By CHIDI OBINECHE
They are supermen of gnosis; the type that transformed vast wastelands in other climes into potent forces of progress and positive statecraft. In Africa today, they hold the aces, the glandular spark that throbs with the motions of power. Some have their staying power cast in hubris. Others are held captive by the allure of power, passion for service, egged on by their supporters and suppliants. In Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, “People who have a run of success can catch a kind of fever, and even when they themselves try to stay calm, the people below them often pressure them to go past their mark and into dangerous waters.”Like the Athenian general and statesman in history, Pericles, their easy triumphs inflame their spin- minders to go for more. In Africa, the land of the black, the rhythms of power are like the transcendental struggles of the unquestioning leadership of demagogues, fancy moguls of inheritance, lineage succession and mock- science.
According to Niccolo Machiavelli, (1469 – 1527) “Princes and republics should content themselves with victory, for when they aim at more, they generally lose.” From South Africa to Ghana, Nigeria to Sudan, Lesotho to Malawi, among others, the scent of gerontocracy fills the air along the many radii of circular board. The tragic immediate past era of blood- thirsty military despots has in a flash transformed to the abstruse cobwebs of age which won’t blow away. Entwined with the jagged and rough past, now smoothed over in memory, Africa is heavenly over- dosed with the tedious present. Yet, she has not given up the sun and that intangible and yet crucial need to be counted in the new world, to pass through the paces transparent as a ghost. Plato justified gerontocracy when he said “It is for the elder men to rule and for the younger to submit.” In simplified terms, gerontocracy is a society where leadership is reserved for elders. In the ancient Greek city of Sparta, which was ruled by a council called Gerousia, it was made up of members who were at least 60 years old and served for life. Over time, it was the fad in the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR, eastern bloc, theocracies, absolute monarchies, and stateless societies like Samburu, in Kenya. Enter the fazed old men of power.
Isaias Afwerki (71)
He is the first president of Eritrea, a position he has held since its independence in 1993. He led the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) to victory in May, 1991, thus ending the 30-year-old war for Independence that the Eritrean people refer to as “Gedli”. The EPLF adopted a new political name, Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) to reflect the emerging responsibilities. The PFDJ, with Afwerki as its leader, is the sole governing party of Eritrea today.
He was born on February 2, 1946 (71). He hails from the Biher-Tigrinya ethnic group.
Ismail Omar Guelleh (70) –Djibouti
He was elected into power in 1991 as the handpicked successor of his uncle, Hassan Guelleh Aptidon who had ruled Djibouti from independence in 1977. He is the leader of Peoples Rally for Progress, the party that brought him to power and which has ruled the country since independence. At the moment, there is nothing yet indicative that he will leave power. He was born on November 27, 1947 in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (71) – Mali
He has been in power since 2013. Before becoming the ultimate leader and president, he has held illustrious positions as the Prime Minister from 1994 – 2000 and President of the National Assembly from 2002 – 2007. He founded the Rally for Mali (RFM) in 2001, was elected in the July – August 2013 presidential elections, and was sworn in on September 4, 2013. Before founding the RFM that swept him to power, he was in Alliance for Democracy. He was born on January29, 1945 in Koutiala, French Sudan, now Mali.
Omar al Bashir, (73)
He came to power in 1989, when as a Brigadier in the Sudanese Army; he led a group of officers in a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi after it began negotiations with rebels in the South. In October 1993, he transformed into a democratically elected president. He has been elected three times as president in elections that have been touted as fraudulent. He is the head of the National Congress Party, NCP. He has led the nation with iron fist and despite the secular nature of country, introduced Shariah Islamic laws which contributed in large measure to the secession of Southern Sudan after a bloody fratricidal civil war. In March 2009,, al Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, for allegedly being involved in mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Dafur. He was born on January 1, 1944 in Hosh, Bamuga, Sudan.
Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisilli (72) –Lesotho
He has been among the all-time leading political figures in Lesotho. Earlier he had served as Prime Minister from May 1998 to June 2012. He returned to power in March 2015 on the platform of the Democratic Congress, DC.His policies since assuming power again has not deviated from what he had during his first outing , a situation that is fuelling stilted frustration and mass protests. He was born on March 14, 1945 in Qucha’s Nek district, Lesotho.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (72) –Uganda
He has been president since January 29, 1986. A courageous soldier and guerilla warfare specialist, he brought stability to the nation after toppling the late Idi Amin and Milton Obote. His books include Sowing the Mustard Seed, and What is Africa’s Problem? He has also suppressed waves of internecine rebellions and sits atop of Uganda as a benevolent leader. He was born on August 14,1944 in Ntungamo, Uganda.
Akuffo Nana-Addo (72) –Ghana
He was born into power as his father held many top positions including Chief Justice and Senate president. A lawyer by profession, he ran for president in 2008, and 2012 and failed. He won on his third attempt last year. He was sworn in on January 7, 2016. He was born on March 29, 1944 in Accra, Ghana.
Dennis Sassou Ngueso (73) –Republic of Congo
For a long time, he has been the issue in Congolese politics. He first ruled the country from 1979 to1992. After five years out of power in which he allegedly teleguided his successor, he returned to power in 1997 and has since ruled the country amidst economic and political chaos. He was born on November 23, 1943, in Edon, Congo.
Allasane Drammane Quattra (75) –Cote d’ivoire
His ascension to power in 2010 was dramatic as his predecessor in office had to be forced out of office by a West African regional force aided by France, after he reneged in relinquishing power in an election he lost. He was born on January 1,1942, at Dimbokoro, Cote d’ivoire.
Jacob Geeddleyilile Kisa Zuma (74) –South Africa
He was elected by parliament following his party’s victory (African National Congress, ANC) in the 2009 elections. He was re-elected in 2014. His regime has of recent witnessed unprecedented challenges including twice surviving votes of no confidence in parliament.
He was born on April 12, 1942 at Nkandla, Kwazulu- Natal, in South Africa.
Jose Eduardo dos Santos (74) –Angola
He is Africa’s longest serving president having ruled since 1979. His long rule is currently enmeshed in sundry allegations of corruption, mostly involving his children, who have been integrated into the affairs of state. He was born on August 28, 1942 in Luanda, Angola.
Teodoro Obang Nguema Mbasogo (74) –Equitorial Guinea
He and Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos hold the record of Africa’s longest serving leaders. He has been president for 37 unbroken years (1979) Despite minor political skirmishes with the opposition, he has held on tightly to all the arms of government, a development that has forced people to dub him a dictator. He was born on June 5, 1942.
Hage Gottfried Geingob(75) –Namibia
He is the third and current president of Namibia. He has been in office since March 21, 2015. He was also Prime Minister under Sam Nujoma from 1990 to 2002, and again, between 2012 to 2015. He was a founding member of the West African Peoples Organization, SWAPO which led the country to independence. He was born on August 3, 1941 at Otjiwango, Namibia.
Arthur Peter Mutharika (76) –Malawi
An educator, lawyer and technocrat, he entwined the nation like a colossus before he became president on May 31, 2014. He worked globally and reputedly, in the field of international justice and for long stood as the only Malawian with international clout. He was born in 1940, in Thyolo District, Malawi.
Alpha Conde (78)
He has been the president of Guinea since December 2010. He paid his dues spending several decades in opposition to a succession of regimes. His regime has deepened the cracks on the political wall of the nation and fostered little infrastructural progress. He was born on March 4, 1938 in Boke, Guinea.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (78) –Liberia
She is the 24th president of Liberia and currently the only female president in Africa. She has been in office since 2006. Prior to this she had served as Minister of Finance under the late William Tolbert from 1979 to 1980, just before the late Samuel Doe’s coup détat. Her party, the Unity Party has managed to hold power for long in a multi- party democratic Liberia. She has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Indira Ghandi Prize, Glamour Award, and The Chosen ones, among others. He was born on October 29, 1938.
Abdulaziz Bouteflika (79) –Algeria
He is the 5th president of Algeria and has ruled since 1999. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1963 to 1979. His party, the National Liberation Front has been in power for much of the nation’s independence. He was born on March 2, 1937 in Odjda, Morocco.
Paul Biya (83)
He has been the president since November 6, 1982. A native of Cameroun’s south, he rose rapidly as a bureaucrat under the regime of the late Ahmadu Ahidjo. He is well known for his book Communal Liberation. The opposition has made little progress in its push for change of guards. He was born on February 13, 1933 in Mvomeka, Cameroun.
Beji Caid Essebai (90)
He became president in December 2014. Hitherto, he was Foreign Affairs Minister from 1981 to 1986, and Prime Minister from February 2011 to December 2011. He was born on November 29,1926 at Sidi Bon Said.
Robert Mugabe (92)
He fought a bitter liberation battle and led the nation to Independence in 1980. He has ruled the southern African country since then, clamping down on opposition and warding off foreign intervention in the affairs of the nation. He holds the enviable record of being the oldest African ruler and second longest serving president. He is also a highly controversial international figure, who against all odds wrings equally controversial policies. He is a Pan- Africanist.
Muhammadu Buhari (74) –Nigeria
Nigeria’s current president served as military head of state between December 31, 1983 and August 29, 1985. He ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of the country in 2003, 2007, and 2011, before he won in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He was born in Daura, Katsina and is of Fulani ethnic stock. He was born on December 17, 1942.