For those who are familiar with the Senegalese political terrain, Maître Abdoulaye Wade is not a political greenhorn. He has been an integral part of the Senegalese political landscape for more than three decades. With his age and experience, complemented by the fact that he has been Head of State for 12 solid years, one expects to see not only statesmanship and political maturity. However, if Mr. Wade’s recent actions and utterances are anything to go by, he vividly is on a speeding lane to political self-destruction, which will not only affect his legacy, but also, his family.
To start with, upon assuming political office, Mr. Wade embarked on the much-needed constitutional reforms limiting the term of the presidency and expanding the democratic space in Senegal complemented by infrastructural developments, especially the country’s road and air transports. Today, Senegal can boast of being the most democratic country in West Africa where Freedom of Speech has advanced from mere theory to real practice especially when compared to its immediate neighbours – The Gambia and Mauritania. The Senegalese population and media are arguably the freest in the Sub region, thanks to a democratic culture nurtured by successive leaders over the years but mostly solidified during the reign of Mr. Wade. Therefore, it beats every right-thinking mind’s imagination to see a Nonagenarian with such an impressive legacy, bent on reversing all of it “BY ANY MEANS”. Or is it a classic case of “he who the gods want to destroy, they first make him mad”?
Mr. Wade and his family’s present predicament is a direct result of his own handiwork when he threw caution and conscience to the wind by first wanting to prolong his stay in power, followed by his disingenuous move to have his son replace him as president. This was not only selfish but it showed how, over time, people could get blinded by and intoxicated with political power, especially if they surrounded themselves with political liabilities (sycophants) who do not believe in anything else beyond lining their pockets with the “goodies” emanating from the centre of power. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the country), his actions boomeranged generating a unanimous rejection by the Senegalese, including musicians (Ouza’s song President comes to mind). Consequently, he was disgraced out of power in the 2012 elections sending him packing in a self-imposed political sojourn in France. In the process, he lost all credibility and perhaps most hurting to him is the incarceration of his son and chosen heir-apparent, Karim, for alleged corruption. How ignominious and tragic can this be especially for someone who served as president for 12 years!
As if to give credence to the adage “he who the gods want to destroy, they first make him mad”, he decided to leave his tranquil and cozy home in France for an uncertain political come-back by jetting into Dakar amidst pomp and pageantry to resume a fight already lost even before resumption. Since his return, Mr. Wade has been making incendiary remarks with the objective of steering trouble in the country in a typical “all or nothing” fashion. Beyond wise counseling, what more can a 91-year old former Head of State offer to his compatriots, which he has not done in 12 years? But then Wade, with absolute sense of purpose, continued on his self-destructive terrain occasionally throwing jibes at the incumbent head of state who, he is old enough to father. His most recent outburst in referring to Mr. Sall as a slave-descendant appeared to be the last straw for some of his followers. Some of them could not take the utter balderdash from an old man, who, in our African tradition, could have been occupying that coveted position of a Magi in society providing counselling and handing down positive traditions to the younger generation. But no! Instead, he chose to continue making himself a political laughing stock by derailing himself, aided and abetted in the act by sycophants parading themselves as allies.
The decision to have Karim Wade as PDS’ flag-bearer barely 72 hours before judgment in a case involving him, is not only politically naïve, but also, it is a serious political gamble that could back-fire on the family and the party as a whole. This is because, the decision was intended first to mobilise public sympathy for Wade and, secondly, to turn the Senegalese public against the incumbent – Macky Sall, in the event of an adverse judgment against Karim. Now that judgment has been handed down sending Junior Wade to 6 year behind bars, a small section of the public is beginning to feel that the whole trial was politically motivated and since Karim is likely to be the key challenger to Macky in 2017, the court’s decision was meant eliminate a key political opponent. In my view, this argument does not hold water. However, to give Abdoulaye Wade the benefit of the doubt, let us assume there is some degree of accuracy in this narrative. The question to ask is: If there was no ulterior motive behind the selection of Karim Wade as PDS’ flag-bearer in 2017, why on earth would a whole party choose a candidate who is in prison awaiting his fate? Does this mean that the party has no other credible candidate, besides Abdoulaye Wade and his son, who can take on Macky in 2017? Beyond evaluating the process through which such a decision was arrived at, the obvious implication is that PDS is nothing without the Wade family and that means the party is on its way to the grave. The second possible observation is the democratization process within the party. Essentially, how democratic is PDS? Whilst PDS is credited with the entrenchment, to some extent, of the existing democratic culture in Senegal, one wonders whether the party is able to practice same at the micro level given that out of the entire party membership, only Karim Wade qualifies to represent them in 2017. Therefore, the proverbial “SIBIJANG DIBENGO” which provides shade not to those close to it, but to those afar is apt here.
At this juncture, one may be tempted to ask: why is this author spending so much energy on politics of Senegal when his own backyard is on the brink of turmoil, thanks to the brinkmanship and political chicanery of one man?
It must not be forgotten that the first escape route for Gambians is the Republic of Senegal. Given this fact, the stability of Senegal is not only important to Senegalese but also Gambians who see Senegal as home away from home.
Secondly, there is no way Gambia could cope with the influx of refugees should the country erupts into chaos. Finally, we cannot have both countries boiling simultaneously. That would spell a disaster for the Senegambia region including Guinea Bissau and Mali. Beyond political and social considerations, imagine the economic ramifications of such an ugly scenario. The sooner Abdoulaye Wade realized his folly, the better. We can understand one young man going mad in one small corner of the Senegambia region, but to have a Nonagenarian going mad in a far bigger territory is a risk far too great for the region to handle. This is why there should be efforts to call the old man or “Mam” to order.