Go on, give in graciously.

You can do it. Your birth name is not Mr. President after all, it is Laurent Gbagbo. And as an ex-president you are still entitled to a relatively long limousine. Yes there’ll be fewer toys on offer, less pomp, no sirens… but you certainly won’t be destitute. Indeed, Laurent, it may surprise you to realise that due to the scarcity of African ex-presidents (your colleagues – for some reason – prefer to retire to mausoleums) you may be in a position to commence a lucrative career on the international circuit as a much fĂȘted public speaker. But you have to hurry. The window on the ‘fĂȘted’ bit is closing fast, especially if you provoke another crisis in that long-suffering nation. You should know that presidents who precipitate unnecessary war and bloodshed are no longer as hot as they used to be. Tony Blair can barely walk an English street these days, how much more speak in a British bookshop.

Your permanent address is not Abidjan’s Presidential Palace, Laurent. I know you have been there since 2000, but egos are pretty elastic things. However large it may seem right now it will fit snugly into more modest accommodation. The relocation of an ex-president is not the end of his life. There are metropolitan examples of this and you are welcome to look north to France as usual. ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing was rejected as President of France at the 1981 polls. After the dizzying spendours of the Palais de l’ÉlysĂ©e, in 1995 he returned to local concerns, campaigning for election as mayor of Clermont-Ferrand. Sadly he lost that election. But neither the shame of standing for humble office nor the humiliation of losing it killed d’Estaing – and that is the moral of this little anecdote.

So steel yourself Mr. Ex-President. You can do it. The blood of the thousands of your compatriots spilled in the last war cries onto you. Heed those cries, Sir. Remember that sacrifice of life, of limb. Remember your public tears of contrition. Go on, put a brave face on it: you have not lost an election, you have saved a motherland onto new generations. Sacrifice a few presidential toys and pour out a short and gracious Concession Speech. Retire temporarily, for the sake of the people you love. And if you have no taste for the international lecture circuit, perhaps a grassroots public service position in the northern regions of Cote d’Ivoire. Throw yourself into a local concern in the so-called heartlands of your opponent and see if you would not have melted the intransigent ethnicity of Ivorien politics by the time the next Presidential elections come around. (Don’t worry, we’ll be here to see that Alassane plays fair…) And if all else fails, there’s always the Mo Ibrahim Prize for leadership. I can’t promise anything – you know they didn’t find a worthy enough winner last year – but they can’t keep making excuses forever. People might begin to think they’ve gone broke.

I am rooting for you, ex-president Dr. Laurent Gbagbo.

Your admirer,

Chuma Nwokolo

PS: I hear the Nigeria-led ECOWAS might dispatch peacekeepers to maintain your status quo and that Mbeki is visiting on AU’s behalf to mediate… here’s a warning from history: back in the day, Nigeria-led ECOMOG troops did not much extend the life of Ex-President Samuel Doe, or his government. And do tell Mbeki that AU should get out of the crisis-management mode and set up orientation programmes and employment bureaus for retiring heads of state. Not for you of course, but Mbasogo has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 30 years and Gaddafi, Libya, for 40 years… O dear. I have not just ruined my appeal, have I?

17 Replies to “Dear Laurent Gbagbo”

  1. Dr Babagana Machina says:

    Nice one Mr Chuma. I hope Mr Gbagbo heeds your advice & concedes defeat “graciously”. God bless Ivory Coast! God bless Nigeria!

    1. Chuma says:

      Fingers crossed, Babagana. The problem is that the ears of leadership are often deafened by the din of the greedy that surrounds them.

  2. Ngozichi says:

    Nice piece
    I still cannot believe he inauguarated himself, two men inauguarated as president of one long suffering country, what can be more absurd.
    Sometimes I really do wonder, the wiring of the cerebral matter of Africa’s heads of state
    Do they ever think of history? how they would be remembered, what their generations unborn will think of them, do they ever spare a thought for the common man on the street
    Please Gbagbo, take a bow……it’s not the end of the world

  3. Chuma says:

    Happily enough Ngozichi, some of them do.

    The Bukinabe lodestar of Thomas Sankara still shines brightly enough to embarrass the cloven-footed characters that have shambled around in the years since his murder. And the first real sentence of my piece was inspired by Nigeria’s serving Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi. As you know, he had been hauled before the National Assembly and literally threatened with a sack if he did not withdraw his factual statement that the National assembly was consuming more than a quarter of the national budget. His response was to reiterate the statement. With the punchline, ” My name is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, not Central Bank Governor. I enjoy my job but if you want me to quit, I will honourably quit.’ Now, that was a man with his eye on history.

    And he is African. Dr. Gbagbo should pay attention.

  4. Ovo says:

    Gbagbo has behaved in a manner typical of his ilk: Mugabe, Museveni, Mubarak, Campaore, Bashir, Ghadaffi, Biya, Eyadema, Zenawi, Bongo, Kibaki, Toure, Tandja, Mobutu, Sassou-Nguesso, Jammeh, Deby, kabila…etc. Past and present the vintage wine is the same. It’s not a novelty. Nothing to be worried about. Even if he dies today his son would replace him. This thing called democracy is foreign to the black man. The sooner we stop pretending the better.

    1. Chuma says:

      Ovo, quite a list you have going there. Noticed the elipsis too…
      It is a human condition, though Africa has a lot more work to do naturally. The culture of democracy in Africa has been sabotaged by external powers who are keen to undermine democratic choices that threaten their interests. A relief to see ECOWAS taking a principled stand on Gbagbo. Hope it continues.

  5. Kosi Adigbo says:

    .Chuma, i couldnt agree with u more . thumbs up to u.

  6. Ovo says:

    I get tired of hearing this lame excuse of ‘external forces’ at play; this tendency to put all blame, our failures and shortcomings on outside influence. We are taught from childhood to look both ways before crossing a street. Why then do we keep at only one way – at ‘external forces? What about the internal tragedies that are perpetuated every day in our African countries? Is it the ‘external forces’ that supervise the unaccountable depletion of our natural and financial resources? Do you think Gbagbo will be pulling his weight if he did not have the support of local officials around him?

    As if by attributing the problem to an abstract ‘human condition’ we intend to normalize its occurrence. Is it the outside forces that prevents us from building social and legal institutions that will prevent this ‘human condition’ of lawlessness, negligence, bad policy, disorganization, and corruption from thriving in Africa? A situation that allows somebody that did not win an election to remain in office and people will be begging him to quit.

    We can point fingers all we want but until we learn to admit responsibility for our social problems nothing will change. People like Gbagbo will keep subjugating and exploiting the system. In Ivory Coast we walked down this road forty years ago with Houphouët-Boigny. Ten, fifteen years ago it was Bedie and Guei. Twenty years from today you will still be hearing the same thing.

    1. Chuma says:

      @ Ovo; as Wikileaks proves, you will ignore the external factors only at your own risk. If a foreign country has a contract out for your head of state there is no sense burying your head in the sand. Ask Congo. Ask Iraq. ‘Nuff said.

      Having said that, you are right of course: the external factors are only one aspect of an environment that African communities have to master to own their destinies. No more no less. That is why I am pleased that ECOWAS set the moral tone yesterday, by calling out Gbagbo unambiguously. The fiction of national sovereignty that allows petty brigands to carve out family fiefdoms should be exploded. When the war starts it will swamp West Africa so why should West African governments allow a man with an expired mandate to tear up his contract with his fellow citizens. Presidents who stay on in government houses after the expiry of their leases should be treated as respectable burglars.

      And no, I do not cop out when I describe this as a human condition. Queen Elizabeth has been head of state (ceremonial, yes,) of the UK and more longer than any African Sovereign. The system permits her. Tony Blair won three elections and was PM for 10 years – their system permits an indefinite premiership and he did not show any desire to leave No 10 until the occupant of No 11 shoved. The system permits it. I think it is human nature to desire power, wealth, prosperity – and to seek to maximise it to extent permitted by mores, by laws, and by the steeled-eyed determination of the people whose toes you are stepping on…

      Be well

  7. Ovo says:

    Only that our human conditioning sprouts its banner in the worst possible ways. Good article. Good discussion. I have always known you were a politician in hiding.

    Next time you want to add to the Diaries of a Dead African, please start with Gbagbo. He is our latest fetish installment. God help us.

  8. richard mammah says:

    Africa has come of age, Murtala Muhammed foresaw three decades ago. We will overcome Gbagbo. We will go forward.

  9. straightup says:

    Incredibly witty and impassioned missive to a would-be deluded despot. Excellent stuff Sir, just stumbling on you for the first time (shockingly), and thoroughly enjoying the inspired and enchanting ink-flow. Will definitely make it a habit. Gbagbo should definitely read this indeed.

  10. pirato says:

    Richard, I fear that such platitudes as you espouse, with all due respect, are meaningless. How can you say Africa has come of age when we still have the Gbagbos, Musevenis, Mugabes, Gaddafis, Kabila (I and II) ruling the roost? We have to demand more. Much more. In Nigeria, a governor paints (yes, not tars) a few roads and he becomes the Messiah, lauded to high heavens by the intellectuals who should know better and demand much more. As Nigerians say, Africa is NOT ‘trying.’ Don’t deceive yourself that we have come of age. By many accounts, we are sliding backwards.


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