The world woke up on Wednesday to the streaming headlines of another coup in central Africa. This is even as African leaders, especially the West African regional bloc ECOWAS has been brainstorming on how to contain the coup in Niger, the Sahel region. Military junta in Niger took over power from democratically elected President Mohammed Bazoum on July 26, 2023. ECOWAS had expressed disgust at the ouster of an elected president in Niger Republic. Leaders all over the world have condemned the junta’s intervention. It was not expected but the military boys had their reasons for sacking their elected president.
While leaders world over were putting heads together to resolve the Niger crisis without engaging in bloodbath, Gabon, a tiny country in central Africa with a population of 2,444,378 people as at Wednesday August 30,2023, according to Worldometer, was overrun by military junta following the country’s president’s desire to continue a third term in office as president. Available reports revealed that sacked President Ali Bongo, the son of Omar Bongo, had ruled for two terms of 14 years having won the first election in 2009 at the death of his father. This election was to allow him remain in office for third term.
Further reports say his father, Omar Bongo, had ruled the country from December 1967 up till 2009 when he died. Omar Bongo continued winning elections. He was elected again in 1973, 1979, 1986. In May 1990, a multi-party system was introduced, despite that, Omar Bongo won all presidential elections in 1993, 1998 and 2005 until he died in June 2009. At the death of Omar Bongo, his son Ali Bongo, was elected in August of same year and was sworn in as president on October 16, 2009. In 2016, Ali Bongo won election for a second term in office. On October 24, 2019, Ali Bongo suffered stroke in Saudi Arabi, leaving him absent for many months.
On August 26, 2023, he contested election for third term and was declared winner again on August 30, 2023 and as soon as the result was declared, the tired and unhappy military officers struck, cancelled the election results and declared that they have taken over power. His father ruled for 41 years while he himself had ruled for 14 years. His dream very likely was to continue and overtake the years of his father. But thanks to the military who cut short the dream.
The issue here is that the Bongos had converted the presidency of Gabon to a family affair. They cared for the feelings of none. Even though he was under stroke, he wanted to perpetuate himself in power. The people of the country must have been systematically coerced and terrorised to allow them remain in power. The electoral process must have been heavily compromised and the opposition parties heavily terrorized. The Bongos restricted the power to their family members, allegedly stealing the money and living luxurious lives in France while other citizens wallowed and pined away in penury.
In the midst of all this, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which has metamorphosed into African Union (AU) kept mute, finding no fault in the sit-tight-posture of the Bongos. Perhaps, his father was taking care of the organization, hence leaders of the union turned a blind eye to the sit tight posture of the Bongos. This is where leaders of the AU failed and that very woefully. How on earth should a president remain in power for 41 years, manipulating the electoral process, terrorizing the people and winning consecutive elections against the wish of the people of the Republic of Gabon.
We cannot just say a nation is democratic, there must be limits to how long a leader should oppress his people. The people of Gabon must have suffered but no one to speak for them. The AU failed in its commitment to African unity by condoning sit tight despots who must have despotically manipulated the will of the people and remained in power despite public outcry against them.
While no one with sane mind will endorse military coup in this present age and time, the sit tight posture of the father and son is highly condemnable. A father cannot rule for 41 years and the son takes over and planning to rule longer than his father. Despite the fact that the country is smaller than Delta state with just 2.4million persons, there are others who can lead better than the Bongos or possibly build on the legacies of the Bongos.
If the father and son could behave like this, then, it is probable that their children must have held the most juicy departments in the administration of the Bongos.
African Union must wake up to its role to Africans. The western world is seeing Africans as people with little brains but overtaken with heavy dose of corruption and the craze for power. While it is supported that power should return to ousted President Mohammed Bazoum of Niger Republic, no right thinking man on earth will call for power to be returned to the Bongos in Gabon. That will be the height of insanity, despotism and wickedness. The deposed and arrested Bongo should be prosecuted, tried and made to surrender assets and funds stolen if found guilty by the law. And having returned all, he should be jailed if the law says so.