The Togolese Republic is a small country in terms of population, landmass, natural resources, power and influence. It is a small country that has given birth to a great many nasty and unspeakable things. Beginning from its political independence in 1960, and especially since the cold-blooded murder of Sylvanus Olympio by the despotic Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo has not failed to disappoint and awe those who shudder at Africa’s absurdities. Togo is a country that rivals Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Somalia, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo and many other countries in terms of corruption, misrule, abuse of power and many other unsavory attributes that characterizes African politics. I guess great things come in small sizes, too!
After the murder of Olympio in 1963, followed by the sacking of Nicolas Grunitzky in 1967, Togo has not been the same. For over three decades, Togolese patiently waited for Eyadema to die or be overthrown in a military coup. He died in office instead. Ordinarily, the death of despotic and malevolent leaders should be a cause for celebration. But somehow, the Togolese military and the ruling elites found a way to checkmate the vast majority of the populace who were about to celebrate the passing of a maleficent.
Eyadema belong to the group of African leaders who tormented their own people, promoted tribalism, collaborated with foreign agents to deplete their natural resources, stole from the public coffers and institutionalized theft and corruption and abridged the constitution. Granted there were a handful of “saints,” Africa, for the most part, has produced a long line of rodents, bastards, bats, leeches, vampires, and Pharisees. Mengistu Haile Mariam, Hissene Habre, Bokassa Jean-Bedel, Paul Biya, Samuel Doe, Joseph Mobutu, Teodoro Nguema, Sekou Toure, Said Barre and the evil twins — Abacha and Babangida — are just a few of the duplicitous men who have rained venoms on the continent and sucked their people dry of their humanity.
Africa was thought to be making progress as the wind of change slowly caressed the continent. Dictators, despots and their ilk were dying off. And reminiscent of the period immediately following political independence, hopes were high and the expectation was that “Destiny is our friend.” In the ivory towers, in the market places and in the hills, valleys and mountains and waters that strides and bound the continent, hopes were raised, arms stretched in anticipation for democratization, democracy and political and economic liberalization. And that perhaps, our dark and bloody days are behind us. Perhaps…until Eyadema and his cronies decided to introduce a quicksand into the mix of things!
And so it is that even in death, Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema refuses to stop tormenting his people and his land! Even as he was about to be consumed by a raging well of fire, his tentacles, prints, breathe and desire could be seen in all facets of Togo’s polity. In this regard, he gave his people and his land his son, Faure Gnassingbe. This forced-gift his people must not accept. This is a gift the African continent must also reject! This smut, this abracadabra must not be allowed to stand!
The African Union and especially the ECOWAS must not let this palace-coup in Togo stand! Furthermore, President Olusegun Obasanjo must tell the Togolese military and the ruling elite that their actions are extrajudicial and are therefore unacceptable! He must be forceful and unequivocal! And if the coupists and their conspirators are not willing to follow or allow for due process, then African Union must intervene, first diplomatically and if need be, militarily!
We have already gone through four decades of coups, attempted coups and counter coups; but now that the wind of democratization, democracy and political liberalization is blowing across the continent, we cannot and must not allow this rubbish, this nonsense, and this blatant illegality to stand! If care is not taken, we might have a repeat of the unfortunate and unfolding events in Cote D’Ivoire. My goodness, what is wrong with us Africans? Why must we keep consigning ourselves to a lifetime of doom and damnation?
What happened in Togo is a sad commentary and it reflects poorly on us as Africans. Therefore, Faure Gnassingbe must go…now! He must leave. If the constitution permits, he may return through constitutional means agreed to by the vast majority of Togolese. As a Togolese, Faure has the right to contest; but this must be done constitutionally.
If Faure Gnassingbe is allowed to remain in power illegally, it will set a sickening precedence for other African despots to follow. For instance, what stops Paul Biya of Cameron from installing his son? Isn’t Hosni Mubarak’s son waiting to ascend Egypt’s presidency? How ambitious, cunning and scheming are the leaders in Niger, Botswana, Mali, Equatorial Guinea, and a host of other African countries? To discourage a repeat of the palace coup in Togo therefore, this hocus pocus must not be allowed to stand.
Moreover, coupists all over the African continent are watching and waiting in the wings to see what will become of Togo and Faure. If this illegality is overtly or covertly sanctioned, it will be a signal for other excessively ambitious and reckless military thugs and their conniving civilian partners to extralegally sack governments. Africa cannot afford to return to an era of coups, attempted coups and counter coups. Furthermore, in an age when most of the world is progressively inching towards freedom and constitutionalism, Africa cannot afford to be the pariah of the international community.
The African landscape is filled with predatory rule, failing and collapsed nation-states, wars, irredentism, poverty and corruption and environmental illnesses. For the hopefuls, all these ills can be cured and or managed. But for the pessimists, nothing would have changed. But either way, if we allow illegalities and absurdities a free rein — as is the case in Togo and with the Eyademas — then recovery, growth and progress will be slow, painful and energy sapping. Africa must learn to leave its inglorious past behind. Africans must learn to embrace greatness — greatness and progress that was once assured.