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Obasanjo has a point

Feb 2, 2012, 1:11 PM

The point raised by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, on the need for African leaders to leave the stage when the ovation is loudest, even though he tried to do the same while he was in power, could not have been raised at a better time than now.

Obasanjo, himself a failed third-term bidder, told the BBC Network Africa Programme that there is life after government house - as he has found out.

What can be more truthful, given the fact that, of recent, we have seen all sorts of violence across the continent, all due to the failure of some of our leaders to understand the fact that power belongs to the people and not them.

Violence continues in neighboring Senegal due to what the opposition said is Wade’s “unconstitutional” bid to seek for a third term of office.

We hope that Obasanjo’s advice will be heeded by all and sundry, especially leaders around the continent who think they have power, when in actual fact real power definitely resides in the will of people.

The greatest mistake most African leaders make these days is that they tend to run the state like their personal property.

Yet, it is clear that the practice of true democracy, that is, government of the people, by the people and for the people, should be the guiding principle of all African leaders.

Our argument is that no matter how good a leader might claim to be, come the day your people say they do not need you anymore, you should be prepared to leave honorably, as Thabo Mbeki did in South Africa and Rupiah Banda did in Zambia.

The humiliation faced by the former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo, and former Libyan leader Maummar Gaddafi, for example, should be food for thought for all serving leaders in the continent today.

No matter a leader’s good intentions for his or her country, one must never ignore the tenets of good governance, including doing things according to internationally-recommended best practices in the management of a modern democratic state.

This also means that a good leader must show humility, and cannot be seen to behave as if he or she is a master.

This is fundamental, since as a leader, one must be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of all citizens, and be respectful in one’s tone, especially when talking to the people.

As we always emphasize in these pages, recent developments around the world clearly demonstrates the reality that power belongs to the people, and to no leader.

Leaders should always read the writing on the wall, and note that whether it’s today or tomorrow, they will surely leave the presidential palace and office, as it is not their personal property.

No matter what, leaders must learn to accept and appreciate that it is the people who voted them to office, and thus should show great humility and give the electorate the respect they deserve.

Leaders must also understand that the people have long recognized that they have rights and freedom of choice in the way they are governed.

They must govern well, and recognize the people as the source of all power, if they want to succeed.

Repressing the people always leads to a bad ending for them, as we have seen around the world.

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”

Lao Tzu