Pope Benedict’s announced resignation (otherwise dubbed as abdication) to take effect February 28 due to old age and poor health should serve as a lesson to African presidents. He is 86.
Most people were taken unaware, even seasoned Vatican watchers, for this is a rare occasion that last happened almost 600 years ago. Benedict is therefore to be commended for this act of humility. At 86 and in poor health, he realized that he can no longer perform to the best of his ability. He may be remembered best for this simple act because he has otherwise not been a marverick spiritual leader.
Benedict’s selfless act not to cling on to power when he is no longer able to effectively serve his flock, intelectually and physically, ought to be a teachable moment for African presidents who are clinging to power, at all costs. Yet their positions affect their people in more dire ways than the Pope.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 86, and in power since 1980 is from all appearances out of sorts and clueless. Zimbabweans are paying the price.
President Teodoro Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, 71, and in power for 34 years is another one who has over stayed. Way over stayed.
President Biya of Cameroon, 76, and in power for 31 years also proves the Benedictus theory: move on while you still have some of your marbles.
Hosni Mubaraak of Egypt, 82, was un-ceremoniously booted out of office two years ago, and has now been sentenced to life imprisonment for ordering the killing of more than 800 protesters against his regime. This surely is no way to end a career.
But Africa’s so-called “Big Men” turn a deaf ear.