Sunday Bassey: French President Macron, Sit-Tight African Presidents: Lessons For Nigeria

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It is becoming increasingly bothersome for one to reconcile oneself with the hypes within some media circles about Mr. Emmanuel Macron’s relatively young age as President of France. Could this have been caused by the fact that African leadership particularly is annoyingly replete with frail looking septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians, who just lumber, or limp, rather than walk around as Presidents?

What’s the issue? Macron is 39 going to 40! A quadragenarian cannot be said to be too young to handle any responsibility in life, including the leadership of a country. Let no one forget that Macron has been one young man born under the influence of a serendipitous star, and endowed to see, handle, climb and conquer any intimidating mountain that his age mates would be too trepidatious to even dream of moving close to. In a sense, Macron was a child prodigy in his own unique way.

Naturally ingrained conquistador’s psyche, if found in sufficient quantums in an individual, has the rare automotive force to drive the individual through extraordinary challenges that people, without it, can never wade through. And Macron seems to have a generous dose of it in his genes, although, many have argued that the conqueror stuff is rather in Madame Brigitte Trogneux, another man’s wife, and his former drama teacher, who would become his all-purpose coach and wife.

At that time when the two first met in school, Macron is said to have been fifteen and Brigitte was forty, clear twenty-five years between both of them. It must have taken both wile and cajolery for Brigitte, a married woman to lure the teenager into a rare romantic relationship that was not only nasty, but also dangerous.
Since then, wise as a serpent, the woman has been mentoring her protégé into becoming too many things in too early age for him: a young dramatist; a teenage lover boy; an underdog marital partner; a weeny stepfather to Brigitte’s children who are either older than, or equal in age to him; a banker; a young minister; a starter politician, and now a neophyte president. What a courageous rally!

One can say, Brigitte is Macron’s brainbox. So, let no one nurse any illusion that because of his relative inexperience in politics, Macron might fail as a president. This seems improbable because three phenomena have stood up stoutly in his favor now, like they have been doing all along in his life.

These are serendipity, Brigitte, and the combined 103 years of age and experiences between the two of them. As she has been grooming him into one success after another, she will surely employ her very mature age and experience, and reliance on good luck, to pull him through as President, since she is also stepping in as the First Lady of France.

There are greater reasons therefore, to give kudos to Madame Brigitte, for her go-getter gimmickry in Macron’s life, than there are to haggle over Macron’s underage achievements, and any probability that he might fail as president. This is a thought that stands to be challenged.

It seems no one appears to be conscious of the fact that Madame Brigitte is becoming possibly the most sophisticated First Lady France has ever had. In my observation, since the modern French political history, Madame Brigitte will be the first French woman to have nurtured up a man through life, targeted him at grabbing the Palais Champs-Élysée, and actually helped him to do so, and then sat down to manage it as First Lady.

Interestingly, Brigitte’s brand of First Ladyship is unlike any other, ever known. She is going to manage the presidential office from the frontline, rather than from behind as has always been the case with regard to previous French presidents. I can wager my token daily rations that Brigitte is going to make success out of Macron’s Presidency. If that is going to be the crown for all her life’s investments in the life of a little boy.

What is incontestable is the efficient, and high quality coaching that former Mrs. Trogneux has been giving Macron since his fifteenth year of age. She seduced him, or can one say, he seduced her? That debate is left for another day! Then she began the coaching lessons, first on dramatic arts. His quick-witted responses to new acts, moves, tricks and preformances in artistic delivery, must have encouraged her into trying him out in other forms of performances: romantic comedy that quickly transformed itself into real life steamy illicit acts.

Macron passed the tests very well, and that spilled over into coachings on marital affairs. Being a good learner, Macron cleared all huddles, to Brigitte’s ecstatic approval and zeal. She then introduced him into many more breathtaking ventures, advancing from one aspect of life into another, until they both arrived where they are now! This is can only be legendary!

In human history, there have been many budding leaders cut out of, but not exactly in the mould of Macron, whose serendipitous life’s ventures, projected them rather miraculously unto greatness.

David eliminated Goliath at tender age and rose through the grills to become one of the greatest kings ever known; his son Solomon, unequaled in wisdom, wealth and romantic escapades outshone his father in God-given leadership qualities, although he finally ended up badly because of human frailties; Moses became, from humble start, one of the greatest leaders of all times; Nelson Mandela became one of the modern world’s greatest twists in leadership, Africa’s own contribution to the list of the world’s leadership Marshalls, as his qualities shone out of the dark prison walls to announce him as an example in leadership;

Barack Obama is still evoking an aura of admiration for a phenomenal leadership slant; Koffi Annan cannot be skipped mention as a naturally endowed leader; what of Gandhi, mother Theresa, and other mortals, who have shown good examples of leadership and potentates. Most of the great leaders of note were not hobbled, but were allowed to give vent to their leadership instincts, hence they have become parts of good history today.

If Africa had not yet contributed an answer in Mandela, to leadership challenges, Afro-cynics, and Afro-skeptics would have been having field days in their phobic sentiments against Africa as a “jungle where leadership can neither germinate nor thrive.”

There are other great African leaders of the ancient times such as Shaka de Zulu, Haile Sellasie, to mention only two, from whom current African leaders can draw inspirations to enable them pull Africa out the present leadership quagmire. Africa does not need senile Methuselahs to rule instead of lead the beautiful continent into sustainable development. Nor does a leader in Africa have to spend decades and centuries in office, especially where he has nothing in good leadership to offer the people.

Nigeria cannot be lacking in natural supplies of potential, gifted, great leaders, if only corrupt usurpers and greedy, selfish pretenders, who have been seizing the country on its throats, can relax to allow nature project great leaders up, and the society allow such bubbling leaders to take the helms of affairs at appropriate times in the evolutionary processes, to push the country into greatness.

A great leader can emerge within any place and at any years of age. It is the society that must give such leaders a chance, and encourage them to rise up and lead without suppressing nature’s gratuitousness. That is what we are seeing developing in France.

The present Nigerian constitution, concocted by a group of people, whose views of life were circumscribed by localized idiosyncrasies and limited by personalized leadership visions and missions, cannot facilitate our country’s emergence through gifted leadership. There is no reason why a gifted leader younger than forty years of age, which is the minimum age prescribed, can I say proscribed, by the current Nigerian constitution, should not be allowed to lead this country to the promise land.

In 2010 I traveled on a Presidential trail to Cameroon for one of those yearly flamboyant celebrations of President Paul Biya’s ascendancy to power since November 6, 1982, only a year after I had joined the Foreign Service in 1981.

Today, I am four years in retirement, and he is 35 years and still counting in office. Throughout the over three hour grand march past parades, the ill-equipped military bands were grinding and grating their wind and percussion instruments to, while hundreds of thousands of tired, poverty-weakened, and misery-faced woman clad in fake fabrics of flowing flowery African attires, trudging sweat-soaked men in rough-cut tunics, and sore-footed, limping little school children, were echoing mouthfuls, the praises of their President: “Paul Biya, Paul Biya, God bless Paul Biya, God bless Paul Biya, Paul Biya is God sent down.”

As I peered across the glossy coal tarred march past tarmac within the Presidential palace into the green skylines of Yaoundé, I saw a misty sky weeping for being oppressed by a sea of thatch, and rusty zinc roofs, evidence of the work of a leader acclaimed as “God sent down.”

Let Africa arise, and let Africans abide not baneful, but brisk and bounteous leadership that the world cannot deride.

Sunday Benjamin Bassey is Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea

 

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