Lord Acton once observed that ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Burundi leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, has been named ‘Eternal Supreme Guide’ by his political party, meaning that no one is allowed to disagree with him. The title comes in the wake of an impending national referendum that is most likely to see him ‘permitted’ to rule until 2034.
African leaders cherish grandiose titles. The late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s titles included ‘Lord of the Beasts’ and ‘Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa.’ The late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire even borrowed a title – the Helmsman – from Mao. Yahya Jammeh of Gabon adorned the ‘Doctor’ and ‘Professor prefixes’ in addition to such titles as Babili Mansa (Bridge Builder). A rose flower by any name remains a rose. The titles did not stop Amin, Mobutu and Jammeh from falling when their policies did not resonate with their electorate and region.
With globalisation and increased connectivity, Africans are increasingly knowing their rights. They know when titles do not translate to their quality of life and will always react when pushed to the wall. African leaders must read the pulse of the electorate and stop marginalisation. They must empower the people, invest in them to upgrade their productivity as well as create a conducive environment for them to carry out their day to day activities peacefully.