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Don't African presidents have a retirement age?


On 10 November 2008, we woke up to the sad news that Miriam Makeba, a.k.a Mama Africa, had died of a heart attack during a performing visit to the Naples in Italy. She was 76.

On sharing this sad news with a colleague, his insensitive response was “Why was she still singing at the age of 76?” My immediate retort was “(Robert) Mugabe still wants to govern the country at 84, and at least Makeba was entertaining people, not implementing policies that were causing suffering and pain – if anything, she had more of a right to maintain her job!”

That got me thinking about retirement. Apparently, Mama Africa had begun talking about retiring. Clearly, she had also scaled down her activities so we can safely say she was undergoing some transition towards retirement. Makeba left a legacy after an illustrious career.

On the other hand, I could not help but wonder if African presidents have an official retirement age. In most countries, the retirement age for civil servants is 65. I imagine the same applies to the private sector. This must be governed by the assumption that after a certain age, the human brain begins to deteriorate and general health plummets. Besides, people generally need to rest from all the years of toiling and enjoy the fruits of their labour in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their grand children and loved ones. At least, that is the way life used to be – or so we were taught during our growing years.

Bearing in mind that national presidents are civil servants, surely, they should not be exempted from such rules – afterall, the stakes are higher! There is a vast difference between the retirement of an old man who is working in a small printing company and one who is running a government. Yet, what we see is the opposite – some old men have no desire to rest and still feel they have a lot to offer the nation – even if evidence on the ground testifies to the contrary. The list of African presidents who remained in power long after the acceptable retirement age and subsequently caused untold suffering is quite long. Examples abound, including Malawi's Kamuzu Banda and the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)'s Mobutu Sese Seko. I thought it might be interesting to do a survey on the ages of sitting African presidents. But then again, even if an age limit was imposed, who would enforce it anyway?

I could not help but wonder, though. Why is it so difficult for people to let go? Is power that sweet? Why should the will of an individual prevail over that of a nation? Are some people more important than others?

True, George Orwell in his “Animal Farm,” did say “some animals are more equal than others,” but it would be comforting if that had just remained a mere sentence in a book of fiction. Sadly, that is the reality that characterises the politics in our beloved continent.


olutosin's picture

Do not mind them

What more can we say, when even our president in Nigeria is so sick that he needs only rest in life, yet he is bend on completing the four year term. A whole person could not solve Nigeria's problem, is it somone who needs another one to solve his problem that will be looking for how to solve 148million people's problem?

We do not have their time, nature knows how to unseat their types. A one time President in Nigeria, called Babangida, he ruled for eight and half agonising years as a Military ruler, he resigned and wanted to rule as civilian, recently he said he will contest again in 2011. We know their types, they will sit on the elegant chair and excrete on it too, while we continually wait for their generation to signify interest in any good thing in the future. we do not really have any good example around us here, at least eight years the minimum and in those year they amass wealth for their dogs when the
bank accounts of their unborn children cannot take more.

They forgot that if they are buried in two graves at a time people will believe that it is rituals, after all said and done, they cannot eat more tahtn their bellies can contain excet htey are ready to die untimely death. I f they ride in 2 cars at the same time, it will be termed as madness! A rich man can only sleep in one room at a time, if he tries to shift from one room to the other even the wife will scream my husband has gone mad again!

Let them continue to sit tight in power, They have eaten sour grapes their children's teeth will soon be set on edge, because we die in silence, pensioners die on queue to collect their pensions, they cook their meals in tin of beverages outside the gates of government secretariat, children are out of school, boys are hawkers in the express road, hawking to keep the siul and body together, they turned our daughters to prostitute all in the name of food, fathers send out their wives for prostitution because the powerful men are like lazy men. I weep for Africa!

God Bless Every Pulse wire member


Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


joyomosh's picture

Truth be told

I support your sentiments. Some of them are beyond their expiry date and we are still pickig the likes of Robert Mugabe from the shelves in the supermarket.Or is it that they are being forced into our shopping baskets without caring that we have to pay with our own lives!

Provocative and Ironic and truth-telling. Thank you for posting.

Hi Matilde,

Thanks for bringing that subject up. I have been puzzled by that same question.
Our own president - Paul Biya who had been in power since 1982, the second president after our independence in 1960, and he was the vice-president before the other president retired and he took over office.

Last year, the only issue he considered at stake to amend in an old and outdated constitution was the removal of the clause on the term limit for the president set at two, seven – year term, paving the way for President Biya to stand for the next presidential election. The likes of him are Omar Mbongo of Gabon, Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea for close to forty years.


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