Checkered history: It is not for nothing that Togo today, is ranked as the saddest country in the world. She seems to hang breathlessly from the precipice of the Gnassingbe Eyadema family. This scary situation is made worse by the fact that it’s in a state of suspended animation of sort currently. In other words, Togo is waiting to exhale.
It has been in this situation for about 57 years, holding its breath, hanging precariously and hoping that some goodly angel would walk by and cast a kind eye upon her.
Well, perhaps the long suffering Togo nearly 8 million in population, largely of Ewe stock might be lucky someday, but the horizon is dim at this moment.
Historically, Togo has a tough history. First, it was so badly hit by the slave trade that it earned the sobriquet, ‘Slave coast’.
Second, it was the battlefield of three major European powers namely: Germany, Britain and France.
The Portuguese seafarers got to Togo first but Germany had dominance and got the territory at the point of the scramble for Africa in 1884.
During the First World War, Britain and France like pirates, hijacked Togo and eventually split it into two: British Togo and French Togo. British Togo was merged with Ghana at her independence in 1961 while the French portion is today’s Togo.
Since Togo gained independence over 50 years ago, its journey has remained topsy-turvy till date.
Upon the first post-independence election in 1961, Sylvanus Olympio’s party had won but he soon imposed a regime of dictatorship, constricting democratic space and indeed, chasing away opposition. The military struck two years later, in 1963, killed President Olympio and installed an interim government.This was in turn, toppled in 1967 in a bloodless coup led by Gnassingbe Eyadema.
Gnassingbe the father: Like Olympio, Eyadema also ruled with iron fist, ran a one-party State and suppressed opposition.
Pressured by the global democratic movement of the 90s, Eyadema was reluctantly pushed to return to civil rule though he never relaxed the life-like grip on his country.
He torpedoed the constitution several times to remain in power until he died suddenly in office in 2005.
Gnassingbe the son: Faure, one of Eyadema’s sons had been positioned to take over. The constitution had been tweaked a couple of years earlier to reduce presidential eligibility age from 45 to 35 years.
This was ostensibly to accommodate Faure who was a powerful cabinet minister under his much ailing father and who was only 36.
When Eyadema died in office in 2005, the country’s military was influenced to install Faure president whereas the constitution prescribed that the head of the legislature was to form interim government and conduct election in 60 days.
Faure’s unconstitutional ascent to power was considered a coup and international uproar arising from his hijack of power forced him to organize an election which was reportedly massively manipulated and he won.
He has wangled his way through three more elections since then, winning them all rather dubiously; he is serving a fourth term as president having repudiated the constitution like his father to remain in power.
While his father was president for 28 years Faure has already done 15 years and he seems to have just begun.
As it stands, the Eyadema dynasty (father and son) has virtually ruled Togo since independence.
If the dynasty had worked for the good of the people over these years, perhaps the Togolese would have taken solace in the positive results. But dictatorships, especially in Africa have never lifted any country.
A survey recently name the Togolese as the saddest people in the world. This is the result of acute poverty. Some 70% of rural Togo is reported to live below the poverty line.
The country under Faure has continued to slide into a morass of graft according to the corruption perception index of Transparency International.
Phosphates mining which is the mainstay of Togo’s economy is said to be controlled directly from Government House.
There’s a famous saying in Togo accredited to Faure inter alia: “My father told me never to leave power.”
It seems so very typical but meanwhile, Togo’s opposition and exiles continue to grow and get bolder. They are spread across the west coast all the way to Nigeria.
But dictators across the world who are obsessed with power hardly quit without a shove or supernatural intervention.
Would Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema allow reason prevail in Togo?