MOHAMMAD ALI: THE LAST OF THE CAMELOT GIANTS. A TRIBUTE.

BY PROFESSOR A. BOLAJI AKINYEMI

Nigerian Minister of External Affairs, 1985-87

My generation by which I mean the generation which came into political and social consciousness in the 1960s was lucky in the sense that we had many real heroes, men and women from whom we drew inspiration, who made us feel that the best was within reach and that God’s mission on earth was achievable by doing good. They did not come any greater than John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrick Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Kaduna Nzeogwu, Francis Fajuyi and yes, Mohammed Ali (the Greatest boxer of all times.). It was also the age of independence for African states, an age that liberated not just territories but the can-do spirit of the whole world.

It reminded us of the can-do and elevating atmosphere prevalent in the court of King Arthur and his knights of the roundtable. That Court was known as Camelot.

But it was also an unfortunate generation because we watched helplessly as each one of our heroes was assassinated, overthrown, and incaserated. It was a generation that watched as dreams were aborted. We watched as the dreams of independence turned into the nightmare of massacres, genocide, civil wars and kleptocracy.

Now, the last of the Camelot Titans, Mohammad Ali is gone, just gone.

I met Ali only once in Lagos during the Shagari period. The United States under Jimmy Carter was trying to organize a boycott of the Moscow Olympic games then due to be held in Moscow. Mohammed Ali was sent by the Carter Administration to lobby African States to join in the boycott. I was still at the Institute of International Affairs as the Director-General and Professor Isaya Audu was the Foreign Minister. I turned up in Professor Audu’s office on appointment only to be told to wait a while as an unexpected visitor had shown up. Soon, the door opened and I leapt up as Ali floated out in a boxing posture as he exited the Foreign Minister’s office. Then we shook hands. Professor Audu said jokingly that Ali should seek to persuade me about the Moscow boycott. That Ali went on diplomatic missions on behalf of the United States showed that even though he was against the Vietnam War and was against racism in the United States, he was not against the United States. He had a presence and a charm that masked the gritty determination of his beliefs. Ali showed a more profound and nuanced opposition to racism in the United States than most of the leaders of the anti-discrimination movements. The singular act of changing his name from Cassius Clay Jr. to Mohammad Ali sent a more powerful message as a symbolic message than a thousand marches. Ali was probably, actually definitely, not aware of the linkage between Islam and Arab slave trade in Africa. A later awareness of this in his later years might account for his switch from Sunni Islam to Sufism (another variant of Islam). Ali was a master of the grand gesture, gestures timed for maximum effect. Without a university education, not to talk of any specialization in psychology, he used psychology to devastating effect against his opponents before they even climbed into the ring.

Ali, the master performer, elevated boxing from the basement of the poor to the sitting room of royalty and billionaires. Boxing will miss him; sports will miss him; humanity will miss him.

He survived in spite of the fact that he did not play safe. He took on the American system when in 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam otherwise called the Nation of Islam and when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Those who took on the system especially in 60s and 70s usually paid with their lives as one hero after another got hunted down by the invisible forces that form the underbelly of rapacious and vicious system. Mohammad Ali survived.

The death of our heroes, speaking for my generation, did not kill our dreams.  Those who kill often do not realize that dreams cannot be killed. They sow seeds that germinate over time and hopefully serve to inspire another generation.

You said you were the Greatest. So say we all. Your death brings to mind the immortal words of John Donne in his poem “For whom the bell tolls” when he wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for thee”

Good night Mohammad Ali

Professor A. Bolaji Akinyemi

June 5, 2016

 

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AMERICAN HUNGER

As an ambitious, searching young man, Cassius Clay invented himself, and became 
the most original and magnetic athlete of the century—Muhammad Ali.

The Change We See And The Change We Await

By Bunmi Makinwa May 19, 2016

There is a lot of public discussion around what has changed since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration assumed office. In the media and on the streets the debate continues. When during the acute fuel scarcity recently attendants at a petrol station refused to sell fuel into jerrycans, a customer who had been waiting for a long time exploded in frustration, “This na change, hey? No light, no fuel for generators.” Another customer rejoined, mockingly, “Na change be dat.” A third customer said, “I voted for change but not like dis.”

It is frequent to read and hear that nothing has changed, or that the country is worse off now than it was in the past. Given the hardship all around on many fronts, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety and frustration. If one does not have electricity for days, weeks; and fuel to run generators is not available, if fuel is very expensive when available; if stories of kidnap for ransom are frequent; if the news is often that cattle herders kill people wantonly; if many employees of state governments are not paid, and university graduates have no jobs, and prices of foods, consumables, rent…keep increasing, there is a lot to be unhappy about.

Yet one should strive to have a sense of balance. Especially in written discourse, there ought to be deeper reflection and analysis, no matter how easy it may seem to lean on negative generalities. There are serious changes that are taking place in the country, and for good, despite the numerous problems facing the populace at present. Many of the difficulties being witnessed are attributable to years of bad governments, misrule, abuse of office and corruption. Some of the hardship are pains that accompany reversal of official misdeeds and mis-management of the country. And, yes, some of the hardship are due to inadequate grasp of implications and effects of policy changes by the new (relatively) government and slowness in making corrections.

Lest we have forgotten, I recall the following two articles that I wrote last year. In one, during the political campaigns, first published by Sahara Reporters on January 13, 2015, titled, “Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections- An End to Corrubration,”  I wrote:“People who fraudulently acquire enormous wealth or assets after serving in government for even a short time are welcomed with drums and dance in their communities. Military officers who earn limited salaries and allowances somehow can afford to pay for three to five students at the most expensive universities in the UK or USA, and can pay all the students’ expenses for one year at once, including for accommodation and feeding. Civil servants use their offices and authority illegally and own rows of houses in Abuja and Lagos in the most expensive places. Celebration and conspicuous display of extraordinary wealth in billions of naira is common and done with impunity even by people who cannot explain how they made a million naira. ‘Corrubration’, or celebration of corruption, has become a national norm.”

In a second article titled, “Buhari And Roots of Corruption”,also first published by Sahara Reporters on July 21, 2015, I wrote: “The new government is acting decisively and visibly and strongly on two major planks of the campaign promises – stopping Boko Haram insurgency and fighting corruption. This article is about how to expand and win the fight against corruption, on the long run. Unless corruption is put at bay, even the efforts against Boko Haram will be inconsequential. President Buhari, with the best of intentions, cannot and should not fight a “lone” battle against corruption, nor should he aim only at short term goals within his mandated period in office.  Corruption has become endemic and both its roots and trunks must be removed. His ongoing actions at the trunks should go further to the roots.”

I cite these articles to redirect our minds to the times we lived in preceding elections in 2015. My citations reflected the mood of many citizens. The disillusion and disenchantment with the previous government was borne out by results of the elections when voters dismissed the Jonathan government and welcomed overwhelmingly the Buhari administration.

Since the assumption of office by the Alliance of Progressives Congress (APC), the fight against corruption has been openly and soundly prioritized. Daily for the past months, the media of all types is replete with incredible revelations of official stealing, thieving, financial and material disrobement of country, conniving and unexplainable acquisition of monies by so-called leaders and officials in whom the nation entrusted authority and responsibility. No Nollywood script writer could have come up with a storyline that truly portrayed the extent of corruption that we hear and read about, thanks to President Buhari’s leadership. Corruption did not start with the Jonathan administration, but from what we know today, massive, unlimited corruption was aprime activity of that government.

The naming, trial and, hopefully, jailing of the big wigs that are subjects of today’s accusations and trials on corruption cannot lead to an end to corruption, yet it is a fundamental step in the cleansing. The recovery of stolen monies from these animals-in-human-skin, as chanted by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is also crucial. Other measures should be used too, such as permanent shaming of guilty persons. Looters of the nation, no matter how highly placed, should not benefit from the loot. It can no longer be the case that election into political offices, and appointments to government positions is seen as the highway to corrupt enrichment. At this time, there is already more care on illegal financial acquisition, more soberness and less unbridled acquisition of wealth through corrupt means than was the case. People can and will change, and the ongoing pressure on corruption is a key step towards change. Even those whose main focus in government and with government was to steal cannot be so carefree and open about it today as they did in the past. There are consequences. The celebration of corruption is no longer in fashion.

Despite what is being done, government appears to be tackling the first phase of its anti-corruption strategy. Other phases – mass education, re-orientation, structural refinement of judiciary and law and order institutions – should start and be done seriously during the life of this government.

Last year, Boko Haram’s rampaging menace was a glaring reality, and was almost accepted as unstoppable. Boko Haram overran states in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Nigerian military absconded, abandoned posts and barracks, escaping from advances of Boko Haram. The insurgents killed almost at will, abducted and chased people away from villages and towns. When some victory was recorded against Boko Haram just before the elections, the international media explained it as a good job done by forces from neighbouring Chad and hired mercenaries from South Africa. Abuja was under threat as the terrorists struck it repeatedly. The fear of possible Boko Haram’sactions in Lagos became so real that the then Governor Fashola’s government had to reassure the public that it would not happen. Not many people accepted the reassurance though. There were friends and well-placed Nigerians who started to seek alternative residence outside of the country.

Today, the situation is different. In Abuja and Lagos, the fear of  Boko Haram is no longer part of conversations. In the North-east, once a home turf of Boko Haram the main activities are to relocate displaced people to their homes, reestablish livelihood for people who have been turned into refugees, find abducted people including the Chibok girls, and make Boko Haram disappear altogether from Sambisa Forest. The glaring successful frontal attack against Boko Haram has been led by the same Nigerian military that was almost totally discredited and labeled as fatally demoralized. Today, the insurgency is contained. If this is not change, then what is it?

There is a long way to go to create a vibrant, secure and economically strong Nigeria. But noises that say no change has taken place are wrong. On corruption and on security in relation to Boko Haram, change is happening under our eyes. More change is needed overall, especially to develop infrastructures, create employment, improve the quality of life and improve power supply which is the root of growth.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Buhari – Successes And Expectations

By Bunmi Makinwa 

There is a lot of public discussion around what has changed since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration assumed office. In the media and on the streets the debate continues. When during the acute fuel scarcity recently attendants at a petrol station refused to sell fuel into jerrycans, a customer who had been waiting for a long time exploded in frustration, “This na change, hey? No light, no fuel for generators.” Another customer rejoined, mockingly, “Na change be dat.” A third customer said, “I voted for change but not like dis.”

It is frequent to read and hear that nothing has changed, or that the country is worse off now than it was in the past. Given the hardship all around on many fronts, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety and frustration. If one does not have electricity for days, weeks; and fuel to run generators is not available, if fuel is very expensive when available; if stories of kidnap for ransom are frequent; if the news is often that cattle herders kill people wantonly; if many employees of state governments are not paid, and university graduates have no jobs, and prices of foods, consumables, rent…keep increasing, there is a lot to be unhappy about.

Yet one should strive to have a sense of balance. Especially in written discourse, there ought to be deeper reflection and analysis, no matter how easy it may seem to lean on negative generalities. There are serious changes that are taking place in the country, and for good, despite the numerous problems facing the populace at present. Many of the difficulties being witnessed are attributable to years of bad governments, misrule, abuse of office and corruption. Some of the hardship are pains that accompany reversal of official misdeeds and mis-management of the country. And, yes, some of the hardship are due to inadequate grasp of implications and effects of policy changes by the new (relatively) government and slowness in making corrections.

Lest we have forgotten, I recall the following two articles that I wrote last year. In one, during the political campaigns, first published by Sahara Reporters on January 13, 2015, titled, “Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections- An End to Corrubration,”  I wrote:“People who fraudulently acquire enormous wealth or assets after serving in government for even a short time are welcomed with drums and dance in their communities. Military officers who earn limited salaries and allowances somehow can afford to pay for three to five students at the most expensive universities in the UK or USA, and can pay all the students’ expenses for one year at once, including for accommodation and feeding. Civil servants use their offices and authority illegally and own rows of houses in Abuja and Lagos in the most expensive places. Celebration and conspicuous display of extraordinary wealth in billions of naira is common and done with impunity even by people who cannot explain how they made a million naira. ‘Corrubration’, or celebration of corruption, has become a national norm.”

In a second article titled, “Buhari And Roots of Corruption”, also first published by Sahara Reporters on July 21, 2015, I wrote: “The new government is acting decisively and visibly and strongly on two major planks of the campaign promises – stopping Boko Haram insurgency and fighting corruption. This article is about how to expand and win the fight against corruption, on the long run. Unless corruption is put at bay, even the efforts against Boko Haram will be inconsequential. President Buhari, with the best of intentions, cannot and should not fight a “lone” battle against corruption, nor should he aim only at short term goals within his mandated period in office.  Corruption has become endemic and both its roots and trunks must be removed. His ongoing actions at the trunks should go further to the roots.”

I cite these articles to redirect our minds to the times we lived in preceding elections in 2015. My citations reflected the mood of many citizens. The disillusion and disenchantment with the previous government was borne out by results of the elections when voters dismissed the Jonathan government and welcomed overwhelmingly the Buhari administration.

Since the assumption of office by the Alliance of Progressives Congress (APC), the fight against corruption has been openly and soundly prioritized. Daily for the past months, the media of all types is replete with incredible revelations of official stealing, thieving, financial and material disrobement of country, conniving and unexplainable acquisition of monies by so-called leaders and officials in whom the nation entrusted authority and responsibility. No Nollywood script writer could have come up with a storyline that truly portrayed the extent of corruption that we hear and read about, thanks to President Buhari’s leadership. Corruption did not start with the Jonathan administration, but from what we know today, massive, unlimited corruption was a prime activity of that government.

The naming, trial and, hopefully, jailing of the big wigs that are subjects of today’s accusations and trials on corruption cannot lead to an end to corruption, yet it is a fundamental step in the cleansing. The recovery of stolen monies from these animals-in-human-skin, as chanted by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is also crucial. Other measures should be used too, such as permanent shaming of guilty persons. Looters of the nation, no matter how highly placed, should not benefit from the loot. It can no longer be the case that election into political offices, and appointments to government positions is seen as the highway to corrupt enrichment. At this time, there is already more care on illegal financial acquisition, more soberness and less unbridled acquisition of wealth through corrupt means than was the case. People can and will change, and the ongoing pressure on corruption is a key step towards change. Even those whose main focus in government and with government was to steal cannot be so carefree and open about it today as they did in the past. There are consequences. The celebration of corruption is no longer in fashion.

Despite what is being done, government appears to be tackling the first phase of its anti-corruption strategy. Other phases – mass education, re-orientation, structural refinement of judiciary and law and order institutions – should start and be done seriously during the life of this government.

Last year, Boko Haram’s rampaging menace was a glaring reality, and was almost accepted as unstoppable. Boko Haram overran states in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Nigerian military absconded, abandoned posts and barracks, escaping from advances of Boko Haram. The insurgents killed almost at will, abducted and chased people away from villages and towns. When some victory was recorded against Boko Haram just before the elections, the international media explained it as a good job done by forces from neighbouring Chad and hired mercenaries from South Africa. Abuja was under threat as the terrorists struck it repeatedly. The fear of possible Boko Haram’s actions in Lagos became so real that the then Governor Fashola’s government had to reassure the public that it would not happen. Not many people accepted the reassurance though. There were friends and well-placed Nigerians who started to seek alternative residence outside of the country.

Today, the situation is different. In Abuja and Lagos, the fear of  Boko Haram is no longer part of conversations. In the North-east, once a home turf of Boko Haram the main activities are to relocate displaced people to their homes, reestablish livelihood for people who have been turned into refugees, find abducted people including the Chibok girls, and make Boko Haram disappear altogether from Sambisa Forest. The glaring successful frontal attack against Boko Haram has been led by the same Nigerian military that was almost totally discredited and labeled as fatally demoralized. Today, the insurgency is contained. If this is not change, then what is it?

There is a long way to go to create a vibrant, secure and economically strong Nigeria. But noises that say no change has taken place are wrong. On corruption and on security in relation to Boko Haram, change is happening under our eyes. More change is needed overall, especially to develop infrastructures, create employment, improve the quality of life and improve power supply which is the root of growth.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Will President Zuma Zoom On No Matter What?

By Bunmi Makinwa

The political end of Mr. Zuma was at hand in 2004 when his financial adviser and businessman, Mr. Schabir Shaik, was put on trial for taking bribes from arms deals and accused of channeling funds to Mr. Zuma. The sensational trial attracted a lot of public and media interest. Mr. Shaik was found guilty in June 2005, and began in November 2006 to serve a 15-year jail term after his appeal to the Supreme Court failed. During the trial, Mr. Shaik denied ever soliciting bribes for Mr. Zuma and said that the monies that exchanged hands were only interest-free loans to help Mr. Zuma, then Deputy President.

In passing judgment, the court said many unflattering statements about Mr. Zuma, so much that his critics called on him to resign but his supporters rejected such demands. The most powerful trade union in South Africa, COSATU, said that the trial judge went beyond his brief in implicating Mr. Zuma who was not involved in the trial at any stage. However, in deference to public opinion, Mr. Zuma resigned his seat in parliament.

President Thabo Mbeki, in whose cabinet Mr. Zuma was serving, relieved the deputy President of his responsibilities. Mr. Zuma was openly investigated and charged for corruption, which charges were dropped as unlawful, politically motivated and technically flawed, after years of political and legal wrangling. Judge Nicholson found Mr. Zuma not guilty and the African National Congress (ANC) embraced Mr. Zuma with songs and applause. On 12 January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously overturned judge Nicholson’s judgment, but no new trial was started. Mr. Zuma had then assumed position as president of the ANC.

In the fateful 2005 that heralded larger than life problems for Mr. Zuma, he was accused of rape and charged to court. In a most sensational trial at the time, Mr. Zuma admitted that he had consensual sex with the woman in question, but no rape took place. He also said that he had a shower afterwards to prevent possible HIV infection as the woman was positive for the virus. Mr. Zuma was cleared of the rape charge but his shower explanation as antidote to HIV infection was loudly ridiculed for someone who should have known better. The situation was thought to signal again Mr. Zuma’s adieu to politics. But it was wrong.

In a masterful political dexterity, Mr. Zuma, who had been a member of the ANC since age 17, worked his way back up the party ladder. In a contest between himself and then President Mbeki, Mr. Zuma won and was elected ANC president in 2007, a most powerful position in the country. The ANC, as the ruling party, determines the actions of government. Mr. Zuma’s victory went a notch higher when the party recalled President Mbeki in September 2008. This is a euphemism for asking the president to resign which he did, nine months before his term ended. He was replaced by ANC deputy President, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, who served as interim president before the elections of 2009.

President Zuma is not new to challenges. He was brought up by a widowed mother and he had no formal education. Like many in the ANC, he had devoted his life to the anti-apartheid struggle. He left the country for military training and actively worked as a member of ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military branch. He took part actively in the insurgency against the white, segregationist, oppressive, apartheid regime. He was arrested and jailed in Robben Island for 10 years along with Mr. Nelson Mandela.

Gifted with a personality of bonhomie, ordinariness, and a political sagacity that must be the envy of his enemies, JZ, as he is called by his admirers, became President in May 2009, a foregone conclusion once he had assumed leadership of the ANC. Since then, his capacity to make small gestures hugely attractive and to deflect big political bullets has stood him in good stead. With natural ease, he continues to ride over turbulent waves.

zuma1

Global Wire News

In April 2013, a private plane full of wedding guests landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria. The plane belonged to a wealthy, business-owning family called the Guptas, well connected and very close to President Zuma. Originally from India, the family’s businesses include IT, media and mining. President’s Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is known to be a business partner of the Guptas. The irregular landing of a civilian jet at a military enclave caused an uproar. A ministerial task force was set up to look into the matter. Fortunately for President Zuma, the task force found that the president did not have any role in the wrongdoing. President Zuma was relieved but there were many who insisted that as president he should assume responsibility for the security lapse of his friends’ actions.

The year 2015 was ominous for President. Zuma. A deluge of major problems ensued, fanned into billowing flames by his antecedents, critics, opposition parties, and ever-watchful media. Within the ANC itself, cracks began to show as some high-ranking members spoke directly and indirectly of their discomfort with the president’s many problems.

Since 2012, complaints had been lodged with the Public Protector, Ms. Thuli Madonsela, by some members of the public and political parties over alleged misuse of state funds to refurbish the private residence of the Zuma family in Nkandla, his place of birth. A security appraisal of the compound done after President Zuma took office showed that additional measures were required. Ms. Madonsela in her report of March 2014 stated that some modifications and additions done were beyond security upgrades. They included the construction of a swimming pool and a cattle kraal . The report also found the president wanting in protecting and making judicious uses of state resources. She concluded that President Zuma had benefited unduly from the Rands 246 million ($16 million) that the state spent on the upgrades and asked him to refund an amount to be determined by working with the Treasury and the South African Police Service for elements that were not related to security.

Through 2015, the president explained that he had no say in what was done at his residence. Senior government officials for security characterized all upgrades done as security measures.

The ANC-majority parliament cleared the President of any misdeeds. President Zuma had nothing to pay for. But Nkandla-gate, as it became known, continued to generate public interest and calls for the President to refund money would not go away, thanks to the opposition parties, especially the Julius Malema-led Economic Freedom Front (EFF) and Democratic Alliance (DA).

For a while, another series of missteps pushed Nkadla-gate to the background. In a sudden decision, on 9 December 2015, President Zuma replaced Finance Minister. Mr. Nhlanhla Nene, with an apparent loyalist, Mr. David Van Rooyen, a member of parliament. Mr. Nene was said to have opposed increased subsidy of the persistently under-performing South African Airways, refused the government to make a huge investment in a nuclear facility and rejected buying a presidential jet. In reaction to the sack, the South African Rand dropped famously and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange lost 177 billion Rands ($11.6bn) on the announcement.

A cabinet minister said that the decision was a surprise as it was not discussed at the cabinet meeting of the same day that the official decision came out. The ANC was at a loss to explain it either as it appeared not to have any information. The ensuing public uproar was so much that four days later the President changed the decision and redeployed newly appointed Mr. Van Rooyen to another post, and named Mr. Pravin Gordhan as new minister of finance. Mr. Gordhan had served reputably in the same post from 2009 to 2014. It was historic that South Africa had three finance ministers in four days. President Zuma, to deflect the rancor, was projected as a listening leader who bowed to the wish of the people. There were many though who said that the decision showed poor judgment, lack of consultation and tendency to cater to special interest.

South African President Zuma waves at national memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Did the Gupta family have any hand in the sacking of Mr. Nene? The question was on some lips but was not openly stated as such. The cat was let out of the bag, literally, by former ANC member of parliament, Ms. Vytjie Mentor. She stated that the Guptas had offered her a ministerial post provided that she would “drop the SAA flight route to India and give it to them”. The deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Mcebisi Jones, publicly declared that before President Zuma announced the change of ministers, members of the Gupta family made an offer to promote him to Minister of Finance and that he categorically refused it. He said that such a proposition “made mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers”. A former cabinet spokesperson, Mr. Themba Maseko, revealed that the President asked him to help the Guptas out by favouring them with government adverts. The “state capture” of South Africa by the Guptas and special interest went from a rumble to an eruption.

The heat around the president became intense. Would President Zuma resign? Would the ANC recall him? Would he announce something about cutting short his term of office which is three years to go? The usual voices pressured that Zuma should go or be impeached. The supporting voices asked for time to look deeper into the matter.

Another blowup was just around the corner. A court case by DA and EFF on Nkadla-gate came to a conclusion at the Constitutional Court. The unanimous judgment was that President Zuma should refund the money spent on his homestead of Nkandla which were not security upgrades. The presidency, the Parliament, the ANC, and President Zuma had been wrong in their position on the non-security categorization and expenses on them. The court ruling stated that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land…”

It was the last thing that President Zuma would have wished for. Yet another major slip that could erase any of his good actions, such as his leadership of a national surge to rein in HIV and AIDS, his success at getting many highly qualified and deserving South Africans into senior posts in the international system, including Dr. Dlamini Zuma, his divorced wife and long-serving senior official of ANC and government, as Chairperson of the African Union, and his continuing to provide leadership for South Africa’s roles in peace keeping and peace building initiatives in conflict and war-torn countries. The President’s string of scandals increasingly make his friendly description as comical, colourful, charismatic, and convivial to be subsumed by his critical characterization as controversial, corrupt, crooked, and cronyistic.

Again the usual voices demanded impeachment or resignation. What was new was that unusual voices added new dimensions to the anti-Zuma groups. A joint letter by the foundations of Oliver and Adelaide, Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, some of the founding fathers of the ANC and notable leaders of liberation, urged the ANC leadership to “take urgent corrective action in the best interest of South Africa and its peoples”. “We are deeply concerned about the current course on which our country is headed. We believe this course is contrary to the individual and collective legacy of our founders”.

A strongly worded statement signed by Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa , Ziphozihle Siwa, said that the president should “do the honourable thing and resign to save himself, the ANC and the nation as a whole from further embarrassment and ruin…If this does not happen, we the people of South Africa must put pressure on the ANC and Parliament to ‘assist’ the President to vacate office peacefully and constitutionally. The president’s embattled term of office has been marred with too many unresolved claims and scandals including Nkandla, the arms deal debacle, and the recent revelations of alleged State Capture by the Guptas and the time has come to put the country first.”

What is next for President Zuma? Following the ruling by the Constitutional Court, he went on the air to apologize and blamed his erroneous decision on advice from lawyers. The ANC has started its own investigation to assess the extent of “state capture”. The opposition parties have tried another of the many parliamentary motions for impeachment of President Zuma though it was dead from its conception given the ANC super majority.

With his expanded laughter and a reassuring wave to the crowd, President Zuma may just zoom on as he has done in the past, counting on his strong bases within the various arms of the ANC and his reputation as the man who has many lives.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

President Mugabe’s Legs And How The Mighty Fall by Bunmi Makinwa

For a long time, the question of who will succeed Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has remained a most difficult puzzle, both within the country and outside. It still is. But the resolution may be more imminent than ever, due to a combination of rapidly developing events. It is a few weeks to his 92nd birthday, and President Mugabe’s legs are no longer what they used to be. Not a terrible thing to happen at his age, but they have serious implications for Zimbabwe.

In the second part of his 35 years as leader of the country, there has been constant dire speculation on President Mugabe’s health. Usually, the speculation heightens during his December-January holiday.

APTOPIX Zimbabwe Mugabe Fall

Beyond mere guesses, events of recent past have led credence to the fact that President Mugabe’s health and state of mind is not what it used to be. In the past year, President Mugabe, at various times, fell, stumbled and was immobilized whilst trying to walk – all in full public view.

At the G20 Summit in Turkey in November 2015, President Mugabe, who attended it as Chairman of the African Union, showed great difficulty as he gingerly walked the short distance from his car to the door of the meeting venue. It was the most recent of the awkward situations that mirrored his physical degradation.

During the India-Africa Summit in October 2015, President Mugabe was helped by summit host India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to maintain his balance as he almost fell backwards whilst mounting a one-level dias to the podium to shake hands with Prime Minister Modi. The host helped and steadied him to walk back, down the podium. About a month earlier on September 15, President Mugabe read the wrong speech at the opening session of parliament in Harare. He read it out entirely without realizing the mistake. It was a speech that he had used for his state-of-the-union address on August 25. In February, President Mugabe fell on his knees and hand as he came down a podium after addressing supporters at the airport in Harare on returning from an African Union Summit in Ethiopia where he became Chairman of the African body.

All the incidents were disseminated widely on social media, in photos and video. Their impact was direct and official explanation and denials did not alter the facts.
President’s Mugabe health has served as the proxy indicator that fuels the intensity of succession discourse in Zimbabwe and in the outside world. In 2008, President Mugabe affirmed his president-for- life desire when he said: “Only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British.” The Movement for Democratic Change or MDC was a once strong opposition party but which has withered into factions through co-opting, violence, internal differences and repressive actions by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party which has been in power since independence of the country in 1980.

Any leading official of government or the ruling party who has ever being touted as a possible successor to President Mugabe had fallen by the wayside. Until she was ousted from her position in 2014, first female Vice President Joice Mujuru, 69, seemed like the chosen one. She had impressive preparation, access and support from President Mugabe. Mujuru was in cabinet by age 25. A firebrand nationalist of the ZANU-PF, highly educated, thoroughly mentored by President Mugabe himself, she was Vice President for ten years. In a move spearheaded by first lady Grace Mugabe, Mujuru was accused of a plot to kill President Mugabe, expelled from government and party, and branded as arch enemy. She is busy putting together a group called Zimbabwe National African Union – People First (ZANU-PF), a play on the ruling party’s name. Her party will oppose President Mugabe’s leadership.

At some time in the past, current Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, 60, was seen as the anointed next leader. Mnangagwa has held various cabinet positions since 1980, including head of security under President Mugabe. He became Vice President in 2014 to replace Mujuru. Mnangagwa has maintained that succession was not an issue for discussion. In response to a member of parliament who raised a question about President Mugabe’s health, Mnangagwa said: “I can assure the MP that the President is healthier than him.”
In 2014, President Mugabe appointed Phelekezela Mphoko, 75, as a second Vice President, but politically junior to Mnangagwa. The action obviously weakens any assumption of hierarchy of succession. When President Mugabe travelled abroad with his wife for his annual leave in December, Mphoko assumed the interim position for several weeks before handing over to Mnangagwa. It would appear that no Vice President was to be seen as directly in line for the highest office.

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The first lady, Mrs. Grace Mugabe is said to be frantically preparing herself or somebody of her choice to become the next president. In less than two years, she has acquired enormous powers both in the party and in government. She became head of the women’s wing of ZANU-PF, which conferred on her a position in the cabinet. She has become exceptionally outspoken at political rallies and in public events. She has established herself unequivocally as the mouth-piece of the president.

Rising stoutly in defence of her husband, Mrs. Mugabe, 50, said that he was fit. In obvious recognition of his frailty though she was quoted as saying: “We are going to create a special wheelchair for President Mugabe until he rules to 100 years, because that is what we want.” She added that she was prepared to push the chair.

The ruling party is internally being dismembered by the succession issues. President Mugabe has appealed often at recent party meetings for stronger cohesion and unity. Party cadres and members are lining up behind Grace Mugabe and the Vice Presidents. Recently, the President called on security forces not to join the factions in the party.

Ahead of the presidential election of 2018 all leading voices – the first lady, the two Vice Presidents and ZANU-PF officials – said that President Mugabe would be the people’s choice. He has been nominated as the party’s candidate to stand for election. He will be 94 years old.

But his legs, the locomotive appendages that help humans to maintain gravity on earth, will receive closer attention, when and if President Mugabe appears in public forums in 2016. And the legs may well impose the imperative of choosing another leader for Zimbabwe.

The Kagame Quagmire, or Is he different?

By Bunmi Makinwa

With his “I can only accept” end of year address, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame opened a new chapter in the “third term” discussion. How does a sitting president seek popular support to extend his term of office beyond what is stipulated in the constitution?

There is a considerable roar of disapproval on third term agendas, but increasingly African leaders are finding ways to normalize a change of the constitution for additional mandate terms. President Kagame has initiated new ways to make the people “compel” a change.

In October 1994, as one of the first wave of international development actors in Rwanda a few months after the genocide, I observed teenaged soldiers who stood ramrod straight at the drive way to the famous Hotel des Mille Collines in Rwanda. They stood at attention with steady eyes scouting round as they oozed assurance of absolute security in the capital city of Kigali, and throughout the country.

These fighters, men and women of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), symbolized the new discipline and thoroughness that had swept into the country after years of war. The then 37-year-old Paul Kagame was at the head. At various times Minister of Defence, Vice-President and President, his new government applied exceptional acumen, unparalleled commitment and strict discipline to manage the country.

Against unprecedented odds, overwhelmed initially by thousands of NGOs that “captured” the country with ideas and aid, the new government slowly took control and established its directions. Everything needed to be restarted. The population was traumatized, divided, angry and lost. The economy was in shambles. The infrastructure was primitive and the political system had collapsed.

Within a few years, Rwanda began to emerge as a new African model of development. The government made sure that the world and its own people knew the details of the genocide that had killed some 800,000 Rwandans, mostly of the Tutsi ethnic group. USA President apologized formally for its inaction at the time of the killings. The genocide tribunal heard horror stories of man’s inhumanity to man. The country stared down France on allocation of blame for the war. So confident was Rwanda about its own authority and actions that it put strict limitations on international aid conditionalities and operations of NGOs. Many international NGOs had to leave the country.

Under the RPF-led coalition government, a new country emerged. The economy waxed strong and Rwanda’s leadership started to hold its own amongst its African peers and at global forums. It was a stable, peaceful country that garnered and commanded respect.

Rwanda’s gross domestic product or GDP grew from US$416 in 1994 to US$1,784 in 2015. Its agricultural sector continues to be a major contributor to the economy, amounting to 32.5 per cent of the GDP. A new and growing service sector overtook agriculture as the largest sector with 43.6 per cent of GDP, whilst mining and tourism form significant parts of the growth. Rwanda is the only country in the world with female majority in its house of representatives (deputies), and a third of its senators are women. Life expectancy is improving dramatically and corruption is very low.

The Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance 2015 report provides a comprehensive indication to appraise the east African country. According to the Index, Rwanda ranks 11 amongst 54 African countries in the overall governance scheme. It has a score of 60.7 whilst the average score is 50.1. Mauritius has the highest score of 79.9 and Somalia has the least score of 8.5. In areas of “safety and rule of law”, ‘sustainable economic opportunities” and “human development” Rwanda impressively scores 12, 7, and 9, respectively. However, under “participation and human rights”, it has a low score of 30. Rwanda’s positive attributes of social, economic and human development are depressed by dictatorial and autocratic tendencies, including low level of tolerance for dissent.

The critical question that Rwanda may answer is whether there can be a democratic way to retain a good government, against the possible take over of a country by a thieving, tyrannical elected cabal.

In 2014, speaking in the USA to students on when he planned to leave office, President Kagame stated: “I think at some point we need to leave countries and people to decide their own affairs… I’m here to do business on behalf of Rwandans…let’s wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.”

The explanation came in 2015 as a test of President Kagame’s popularity. The first step was a petition nationwide by 3.8 million signatories, some 60 per cent of voters. They demanded a change of the constitution that would lift the restriction on President Kagame to seek another term of office. The mass action sought an extension of another seven year term. Then a reduction of presidential terms of office to five years for a maximum of two terms, and for which President Kagame would still be eligible to run. The mandate extension would only apply to President Kagame who could then stay in office till 2034, if he continues to seek reelection.

Next step – both the lower and upper houses acceded to the popular request. Then the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of such an amendment. It did in a unanimous decision. The road was clear for President Kagame to extend his term of office, but he would not accept the obligation until a national referendum was carried out. The referendum of December 18 overwhelmingly affirmed the changes.

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Many leaders in African countries and other parts of the world have modified constitutions to allow them have extension of mandates. In Africa in 2014, Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaore was ousted by popular opposition when he tried it. In 2015, Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso did it relatively easily and Burundi’s President Nkurunziza imposed it and continues to face resistance on it; Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila is struggling to make sure his change is successful. Most constitutions in Africa have term limits but many do not. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni at the height of his popularity in 2005 expunged term limits from the constitution

Nowhere has the mandate extension followed the unusual steps that Rwanda’s President Kagame’s modification went through. It cannot be doubted that it was a popular action. The arguments in support are based on President Kagame’s record of impressive performance; fragility of the country and importance of consolidating gains made against a tradition of ethnic division, wars and instability over several decades. The opposition parties are small, weak and hardly visible in any important matters.

Opposition to the constitutional changes came from within the country and outside, particularly USA and United Kingdom. Mainly, the changes were seen as a continuation of a negative tradition of long stay in office by political leaders who perpetuate themselves in office; the undesirable tinkering with the constitution; and stifling of politically uncomfortable alternative views.

By making the extension of his mandate to conform with legal, legislative and national expressions that appear so overwhelming, President Kagame sets new parameters. At the least, future similar requests for mandate extension can be measured against such standards of popular demand.

President Kagame is aware of the quagmire of power but he would not leave the stage when the ovation is loudest. The longer one stays in power the more the struggles, and, like a quicksand, the deeper one sinks. In his acceptance speech on December 31, he said: “But I do not think our aim is to have a President for life, nor is it what I would want. Sooner rather than later, this office will be transferred from one person to another…”

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria.:
Twitter: @bunmimakinwa Blog: bunmimakinwa.com

 

The Kagame Quagmire, or is he different?