Laden and his Al Quaeda terrorist group are not the only ones that will happily celebrate the Bush political eclipse. The Arabs, the shoe-thrower of Baghdad particularly and President Mugabe will surely rejoice in the event. But as they rejoice the rest of humanity will not only be praying and hoping for the ultimate defeat of terror in the world but also for Mugabe to follow suit and die politically (and naturally as well) if only to save Zimbabwe from complete expiration.
This is wishing the
43rd president a safe and sound retirement and the 44th a safe and sound presidency. Both are great men in their own rights, history will remember them for good or bad.