Time Up For Sit-tight Leaders in Africa

Obi Ebuka Onochie

“Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike” Plato (BC 427 – 374BC).

Open  rigging  and  clinging brazenly  to  power  have  become  common  features  of  emerging  democracies  in  the  world  today  especially  in  Africa.  Many Countries  in  Africa   have  become  accustomed  to  “sit-tight dictators”  or  military  style  of leadership, with  democracy  being  propelled by the West for  their  replacement. This is at the centre of the on-going conflict in many emerging democratic nations. Democratization  of  the  world  today  as  being  championed  by  United  States  of  America  cannot  have  an  easy  ride.  There  has  to  be  a  deliberate  effort  to  build  Institutions  that  will  serve  as  democratic  pillars  before  democracy  can  be  successfully  enthroned  in  Africa.

 Agreed  that  democracy  is  the  political  fashion  of  the  21st  century,  the  question  and  the  problem  that  still  remain unanswered  and  unsolved  are:  what is the worth of democracy  without  economic  prosperity?  What  is  the  purpose  of  it  without  institutions  that  will  serve  as  pillars?  One  begins  to  wonder  when  Africa  and  other  third  world  countries  will get  it  right  especially  with  regard  to the transformation of  their  electoral  processes  and  economies.  The  case of  Nigeria  has shown  that  the  effects  of  electoral  fraud  can  be  deeply  devastating  and  destructive  and  likely  result  in  instability  and  an  immediate  erosion  of a new  government’s  credibility  and  legitimacy.

Starting  from  1970s,  the  world  witnessed four  different  paths  to  democratization.  The  first  is  relatively  peaceful  transition  to  democracy  from  an  authoritarian  regime,  achieved  through  lengthy  negotiations  between  the  rational  factions  and  the  opposition.  Countries  that  used  this  form  of  transitional  method  include  Chile,  Argentina,  Greece,  Uruguay,  Spain,  Portugal. The  second  path  towards  democracy  in  the  late  twentieth  century  involved  countries  coming  out  of  civil  war  through  internationally -sponsored  peace  agreements,  such  countries  as  Mozambique,  Cambodia,  El Salvador,  Angola,  and, recently, Sudan.  These  two  paths  account  for  over  one  hundred  democracies  formed  around  this  period.  The  third  is  the  forced  democratization  resulting  from  U.S  and  allied  occupation  of  countries  like  Iraq  and   Afghanistan.  Finally,  Lebanon  and  the  Palestinian  territories  of  West  Bank  and  Gaza  embraced  democracy  out of  conflict  between  Israel  and  its  Middle  East  neighbours.  Between  the  mid  70s,  and  early  years  of  21st  century,  the  countries  where  democracy  was  introduced  increased  in  number.  But  the  major  threats  to  the  democratization  of  the  third  world  countries  include  intellectual  bankruptcy,  corruption  and  electoral  fraud.  The  recent  presidential  election  in  Ivory  coast  is  a  perfect  example  of  the stagnation of  democracy   the African  continent.


 Looking  at  the  electoral  malpractice  that  has  characterized  elections  in  Africa which unfortunately  Nigeria symbolizes,  what  comes  to  mind  is:  what  are  the  factors  behind  this  irrational  quest  for  power  and  the  unwillingness  to  relinquish  same?  Insecurity  of  life  outside  power,  economic  gain,  political  influence,  dynasty,  et  cetera  are  some  of  the  factors  that  have  kept  genuine  democracy  away  from  most  African  countries.  Without  these  and  other  factors,  what  else  could  have  made  Laurent  Gbagbo  of  Ivory  Coast  cling  to  power  until  his  disgraceful  removal  even  when  the whole  world  acknowledged  that  he  lost  re-election  through  free  and  fair  election?  What  else  could  still  be  keeping  Libyan  leader  Muammar  al-Gaddafi  in  power  after  42  years  even  with  his country coming under  rebel  attacks  and  no fly zone imposed on his country by allied  forces?  Presidents  Yoweri  Museveni  of  Uganda  who  was  recently  re-elected  for  another  term  amid  protest  and  Pedro  Verona  Rodrgues  Pires  of  Cape  Verde  have  been  clinging  to  power  for  the  past  24  years  each.  85  years  old  Robert  Mugabe  of  Zimbabwe  who  has  served  for  30  years  is  still  yet  to  consider  if  it’s  time  to  quite.  Theodoro  Mgbasogo  of  Equatorial  Guinea  has  clung  to  the  seat  of  his  birth  right  for  the  past  31  years  and  the  same  goes  to  Eduado  Santos  of  Angola.  President  Campaore  Blaise  of  Burkina  Faso  who  by  means  of  force  has  been  on  the  throne  for  the  past  two  decades  and  half  is  yet  to  think  of  the  noble  thing  to do.  President  Meles  Zenawi  of  Ethiopia  is  19  years  in power  just  as  presidents  Amadou  Toumani  Toure  of  Mali  and  Idriss  Deby  Itno  of  republic  of  Chad  are  also  19  years  in  power.  Former  president  Zine  al-Abidine  Ben Ali  who  dictated  the  tunes  Tunisians  danced  for  23  years  was  deposed  by  the  new  political  wave  that  pervades  Arab  world  and  north  Africa  presently.  Egyptians  also  kicked  their  sit-tight  president  Muhammad  Hosni  Mubarak  out  of  office  after  30  years  rule.  The  style  of  leadership  in  Togo  and  Gabon  has  been  that  of  dynasty  by  two  self  wisest  families  in  those  countries  and  there  are  still  lots  of  examples  of  sit-tight   never  quit  democratic  dictatorship  in  Africa.


 Nigeria  that  was  seen  at  independence  as  country  that  would  show  other  African  countries  the road  to  true  freedom  and  economic  prosperity  has  been  lagging  behind  in  all  the  indices  of  modern  statehood,  allowing  South  Africa  and  Ghana  to  take the lead.  Nigerians  in  their  wishful  thinking often pride  themselves  as  the  giant  of  Africa.  But  each  time  I  hear  that  slogan,  I  always  ask  myself:  in  what  way  is  Nigeria  the  giant  of  Africa?  Probably  in  an  unproductive  population  and  bad  leadership.  The  world  watches  Nigeria  with  keen  interest  as  2011  elections  have  come  and  gone  to  see  if  Nigeria  will  get  it  right  this  time  around  or  at  least  put  herself  on  the  right  track.


Immediate  past  Tunisia’s  acting  prime  minister  Mohamed  Ghannouchi  promised  to  leave  politics  after  elections  being  planned  in  the  wake  of  former  president  Zine  al-Abedine  Ben  Ali’s  fall  few  months  ago  which  unfortunately  he  will no  longer  be  in  charge.  Our  own,  president  Jonathan  Ebele  Goodluck  Azikiwe (JEGA)  also  in  far  away  Ethiopia  promised  not  only  to  hand  over  after  one  term  but  that  he  would  make  sure  that  2011  election  is  free  and  fair  which  is  now  a  matter  of  perspective.  When  it  was  so  hot  for  former  president  of  Egypt  Muhammad  Hosni  Mubarak,  he  was  no  longer  seeking  for  his  continuity  in  power  but  to  be  allowed  to  stay  until  after  the  next  election  that  is  coming  up  this  year.  These  are  indications  that  sit-tight  style  of  leadership  is  fast  phasing  out  in  Africa  and  a  clarion  call  to  countries  like  Zimbabwe,  Mali,  Burkina  Faso,  Ethiopia,  Equatorial  Guinea,  Uganda,  Cape  Verde,  Angola,  et  cetera  to  embark  on  a  serious  and  truthful  democratic  reforms  before  they  become  casualties  to  latest  political  upheaval  sweeping  across  Arab  world  and  north  Africa  as  we  have  seen  in  Tunisia,  Egypt,  Ivory  coast  and  presently  happening  in  Libya.

Writes  from  University  of  Jos.                                   


13 comment(s)
Post a comment

Its really the time.

Africans should borrow leaf from the Arabs and sack their sit-tight leaders. Nigerians should borrow leaf from Imo state voters and always protect their votes and this will make Nigeria the best democracy in Africa. Sit-tight African leaders that are smart should quite now and the stupid ones should wait be disgraced out of office like Laurent Gbagboo.

American democracy through armoured tanks?

Mr.kokoyam writer, dont teach us rubbish. Name one country in the world where America has installed the ideals that democracy stands for. Just one! From latin america to africa. Is it in Libya where there is civil war or Yemen? Perhaps in Bahrain. Iraq is a good example of the American democracy. Charles Taylor handed over power quietly. Yet the imperialist got him. Who is going to pay for the bombing in Libya? Let them bomb Israel for Palestine.What about Syria? Pls go some where else with yr confused imperialist thoughts on Africa.

Not yet Uhuru contd'

What did Mobutu,Bokassa or Idi Amin Achieve in the end for the countless number of people murdered in their countries? what was the legacy of Eyadema in his impoverished Togo and why would Paul Biya continue to lord it over Cameroon with his bleached wife since 1983? Imagine 1983 when president Shagari was still at state house Marina and Ronald Reagan was preparing to begin his re election campaign? no one should make any mistakes,there is no reason why these men should remain other than the fact that those who should rise up and drive these maniacs away have refused to do so,others have betrayed their nations because of fear or money,but freedom and liberty only has meaning when it is prized in blood.Maybe it is time for a revolution by the African people.

Not yet Uhuru

The Arab spring uprising succeeded in bringing to limelight,in the case of conflict of interest between the leadership and citizenry of a country,who does the armed forces defend? resolving this fundamental question will help us in shaping how a country should be governed and where power lies,in all these countries mentioned by this writer,there exists conflicts of ideas and deeds emanating from who should govern a country,we see nostalgic feelings from these African leaders of medieval style monarchs almost like the czars and emperors


Which way Nigeria??.A man of 50yrs no be small man again oo so,make we stop this blames of colo masters,person wey dey colo una wan listen to??, me i tire oo.

Sit-tight Leader in the Making

Jonathan does not want a second term then or for now because the North is restive and he has not connected the right dots with the right Northerners. Thats why they are burning their houses.

He told Robin Sanders he is not Good and is not running but he Ran and Won???

Now he is talking about four years being too short, about taking two and half years to know the ministry employees and another six months to know their families and relatives.

Maybe he wants an eight years term and after that maybe a second term. But I am sure he will ask for a third term like OBJ his Benefactor knowing where he is coming from.

There is an Igbo adage that says you know a Cock from the first minute it comes out from the egg.


No hope for Africa, the so called democracy is even the peak of the self-deceit.


Time up, bad leaders

We at NigerianPro.com also say time up to unemployment and slothfulness to Nigerians professionals. Time up to unskilled public servants and bad leaders whose only source of income is public funds meant for development.

africa in transition

The article is well written. i am surprised at the number of sit-tight leaders currently in africa. it is a high african youths takes their destiny in their hands and remove these unfit dictators. the north africans have shown the power of unity and why can't it happen in sub-sahara africa.

Yes.....Time for sit tight leaders in Africa

It's time for African leaders to sit tight because the world is becoming a Global village.Open  rigging  and  clinging brazenly  to  power  have  become  common  features  of  emerging  democracies  in  the  world  today  especially  in  Africa.  Many Countries  in  Africa   have  become  accustomed  to  “sit-tight dictators”  or  military  style  of leadership, with  democracy  being  propelled by the West for  their  replacement.

Yes.....Time for sit tight leaders in Africa

It's time for African leaders to sit tight because the world is becoming a Global village.Open  rigging  and  clinging brazenly  to  power  have  become  common  features  of  emerging  democracies  in  the  world  today  especially  in  Africa.  Many Countries  in  Africa   have  become  accustomed  to  “sit-tight dictators”  or  military  style  of leadership, with  democracy  being  propelled by the West for  their  replacement.

Hear the Alarm Indeed!

Yes, time is up for sit tight leaders/leadership throughout Africa. The "quest for power" and the reluctance to give it up is not"irrational behaviour", on the contrary, it is normal human behaviour, but personal growth and national sacrifice/patriotism(adherence to the Rule of Law) are the reason why leader in "enlightened" countries willfully "give up" power when the People "withdraw their mandates. To make this sacrifices, one has to have respect for Laws of their country, and for themselves. Most African Leaders lack these qualities, thus their propensity for selfishness and a reticence to give up power

As it it's suppose to be

Nigeria, to be honest without fear or favor must go on its already naturally divided own way, lest there remain the problem without solution as caused by unwilling unity of colonial beast-masters called Amalgamation!

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Comments are limited to a maximum of 1000 characters.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <p> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.