President Abdoulaye Wade has a golden opportunity to prove himself an African statesman and maintain the stability of Senegal, the only country in mainland West Africa that has never suffered a coup d'etat.
After what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, it is apparent that African leaders seldom learn from history. The era of taking on presidency as a lifetime profession which a father passes on to his sons; holding politics as an avenue for self-enrichment instead of a public service; literally running countries as personal property and sustaining bureaucratic opportunists who encourage grip on power to keep the tap of favours running is over. The era of chieftaincy images, egocentrism, the extensive powers that either the constitution or the lack of it gives rulers is over. A ruler that is accountable to the electorate ought not to fear prosecution and humiliation for human rights abuses and corruption committed during his tenure.
Wade’s bid is thus a wake-up call for African countries to put more checks and balances in their governance infrastructure to hold leaders accountable to the electorate, curtail the tendency to act with impunity, ensure a well-defined, regulated and transparent system for determining leadership succession and erase the permanent incumbency syndrome. It is a call to reverse the current status quo where politicians are the best paid while entrepreneurs and private citizens are generally starved.
Will Wade follow his ego or listen to the electorate? Will he marshal his Pan-African gains? His reaction and how the African Union helps to midwife Senegal’s transition will determine whether the democratic ideal in Africa is in peril.