The Aftermath of an African Presidency: The Goodluck Jonathan Example

Zambia has written its name in the signs of times as one of the many African countries with elections this 2016, others include Uganda and South Africa where the ruling ANC had its worse results since the end of apartheid in 1994. In most, if not all, of these elections foreign observers are sent by the continental body, the African Union (AU) to monitor the conduct of the polls. In the case of Zambia, the head of the AU election monitoring team was former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. It was an opportunity to see a former African President still useful to his community and Africa at large.

In most African countries, leaving the Presidency by the incumbent is almost impossible, so when it happens, it becomes a history-making event. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Majority of these leaders who cling to power may have one or two worries among them: life after the Presidency, life after leaving the top job, and life after all the gallery is gone. This becomes even more preoccupying for those whose reign has been marked by a lot of controversies and to them it is better to die in power where no one would be able to bring up any criminal case against him. Sometimes it becomes a problem of corruption where the leader was being suspected of having embezzled huge sums of money. When a leader realizes that his safety after all the fanfare is not guaranteed, he may be tempted to cling to power until death. Moreover, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts as said by Lord Acton; the more a leader’s stay is prolonged the more he becomes attached to the presidency to the extent that he cannot live without it, and he is tempted to abuse the power conferred on him by his people.

Goodluck Jonathan is a free man with a free conscience and he lives in his native country of Nigeria without any fear of being arrested because he did not tamper with the constitution and fraternally accepted defeat in 2015. He joins the likes of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Jaoquim Chissano of Mozambique among others to inspire the young, serving their community and the African continent in general.

However, the case of Goodluck Jonathan is so particular as he became one of the rare incumbents to organize an election and lose to his immediate rival. Late President Mandela served only for one term and left a much more stable South Africa. He could have decided to make himself a life Presidency, as some will do, but he knew that the importance of a leader is not measured on the length of time he spends in power but the achievements recorded.

African leaders should know that life does not start and end with Presidency, but there is still life after the state house, work after the Presidency, and it is better to leave the stage when the applause is still at its peak. Nobody started the work of this earth and not even a president who rules for a century would be able to do the work as everybody has his own time and share of the work.

For some years now the Mo Ibrahim price of leadership excellence in Africa has not been awarded because a suitable former president has not been found. But with the recent example from Nigeria the future of Africa promises to be great.