“African leaders do not resign, that’s cowardice and the fact that UK Prime Minister-David Cameron has just resigned confirms everything I have said about him—he is weak and a coward.” President (now Ex) Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 2016.
The recent confusion about what is happening in Zimbabwe, with President Robert Mugabe refusing to resign, (now he has finally resigned, 21 November 2017) even when pressured and being pampered has again brought to the fore the obstinacy that exists in Africa when it comes to resigning or relinquishing power voluntarily.
In Mugabe’s case, as a friend from Kenya wrote to me, the Zimbabwean Defence Forces are merely exercising “soft power” – getting others to want the outcomes you want – and co-opting people rather than coercing them. This can be contrasted with “hard power”, which is the use of force and coercion. In other words, the Zimbabweans are being very civilised about removing Mr Mugabe, even after 37 years of holding absolute power.
In our modern history, after most African countries became independent from their several colonial masters, very few African leaders relinquished power voluntarily. In most cases, they are forcibly removed, and in some cases, their ends were not pretty. Did they need to go through the shame, or put their family and even people through such terrible and uncertain times? In some cases, the whole country is plunged into civil strife, instability, poverty, and misery.
African and Nigeria’s top political leaders and their cohorts in the civil service don’t resign as a way of assuming political or civic responsibility for problems in their portfolios. They very rarely account publicly for their responsibilities, or own up when problems arise. Instead, the usual trend is to sit tight and wait to be forcibly pushed out or, if they are lucky, die in office.
Equally rare are resignations of senior people associated with, or in government. Even public pressure fails to force them to resign. In other words, they do not take public culpability for their actions or in most cases, inactions.
Have you ever wondered why public officers (appointed or elected), officials, civil servants, and politicians never offer to resign or step aside while investigations go on when they are accused of wrongdoing and corruption issues?
I did a bit of research and thinking, and these are the reasons that popped out:
- Primarily, the Indiscipline, Impunity, and Disregard for the laws of the land, because they are not strictly, even if partially, implemented and enforced, allows a lot of impunity from everybody, most especially, people in government. This kind of thing hardly happens in private sector.
- Secondly, some of our warped cultural and moral values also give backing to the fact that people in high places deem it as a loss of face for them to resign. Resignation or stepping aside when accused of wrongdoing is tantamount to admission of guilt. And it seems alien to our culture to admit guilt when millions of people are looking up to you as a “Big Man”. Resign? No, Sir, Africans don’t resign, they are either forced out or die in office.
- Third, Cover-up: If I resign when accused of wrongdoing, then I am exposing myself, exposing my arse, because if I do that, then I will not be able to conceal or destroy evidence. I will not be able to have a measure of control over the impending investigation. No, I must be there when they are conducting their so-called farcical investigations!
- Fourthly, my enemies have won if I resign. God forbid bad thing! I will be back down at the bottom of the ladder and all those I climbed over to get to the top will ridicule me and get back at me. All arrows shot at me by my enemies shall not prosper. It will not be in their eyes that I will go down.
- Number five; why resign when I know I won’t be found guilty anyway? I will weather the storm. Isn’t it Nigerians? They will shout and cry and splash the news of my alleged wrongdoing all over the newspapers, and let me just keep a low profile, go to the church and mosque, do some praying and offer tithes, and God will deliver me from the hands of mine enemies, and in a few months, the brouhaha will die down.
- Sixth, Association: Am I the only one doing it? Others are doing it too and not resigning, and getting away with it, so what is mine to leap into the water and drown? Naah! If I go down, others involved will have to go down too.
- Seventh, the word RESIGN or as we say it in the UK, GO ON GARDEN LEAVE does not exist in the Nigerian lexis. It is alien. Virtually unknown and unheard of. It never crosses the mind that that is the right thing to do, both under the law and morally.
- Eighth, it is Disrespectful to be asked to resign or leave your position in government. For many “Big Men” in public or political office, we take it as a personal insult of the highest order to be asked to proceed on temporary leave or to resign. That means you don’t respect them or their office.
- Ninth, according to ex-President Robert Mugabe above, it is Cowardice for an African leader or in high position of public trust to resign. What the heck!!! The man is a warrior of many ages past, coming from a long line of fighters and celebrated heroes. He must die at the warfront as a valiant soldier. He/she could even have descended from one of the Fathers of the Nation, an icon in his own right. No, you don’t disgrace such people even if they are wallowing in culpability and shame. There must be a way out, and that way is to stay put.
- Tenth, according to Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, the Editor of GhanaCelebrities.com, African politicians are always on “a desperate run to remain at post because politics is the source of his daily bread and fused with their power drunkenness, ego and greed”. The same could be said of the civil servants and other elected or appointed public officials too.
- And eleventh, unbelievably, there are always sycophants and hangers-on, who have benefitted from the official’s illegal and ill-gotten largesse, who will be spurring him on to stay and fight, because if their man resigns, then “chop don comot for dem mouth too”. Simple as that. Yet, if the man falls, they don’t go to prison or disgrace with him, they find another source of easy income. That’s life anyway.
It is indeed difficult for the African public official to resign from an office or position or to relinquish power when he’s a leader. In a way, I have some pity and understanding for them; they are products of the society that begets them, so it is difficult to depart from the norm and genetic trait.. Now you know the reason our political emancipation, socio-economic and human developments have always been in jeopardy.
The good news however, is that this phenomenon, a typical African trait, is changing. Leaders and public officials are finding it increasingly difficult to hide, and to sweep thing under the carpet. The people are becoming more aware of issues of governance, development, and service delivery, and the misdemeanours, corruption, and other malfeasances (conduct by a public official that cannot be legally justified or that conflicts with the law) of political leaders, public officials and civil servants are increasingly being exposed. It is not business as usual.
They must be made accountable and responsible for their actions, or inactions. They must be made to know the “seats of power or authority” that they occupy is not divine; not their birth right and is only temporary. Power is transient; it does not belong to any one person. And power, when you have it, must not be abused and is to be used justly and fairly for the benefit of the weak.
Let’s keep applying pressure, all kinds of pressure, on our leaders and public servants. Let them know and feel the power of the people, by whose grace they got into power, instead of them alluding to God for letting them get into power.
Let the Truth be told always!!!!!!
Akintokunbo A. Adejumo can be reached via email at [email protected]