Did you know?
According to a 2015 report by the United Nations, Youths in Africa constitute 19% of the global youth population, numbering 226 million. Youths here would be defined as people aged 15-24. By 2030, it is predicted that the number of youths in Africa will have increased by 42%.
Africa’s population as a whole is very young, with 60% of the entire continent aged below 25, making it the youngest continent in the world. Since such is the case, why do most African nations operate a gerontocracy?
Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon is 87 and has been president for 30 years. Alpha Condé is 82. Alassane Ouattara the president of Ivory Coast is 78. Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is 77.
Much more than a gerontocracy, Africa operates in most parts a near life tenure. Though their system of government might be democratic, they’ve gone ahead to manipulate the electoral system, rigging every election in the process.
Paul Biya of Cameroon has been the president for 45 years. Teodoro_Obiang_Nguema_Mbasogo of Equatorial Guniea has been the President for 45 years. Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo has been president for a total time of 35 years. And in Nigeria, it is sad to see the same set of people at the helm of power for more than 4 decades. President Muhammadu Buhari first became head of state in 1983, a little over 37 years ago. Today, in 2021, he is our democratically elected president. The major person to consider in this piece however, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
Uganda recently conducted its keenly contested presidential elections. It was contested by the incumbent and the vibrant Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu popularly known as Bobi Wine. Bobi Wine currently serves as a member of parliament in Uganda and had chosen to “bell the cat” by running for the office of the president, in a bid to liberate his people.
To put things in a clearer perspective, Bobi Wine was only four (4) years old when Yoweri Museveni became the President of Uganda. Today he is thirty-eight (38) years old, and he ran for office against the latter, who has consistently been president in that time frame, operating a near-dictatorial and draconian system of governance. Yes, that’s how bad it was.
And even though he lost (thanks to widespread electoral malpractices and voter intimidation), the people of Uganda and the rest of the world know, that he won that election fair and square. The people had eagerly waited for a saviour, so when he threw his hat into the ring, public support wasn’t even a problem. Despite the Corona Virus, hundreds of thousands throng to his rallies because they genuinely believed in what he had to offer. Yet, as we speak, Bobi Wine is currently under house arrest by Men of the Ugandan Military after being intimidated and threatened.
This is a man worthy of emulation, unlike Desmond Elliot, the 46-year-old politician representing the Surulere constituency in Lagos State. He is one of the youngest serving politicians in governance in Nigeria and was voted in on the premise that he would initiate youth-focused politics, bringing a breath of fresh air to the political atmosphere of the nation.
However, since he was elected a lawmaker 5 years ago, he has done nothing tangible but commission toilets all over his constituency in the past 5 years. Nothing material to improve the lives of those who gave the power. Perhaps the most heinous out of all his crimes was committed during the series of #EndSARS protests that rocked Nigeria in October 2020. During his address on the floor of the House of Assembly saying “if we do not do something about social media, there won’t be Nigeria in the next 5 years.” He then went ahead to rant about how much criticism he and other political officers had to face via social media. Mr Desmond forgets, that social media was strategic in getting him elected. Without its influence, he wouldn’t even have stood a chance.
Perhaps Mr Desmond equally forgets, that Freedom of Speech is one of the fundamental rights the Nigerian Constitution grants to every Nigerian. Trying to stifle or seize that right would amount to tyranny. And this is a democracy, not the Banana Republic. Sadly, he is the perfect reflection of what African leaders are known to be — present themselves as a panacea to our problems before office and become demons in office.
Now more than ever, in a time of tyrannical and gerontocratic ‘democratically elected’ presidents, Africa needs more people like Bobi Wine. Men who would stand their grounds through political oppression. Men who would know what is right and use their lives to defend it. Who would not cower in fear when in the face of danger? Whose middle name is courage? We need less Desmond Elliots, who would become power-drunk upon their entrance into the office. Who would forget they owe the people who voted them in allegiance.
And for Uganda, I’m hopeful, that the reverberating cries of freedom by the people echo to the heavens, soon enough.