The result of his bid to override the bid of the people – in a country that has seen neither military nor constitutional coups – is but a diminished image, as well as street celebrities following the announcement of his defeat.
The praise is rushing in, and the pride spreads across Africa; as once again the continental is able to present a sterling example of the power of the people to drive change and to see it through – where change is a democratically elected government that begins to set a nation on the path to growth. Tyranny is not in our character; neither is weak acquiescence. We cherish freedom, including the liberty to choose and change our leaders.
At the other end of West Africa, in Senegal, the bid of the 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade to manipulate the laws of the country (its constitution stipulated a two-term limit) and disrupt its well-earned image as a peaceful and stable democracy (it is the only West African country never to have witnessed a coup) by running for a third term suffered a much-welcome blow when he finally accepted defeat in the weekend’s run-off elections.
It was an interesting twist of fate, with a heavy dose of irony; after four attempts, and a 30-year period in the opposition, Mr Wade was elected as president in 2000 – heralding an exciting change movement for the country. He had fought severely against the one-party system entrenched in the country since it gained independence from France in 1960 and had been arrested and jailed for his heroic political activities; therefore his attempt to perpetuate himself in power, despite the strident opposition, was a stunning failure in both judgement and character.
Fortunately, he failed. The result of his bid to override the bid of the people – in a country that has seen neither military nor constitutional coups – is but a diminished image, as well as street celebrities following the announcement of his defeat.
But of course, ultimately, even that is beside the point. This action by the people of Senegal was a resounding “no” not just to Mr. Wade, but to the ideology he presents and the bad role models he seems to have copied from, all across the continue. A continent afflicted with sit-tight leaders who somehow have convinced themselves that their personal ambition equals the good of the majority.
The beauty of the Senegalese story is that, eventually, this victory was won peacefully. It’s a tragedy that it first lead to weeks of deadly protest before the first round of voting – and our hearts go to the family of the heroes who died for this freedom – but the ultimate victory though the ballot box signposts another way for a people’s revolution to occur.
It is a pathway that Nigerians of all stripes have spoken about now and again – but as the Senegalese have shown us, it required grit, it requires strength and it requires staying power.
The leaders and the led, united in opposition to tyranny – the influential Mouride Islamic brotherhood refused to endorse Mr. Wade, and several allies joined the opposition to him, and former ministers even ran against him (the president-elect, Macky Sall served with him as prime minister and is in fact a protégé). The Senegalese understood that change – no matter how nebulous, as it surely is in our case – is not one big event, but a sustained battle.
We celebrate our brothers and sisters in Senegal today, and hope that the continent, especially the West African region, takes inspiration from this proud moment.
But while we celebrate them, it would be unwise not to also employ this as a moment for the much-talked about sober reflection in our own country. The lesson from the Senegalese is so poignant it does not need emphasis.
If there is one thing last weekend’s People’s Democratic Party primaries told us – it’s that 2015, the date of Nigeria’s next round of general elections, is already here. And for those Nigerians crying for “change” – where change is a different state of affairs than the status quo – Senegal just sent us a love-note. We should pay close attention to what just happened over there. That is how it’s done.