Faure Gnassingbe is stretching the patience of Togolese, reckons VICTOR C. ARIOLE

Ironically, Africa that is now attuned to the dictates of democracy had been traditionally dynasty inclined continent with great empires of the Keitas, the Nabas, the Kanem-Bornu, Asantehene, Obas, and partially Obis – headship of clans or kindred without being Ezes. These, one could term as structurally organistic model for Africa as against mechanistic model that patch different kingdoms or kindreds or nationalities together and expect them to produce democratically a ruler over all of them hence the advent of minority ruling the majority, which is basically what either presidential system or parliamentary system has brought to Africa. Togo under Etienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma understood this very well, knew how to reposition himself to still be the President of Togo under Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT) from 1969 when he converted his military rule to democracy till 2005 when he died.

Fortunately for Togo, the RPT dominated Togolese Assembly, quickly adopted a “doctrine of necessity” stance to allow the most politically emancipated son of Eyadema to take over the reins of power against his militarily supported half brother and their commander Kpacha Eyadema who is still in incarceration till today; just to avoid chaos. Peace, indeed, should be the utmost for Africans to avoid foreign intervention that goes with arm struggle, like it is in Sudan now.

From January 3, 1967 when Eyadema seized power from the uncoordinated southern group  – Eve and Akan led by the assassinated President Sylvanus Olympio followed  by both Gilchrist Olympio’s opposition and that of Fabre’s National Alliance for Change – and has continuously rearranged the constitution to suit his reign with a new party known today as Union pour la République (UNIR).

Like Colonel Mathieu Kérékou once said in Benin Republic as he had wanted to ever remain in power, once attached to a branch of a tree, the chameleon stays on it.

The people of the north, especially the Kabye with their base in Lamakara, and the great siring and libidinal capacity of Eyadema with over 125 children in Lomé followed by his sons and especially Faure, the current president of Togo, who has no wife but can boast of great number of children, constitutional change to keep him in power till another Gnassingbe or Kpacha or Faure emerges is within the loop.

Opposition in Togo clamours for the implementation of the 1992 reforms which limits the president to five-year term and re-eligible, though amended in 2007 for two-terms, which is now under threat of abrogation to usher-in a constitution of Togo’s 5th Republic, changing the presidential system to parliamentary system.

For a parliament that has exhausted its tenure in December 2023 and is still sitting awaiting dissolution as well as approval of legislative elections of 89 members dominated by UNIR, Togo is on a déjà-vu trend, the way Gnassigbe Eyadema proceeded for his 36 years of reign.

Faure seems, even more magnanimous in his approach as he intends to transit from universal suffrage elected president to parliamentary – elected president of council of ministers with endless re-eligibility as against a President that is elected for only six-year term with no re-eligibility value. That’s a ceremonial president; and he is not for that; instead he prefers an endless eligibility in the parliament that could probably favour the established Kabye rule under his preeminence for “renewed hope” for the greatly United Kabye” people facing the coastal or maritime regions.

This is where the African way of doing things could be baffling – from being President to being Prime Minister for life. It is assured that amalgamating parties for the interest of just one person is easier than standing on a philosophy, principle or ideology to build a party or institution.

It is not only in Togo that such approach is adopted; Nigeria’s APC is of such approach; Côte d’Ivoire’s RHDP is also one of such approach; PASTEF of Sonko in Senegal is also one. In effect, the African prefers to build its consensus on a given personality who commands the respect of a clan, kindred, a nationality or a dynasty. All over Africa, that is the trend. Even the current military coups are of the same trend; either Mandika/Mandigo military collaboration as it is in Guinea, or in Gabon and Chad which is family rulership; even that of Mali is also greatly clanish against the Keitas.

As it is, Faure has stretched the patience of Togolese people. Though he still commands the respect of his Kabye’s people, there is need to suspend the transition to the 5th Republic till new Assembly of 89 members are elected in April for him to really know whether he still commands the respect of his people and whose representation of 3/5 in the Assembly could warrant elongating his tenure till next legislative election for him to partake as a legislature and be voted by his peers as the Prime Minister; that is, the President of Council of Ministers. Let there be peace in Togo. Nigerian businesses thrive there with great confidence.

Ariole is

Professor of French and Francophone Studies at University of Lagos

Related Articles