Friday, January 2, 2009

80 is not the new 60

To all the African leadership I want to offer this piece of advice: don’t believe everything that you see on TV, or hear on the radio. Fifty is not the new thirty; forty is not the new 20; and 80 is definitely not the new 60! Don’t think that an 80 year old man who marries a 29 year old bride automatically drops down in age to 60. No! 80 is still the same old 80, and forty is still the same old forty.

Part of the reason why Africa is in such a mess is that we have a gerontocracy in leadership. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is now 80. On TV he looks like a walking mummy. He clearly has no solution to the problems of Egypt’s teeming masses. President Kibaki of Kenya looks clueless on TV. He loses himself when giving speeches and he is forever tired. President Biya of Cameroon is in his mid-seventies, and President Bongo of Gabon is also in his seventies. President Biya is forever visiting French hospitals to cure his many ailments. In fact, he spends more time in France than in Cameroon. Why not just step down to allow a younger leader to take over? The same goes for President Bongo. How someone who acceded to the Presidency in 1967 is still the President defies any sense of realism and common sense. Mzee Bongo is apparently in good health, but he just prefers living in France to his own Gabon. Why be the President of a country when you would rather be elsewhere?

Do forum members still remember the last days of Le Vieux, Houphouet-Boigny? To this day I still can't tell for sure whether his aides had been propping him up on a chair and he actually had been dead along. His eyes were glazed, there was no hand-movement and he had a fixed smile. He looked dead to me, and yet nevertheless, he was still the President. Meanwhile, his loyal deputies such as Konan Bedie were busy wrecking the country. It’s been downhill ever since and I doubt Cote D’Ivoire will ever recover from its problems in one piece.

What about Ngwazi Mawawa, Kamuzu Banda in Malawi. In his last years he was still ruling Malawi when he was over 100years old, wheelchair-bound, and always pushed by his "assistant" Mama Kadzamira. And yet he still was the President, spitting into a spittoon as he wondered what the hell was going on in this world. Meanwhile the family of his assistant/paramour (Mama Kadzamira) were busy helping themselves to the state coffers. I can also add the late President of Guinea, Lansana Conte, who had been bed-ridden for ten years or so suffering from diabetes and other ailments.

Leaders in their early forties to mid-fifties should be in charge of African countries. To have leaders in their mid-70s and early 80s has proven to be disastrous for all African countries affected, and this must cease to be. We need relative youth and dynamism at the top.

James Chikonamombe


Joshua said...

Why didn't you include Mugabe in that list?

James Chikonamombe said...

No need to. It's implicit in the meassage.