A tale of two old men

Once upon a time, there lived in the Southernmost and the westernmost parts of a continent far away from the rest of the world, two young men.  Both were born in the first decades of the last century, when the whole world was going through dire transformations, between the two great wars and with communication means experiencing more and more rapid developments.

Both were strong, clever and gifted with inquisitive minds, and wanted to do great things for their respective countries.  This ambition was quite understandable, since their countries and almost all of their continent were dominated either by a tiny national élite or by external, powerful countries, on the pretense that they knew better and consequently, had to provide civilization, superior religious beliefs and culture to the rest of the humanity.

Life was difficult for the two young men.  However and since they were strong and bright and clever, they endeavored to study the ways of their masters, in order to understand them better and why not, fight them on their own ground. They graduated with many University degrees and launched their professional careers in almost the same trade, which is law, even though they lived in different parts of the continent.

In fact, while growing up, the two young men were less and less at ease with the way things went around them, in the political aspect mainly.  They did not like the fact that on the one hand, one small racial minority that self defined itself as superior to the majority in the country, had the upper hand on everything, from political leadership to defining public policies, cultural norms and standards, property ownership,   economic development, etc.

On the other, although his Westernmost country acquired its independence a few years back and was actually run by its own nationals, a one party rule was installed and its educated élite was governing day-in, day out, without any possibility of power changing hands.

Each of them ardently fought this state of affairs, one even taking up arms, to overthrow the old system, while the other created his own political party, aiming at bringing more democracy to his country.  He became a staunch opponent to the one party rule and democratically, competed in elections that were not so free and fair, to become President himself.  Both were dragged to courts, heavily sentenced and thrown into jail many times, where they spent quite a few years.

Since prison term is like a graduate school toward power in undemocratic countries, this was true for the two of them. After 27 years struggling for what they believed in, both in their old age they became Presidents of their country, and promised decisive changes in the way power was exercised.

In the course of their rule, the older man kept to his word; his personal struggle, sacrifice and suffering actually brought decisive changes to his country, with his people enjoying social justice and equal rights, without any consideration given to the color of their skin, choice of religion or cultural background, as was the case before.

However, after achieving his goal, he decided not to overstay his welcome; consequently, he retired after only one, five-year term in Office.  He was genuinely and only preoccupied with the wellbeing of his country, its men and women of all ages, trades, shapes and shades. And this has paid hugely.

The second claimed that he was bringing changes and was elected twice, spending 12 years in power.  Nonetheless for him, that was not enough.  Since he thought his country needed deep and comprehensive changes, he reneged on his own words, changed the Constitution and tried to impose his son as his putative successor, on his people, to whom he wants to force feed changes as he sees fit, for a third term of seven years on a majority of them.

After retiring, the first one is honored and recognized by his people and the rest of the world as a universal icon of wisdom and moderation, while the second does not want to retire and still views himself as a beacon of strength, cleverness, an insightfulness and visionary leader, an irreplaceable son of his country and continent. This is self aggrandizement and perpetuation, if not self-delusion as largely shared by many longstanding heads of State in that continent.

But and as they say, the road to hell is made of good intentions.

This is the glorious tale of Nelson R. Mandela, an old African but honored world Statesman, and the sad tale of Abdoulaye Wade, another old African head of State courting disgrace because of too strong a hunger for power.. .

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