By Emmanuel Onwubiko
A political phenomenon which is compared to the French revolution headed by the irrepressible General Napoleon Bonaparte has just happened in France thus reinforcing the strong doubts I have about the expression that lightning doesn’t strike twice in one place.
This phenomenal political revolution devoid of violence or rancour that I’m talking about is the 2017 French presidential election which culminated in the emergence of the 39-year old Mr. Emmanuel Macron as the winner by a decisive margin. The independent centrist Macron reportedly scored 60.3 percent of the votes while his rival, Marine Le Pen, got 39.7 percent.
In the emergence of this young but upwardly mobile politician, political lightning has struck twice. The symbolism of his election has grave implications for France, the European Union and the global community.
Just before the second round of the presidential poll took place, the electoral commission of France alerted the world to frenetic efforts made by some hackers with suspicious links to the Kremlin in Russia to hack into the campaign systems of Emmanuel Macron with the overall objective of influencing the outcome of the election. The hackers succeeded but the quick intervention of the electoral umpires to stop the French media from circulating the private and campaign emails hacked from the party office of Emmanuel Macron contributed in no small way to ensure that there was a level playing field for both candidates.
Macron, who is a strong supporter of European Union, is an opponent of Russian President, Mr. Putin, who had invaded Ukraine and annexed a large chunk of that sovereign state in an attempt to stop the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation from gaining in-road to Russian Federation through Ukraine. European Union is on the side of Ukraine in the ongoing civil war with Russia.
On the other hand, Ms. Marine LePen is opposed to EU and therefore is seen as the favourite of Mr. Putin who is pleased to see EU disintegrate.
The victory of Emmanuel Macron is viewed as victory for a united Europe and, indeed, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is soon to undergo political baptism of fire in the soon to be conducted German election, heaved a sigh of relief upon learning that French voters had rejected the far right candidate who hates European Union passionately. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, who has called for a snap national poll in June is happy with the outcome because she anchored her Conservative Party’s campaign on seeking for a strong mandate to be able to negotiate fairly with the European Union over Brexit. If LePen had won, the negotiations between UK and EU wouldn’t have been easy because the whole of Europe would have heaped the blame for the eventual exit of France from EU on the British voters. Thankfully, the French voters have decided to remain in the European Union. Theresa May has already congratulated both Emmanuel Macron and the French voters on their choice.
Before analysing the implicit import of this French electoral revolution of 2017, it would be nice to refresh our minds with the fascinating story of the much talked about Napoleon Bonaparte so as to more appropriately position this emerging world leader, Emmanuel Macron, in his right place of historical honour and to clearly underscore the implied significance, especially to Nigeria and Africa, where sit-tight rulership has destroyed the economic and democratic credentials of our continent and has made Africa a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Kinshasha and Uganda still have political dictators who seized power even whilst Emmanuel Macron was a two-year old.
But let’s review just a few historical events that characterised the Napoleonic era so as to reassert the correlationship with the contemporary French political tsunami that has just brought in the young Emmanuel Macron who only formed his Centrist Socialist Party last year.
In seeking verifiable information about this great French political statesman of all times, we have to consult the authoritative website known as www.biography.com.
In this great work of scholarship, we learnt that the military general and first emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, France.
These writers stated that Bonaparte remains one of the most celebrated leaders in the history of the West, and that he revolutionized military organization and training, sponsored Napoleonic Code, reorganized education and established the long-lived Concordat with the papacy.
He died on May 5, 1821, on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Before his emergence, France had witnessed tumultuous times and high profile executions.
But the comparison of Bonaparte and Emmanuel Macron ends not only with the historical significance that he is the youngest President-elect since Bonaparte.
The contemporary challenges posed by mass poverty of the urban youthful populations and the incursions into France of extreme Islamic fundamentalism can be situated side-by-side the internal political crises and schisms that unleashed themselves and resulted in the military takeover of political power by the ambitious General Napoleon Bonaparte.
As stated, the other existential nexus with the era of Bonaparte and Emmanuel Macron’s epoch is that whereas France faced internal political squabbles and instability leading to the emergence of the military General Napoleon Bonaparte to the coveted political office as the Leader of France, France right now is awash with situations of near anarchy created by the fear of terrorists.
Onwubiko writes from Lagos.
For some few years now, France has witnessed major terror attacks from Islamists loyal to the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq led by AlBagdadi.
Several law enforcement agents and journalists have met their violent deaths in the hands of these armed Islamic terrorists made up largely of home grown terror agents who became radicalized from the decrepit prison walls of France or through the World Wide Websites of radical islamic terror masterminds.
Again, France just like other European nations is witnessing a serious pressure to get the European Union disintegrate since after the United kingdom voted to exit the European Union.
Marine Le Pen, the other opponent in the second and last round of the presidential election, had played actively on the growing agitation for the dissolution of the European Union.
She secured over 30 percent of the votes in the final poll showing that France is gravely divided ideologically and that millions of citizens still believe in the ideology of exiting European Union as campaigned by Marine LaPen.
But the far-right La Pen who had since congratulated the president-elect, expressed appreciation to her supporters and promised to “lead the fight” in the France’s parliamentary elections next month.
Le Pen also pledged a “profound reform” of her Front National party to create ‘a new political force.
The media reported that although it was not clear what she meant by this, rumours in the media as reported are rife that the defeated presidential candidate may be planning to disband the party and build a new movement, aiming to organise “a major political reorganisation around the divide between patriots and globalists”.
But the media analyses of the French election also shows that the winner of this epochal election doesn’t have any politically elected office background.
This is how the media presented the emergence of Emmanuel Macron thus: “With his victory, Macron becomes France’s youngest president and has pulled off a remarkable feat. He has never held elected office, and just over a year ago his political movement En Marche did not even exist.”
“His rival, the far right leader Le Pen, has brought her France-first, anti-EU Front National party a long way. According to information from French state TV and radio monitored by The Guardian, the turnout projection of 74 percent is the lowest in the second round of a French presidential election since 1969.”
“This is not unexpected in a contest as unique as that between the independent centrist Macron and far-right Le Pen, neither of whom have the formal backing of a mainstream political group, say analysts. Supporters of LePen however interpreted the election victory of Macron as a vote for continuity.
Media observers say the outcome matters not just because France is the world’s sixth biggest economy and a key member of the EU, NATO and the UN Security Council, but also because the two candidates’ worldviews could not be more different.
Pollsters have predicted since the first round on April 23 that Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, former banker and economy minister, would win comfortably, possibly by more than 20 percentage points, and at 39 become France’s youngest ever leader.
He is economically liberal, socially progressive, globally minded and – on the whole – optimistic. Le Pen, of the far-right Front National, is a nation-first protectionist who wants to close France’s borders and abandon the euro and EU.
For us in Nigeria and the African continent, the emergence of Emmanuel Macron should teach us a lesson to mainstream the active participation of young persons in politics and the electoral legal frameworks so our nations can benefit from the academic prowess of thousands of Nigerian youngsters scattered all over the planet.
Same with most of African nations. For instance some scholars have already factored in the issue of academic sophistication of France and the French people as the fundamental reason for the actualization of this kind of political revolution whereby a young man with no previous electoral experience was able to form his political party and galvanize supports of mostly the young which has in less than a year displaced all the entrenched political camps and dynasties including the defeat of Marine LePen whose father was an ideologue in the French far-right.
“To get the import of Emmanuel Macron’s victory at the polls you MUST understand the socio-political social formation that made the victory possible in the first place…France is the bedrock of the Enlightenment Movement that spread through Western Europe. The Enlightenment inspired intellectual,philosophical, cultural and social movements across the globe. The ideas and principles of the Enlightenment have continues to affect French politics, culture and social lives. Thus, Macron’s victory too has strong root in the Enlightenment.”
The above was the scholarly position of Dr. Felix Akpan a former University teacher in Nigeria who is now an academic in Massachusetts USA.
Macron has promised to rebuild the economy of France and give hope to the millions of young persons who feel alienated.
He has also pledged to continue to extend the support of his nation to the global war on terror.
As a youngster Africans expect him to help the continents to recover billions of stolen money stashed in France and other European nations by political dictators of Africa because by so doing African nations will stabilise and the youth who are migrating to Europe due to war and economic collapse of their nations would remain in Africa and rebuild the battered continent.
As for Nigeria, the coming of this fresh politician in France should motivate the youth to pick the gauntlets and seek elective positions to reposition Nigeria to become a haven of good governance.