With what is now going on in Gabon as a starter, we may need a plan C to sort out the political mess to get things going. Whether plan A to prepare the grounds for Ali Ben Bongo’s nomination or plan B, getting him through the voting system have been a success, the sustenance of plan C will tell it all after a couple of weeks and perhaps months when things go quiet.
So the situation now is one of touch and go. Undoubtedly, the development in Gabon is neither happening for the first time in the wider African perspective nor with the violent reaction in the West African state would stem the tide and caution African political leaders to take less haste.
It is also the same reminder that it is not always that “the son (not sun) should rise” as if a vineyard belongs to only one family. Such political adventurism has always ended in fiasco, plunging the country into chaos.
The trappings are that these sons and daughters are ill equipped for the network trapping of governance and see themselves as being on a meteoric rise owing no allegiance to the citizens they govern. They see their citizens as being in the back pockets of their leaders.
The lesson to be learnt from the Gabon debacle is that don’t push people too far, they can react in a way that would make your blood run cold. Such rippling has the possibility of pushing the country to the precipice and giving extra weight to the opposition to keep on the pressure.
Ali Bongo’s candidature was in dispute from the onset of the campaign which means that even within the party itself; there was no singular or united support. The current predicament has been foreseen. He was not only the front liner in the election but he was certain to win hands down without a run off.
This may have been a plus for Bongo at the time. It also provided his opponents with the opportunity to plan their strategy of how he would be given the hot pants and make the Presidential palace scorch for awhile.
His opponents realize that in Gabon and elsewhere when one talk about son succeeding the father, hairs would stand on the head like a terrier. Few would take the husband bringing home the bacon for the wife to cook.
Where Bongo and its supporters could have played it softly, softly, they goofed in the process by exhibiting the traits of the kiddy’s rhyme of the castle and the fiddle. In the end, the country is in a quandary with the possibility that Gabon will be tittering on nails until the next election in four years time.
Bongo also failed to head a popular gulp of –they only serve those who stand and wait. Bongo’s rise in the political sphere has been meteoric. Like most post-independence black French-speaking Africans, Bongo was no exception to be passed off as snobbish.
Common Gabonese is in doubt whether this could be attributed to wealth in the family or educational traits. But as any savvy politician, he was as humble as a cat on the days leading to the election.
His focus no doubt was to lead the fourth largest oil producing country in Africa. Some said he was destined for leadership – a usual assertion made by African politicians even when their credentials are sometimes dodgy and cramp.
But for Ali Ben Bongo, he has had at least two unlikely breaks in the past. He was the youngest head of the country’s Islamic Council when he opted to convert to Islam and left the job to be appointed by his father as Foreign Minister.
He was criticized as being extremely “youthist” for the job. After years of palace grooming, he was made the Defence Minister- a job he held up to Election Day. Now that Bongo’s election has been re-enforced by the decision of the Constitutional Court that there were no frills, he could only sit out and watch until his opponents run out of steam.
To send out the boys to knock some heads would only steam-roll the affairs and lead to ugly scenes. With the current economic crunch nibbling on jobs in many African countries and beyond, a tit-for-tat reaction would be unwise.
And this is where the problem lies-for Gabon today but precisely for dozens or more African countries in the short term. What then could be done to heal the festering sore? Expectations are boundless. Close supporters are already visioning of becoming Ministers spurred on by their wives and the thoughts of riding the latest Renault or Mercedes.
Some eating habits have changed overnight with caviar being a daily delicacy. Others would vouch for Ambassadorship. So the list would extend. Even some from the opposition would expect something despite the current format.
That’s life in Gabon; man must live. But the warning remains glare. Africa should dump the idea of dynasty and passing political rule from dad to son or keeping it all within the family.
It remains a disturbing factor that could lead to the destabilization of an otherwise peaceful state. For Gabon however, if the situation continues to leap and bound, Gabonese would have trouble understanding each other for sometime to come.
By Rod Mac- Johnson