BARACK Obama made history when he was elected first African-American president of the US back in 2008, but he would cause even bigger waves if he amended the US Constitution to allow him run for a third term.
He’s only 53 but come November 2016, Americans will elect a new president and that will mark the end of Obama’s active political career.
He will never be able to run for office again like Nigeria’s 72-year-old former general Muhammadu Buhari who is attempting to a comeback.
Obama will just have turned 54 when he hands over power. Only a few African leaders would be younger, including DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila, 43, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, 51, and Kenya’ Uhuru Kenyatta, 53.
Many of the others are in their seventies and eighties, and we even have a nonagenarian in Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe who turned 91 on February 21.
As we all know, US presidential terms are four years long and you can only serve two, regardless of how popular you are, while for most African countries, the terms are five or six years long and you don’t even have to be liked by your countrymen and women.
Where term limits were in place, many incumbents ensured they amended their countries’ constitutions to allow them run for third, fourth, fifth and counting terms.
There have always been people against this, but the ruling party always quells the opposition, as the party president usually has the judiciary and army in his pockets; two crucial “weapons” you need to stay in power in Africa.
Only in the last four years have we seen dissent and protests so massive they forced some of the continent’s longest serving leaders out.
North Africa had the most casualties following the Arab Spring that saw Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi and Eqypt’s Hosni Mubarak ousted from power.
Another rarity was Burkina Faso’s former President, Blaise Compaoré who fled the country last October after his attempt to tinker with the constitution and extend his 27-year-rule led to widespread violent protests. He was chased from power women wielding cooking spoons. How?
Similar protests in DR Congo in January may have forced Kabila to put his extension plans on hold but for the most part, many African leaders have got away with lengthening their mandated terms and as such, many of those who were in power when Obama was sworn into office in 2009 still are, and will be long after he’s gone.
They must be scratching their heads at how he can just let go of power like that. Maybe if he had spent more time with his African brothers, instead of the scattered trips he made to only five African countries since becoming president; to Egypt and Ghana in 2009, and belatedly to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa in June 2013, he would have learnt a thing or two about consolidating power, something he badly needs because right now, the most powerful man in the world really doesn’t have that much power.
How else do you explain the incumbent, a Democrat, losing control of the Congress, the equivalent of Parliament in most of Africa, both Chambers of which are now run by an opposition Republican majority?
Wouldn’t tolerate Netanyahu
Nowhere in Africa, not even in Ghana lauded for good governance and progressive democracy, would the opposition party invite a leader of another country to address lawmakers, let alone dictate the nation’s foreign policy, which is exactly what US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner did when he intentionally breached protocol and extended an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, at a time when a US-led coalition is trying to negotiate the best deal possible to stall, if not halt, Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Any African leader watching Netanyahu call Obama naïve and basically undermine his Iran strategy, and receive standing ovations for it, when Israel itself has nuclear weapons with an estimated 75 to 400 nuclear warheads according to some sources, now surely doubts if African blood flows in Obama’s veins.
He didn’t even appoint a single relative to his administration and for most of his tenure, has allowed his appointees to be vetted by his opponents, with some even getting rejected and the president “punished” for legislations meant to help American citizens.
Millions of Africans staring at a bleak future despite extensive mineral, oil and other resources would appreciate a president who made healthcare more affordable, pushed for quality education for all children, and equal pay for women.
Sadly for Obama, he will have to return to his old house in Chicago and will certainly not be rewarded with a $5 million cash prize the likes of outgoing Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba received from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for exceptional leadership!