No Country for Old Men? Think Again…There are countries in Africa for old men ..and women.

    • By Kojo Amonoo in PERCEPTION (Files) ·

      Soon after the death Professor John Atta-Mills of Ghana ,I read an article with the headline “Why do so many African leaders die in office?”..The first paragraph said …”It’s rare for the leader of a country to die in office. Since 2008, it’s happened 13 times worldwide – but 10 of those leaders have been African. Why is it so much more common in this one continent?”. It went on to name the leaders who have died since 2008.- Ethiopia PM, Meles Zenawi -57 ,Ghana president, John Atta Mills -68,Malawi president, Bingu wa Mutharika -78 ,Guinea Bissau president, M B Sanha -64 ,Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi -69, Nigeria president, Umaru Yar’Adua -58 ,Gabon president, Omar Bongo-73 Guinea Bissau president, J B Vieira -69, Guinea president, Lansana Conte -74 ,Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa 59.

      Atta- Mills  was due to contest another election for a second term in December 2012…Had he had the chance to stand and won ,he would have been 69years by the start of his term ..and 72years by the end of the term.African leaders,seemingly ,prefer to be carried out of office in a coffin rather than die in retirement.

      Aside from the intrigue,what also stood out for me, was their collective age.That got me thinking and grappling with another important and pertinent question – do the ages of our African leaders, negatively ,impacts on the development of our countries or not?.I am beginning to believe that it does ..and that there is a correlation between the ages of our leaders and our stagnant development ..So, as far I can see ,one of the reasons African countries are lagging behind, is that our leaderships are ,relatively, too old.

      It is not by accident that workers have to retire, when they reach a certain age. So how come our leaders don’t retire when they reach, say 65yrs or whatever the retirement age is in their respective countries?.The presidency is after all a job, not a career. Unfortunately, our leaders have turned it into a career, and for some ,even a private business.Question is, why do we continue to let these members of the exclusive “Very Old African Leaders’ club”….these old men….and women…to rule over us for far too long….when their ages could be hampering the development of our countries …and Africa for that matter ?.

      Before you go accusing me of indulging in “ageism”, (all the “isms” make me, I want you to take a look at the list below to get my point .Although some of the leaders named are no more with us…., the landscape,nevertheless, remains largely the same .[Correct as of May 11, 2011] .  


      Abdoulaye Wade ( Senegal )- age 83 , Hosni Mubarak ( Egypt ) – age 82 ,Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe ) – age 86 , Hifikepunye Pohamba ( Namibia ) – age 74 ,Rupiah Banda ( Zambia ) – age 73 ,Mwai Kibaki ( Kenya ) – age 71 ,Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ( Liberia ) – age 75 ,Colonel Gaddafi ( Libya ) – age 68 ,Jacob Zuma ( South Africa ) – age 68 ,Bingu Wa Mtalika (Malawi) – age 76 ,John Evans Atta-Mills (Ghana) – age 68

      Average Age: =======================75.6yrs


      Barrack Obama ( USA ) – age 48 , David Cameron ( UK ) – age 43 , Dimitri Medvedev ( Russia ) – age 45 , Stephen Harper ( Canada ) – age 51 , Julia Gillard ( Australia ) – age 49 ,Nicolas Sarkozy ( France ) – age 55 , Luis Zapatero ( Spain ) – age 49 ,Jose Socrates ( Portugal ) – age 53 ,Angela Merkel ( Germany )-56

      Avearge  Age =========== 50.1yrs

      For some reason ,most Asian countries suffer with the same affliction .The only common denominator I can see in this equation between Africa and Asia is, perhaps ,the fact that many of the countries on both continents are made up of the “Third World”.China ,it would seem ,has turned round the corner with the successive election of “young guns” as leaders in recent years …. could that account for her meteoric economic growth?..I digress ,so I will stick with what I know.

      One of the explanations offered for Africa’s love of these old leaders.. is the beautiful and limitedly true adage that old age connotes wisdom. Because of their experiences ,and grey hair to boot ,the elderly are “smarter and wiser”. This is true of traditional societies ,where things remain the same or change very slowly.

      Then we have those who shamelessly cling onto power, by any means necessary.Amateur psychologists will probably, agree with the “Poverty in childhood and early life” explanation…and the lasting impact it has on them.It goes like this …African presidents, before they have been elected, would have led a relatively disadvantaged life, and disadvantageous lifestyle, which in turn impact on their mentality, at subsequent ages.So, once they get into the presidential office, even though they and their families will be living a lifestyle far far far removed from their fellow citizens,they cling onto power and privilege …for fear of slipping back into poverty.

      From what some astute economists tell us,The difference between the ages of the most developed countries and African leaders is 25.5 years. Oh! ..and incidentally, it seems Africa is about 26 years behind the West ,as far as development is concerned…..uncanny accuracy ?.

      I am no gerontologist, but this I know …As we grow older our memory/brain and health start to fail us.Most elderly fear change, and so many of the elderly live in the past….”colo- mentality” ..I hear you say…well perhaps …LOL .How can a president who lives in the past be an effective leader in the present?. Since they are not comfortable with change, they are more likely to resist change at any cost .I wonder whether septugenerian Biya of Cameroon, and octogenarian Mugabe of Zimbabwe, are computer/Internet literate?….maybe they are…but I doubt it.

      If we consider the rule of individual African leaders, they have turned worse, as they grow older in office . Most start off with all the good intentions, but then turn into dictatorial monsters .As they remain in power for so long, they convince/deceive themselves that they know better than others. That’s why most of them are less likely to embrace diverse opinions..but would rather surround themselves with cronies and sycophants.

      I think if Africa is to develop progressively,the countries need to set an age limit for the office of presidency and enforce it .It was done in Nigeria, when Obasanjo tried to extend the term in office for the presidency…Goodluck also hinted at the same ,but appeared to have abandoned the idea .An individual’s skills, particularly speed, agility, strength, and coordination does not get better over time. A prolonged job boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation and forgetfulness, can all contribute to reduced productivity and stagnated development in any country.Europeans have a clear preference for electing leaders who are relatively young. It seems impossible to be elected in Europe, if you are older ,unless the leader is popular while occupying higher functions.


      As far as I am concerned, we need progressive leaders in Africa ….leaders with vision and direction  …more now than ever..and nothing must be allowed to stand in the way.

      • Goddy Oji skills, particularly speed, agility, strength, and coordination are what you need from an athlete or a warrior, not a leader of men.
      • Kojo Amonoo’re wrong there brother Goddy..politicians /leaders need those skills as well ..I’m sure you’ve seen the likes of Obama and Cameron showing off those skills playing basket ball ,golf,riding bicycles obviously matters to them as leaders,…See More
      • Goddy Oji My dear Kojo pray tell how am I wrong? if I want a basket ball player, golf or cyclist for president then I will know how to choose one
      • Goddy Oji Kojo this age thing in Africa smacks of one of those things you hear about a unique democratic model for Africa. The leading democracies in the world do not have an age limit, and in the UK you can be prime minister at 18. The issue is not the ages o…See More
      • Kojo Amonoo I’m sure you would .. but how healthy a leader is plays to the electorate on different level of consciousness and the leaders know that …Even in Africa when leaders have been ill there have been attempts to cover up…the last thing any leader would want to be seen as, is unhealthy /weakling and not able to meet the challenges of the office.
      • Goddy Oji You are right Kojo the style of dress of the leader also plays to the electorate on a different level of consciousness, but we do not pass a law that a president should not be a weakling, or unhealthy. Why pass a law about their ages?
      • Sam Kwendi age has rendered them senile.
      • Kojo Amonoo Goddy,of course image is important to both the leaders and electorate. I wouldn’t advocate a “one shoe fits all” democratic model for Africa …it won’t work, as things stand now.However, you do not answer why Africa has more old leaders than Europe.The leading democracies might not have age limit, but come elections and the electorate still vote for, relatively, more young leaders.There some African countries with viable democratic structures like Ghana,Kenya ,Liberia etc..So there is hope ,but not even the leading democracies could lay claim to “transparent politics”.I am not talking about age per se’,but “old age “.That Africa has more, relatively, old leaders is is based on statistical evidence ..not something plucked out of thin air.But I get you on all the other points .
      • Syl Sems They say the older you become the wiser you are,but this does not match in the case of some of our African leaders, I do not think age limit should be put in place,what we should be concerned about is to have a democratic government .when it comes to age personally I think the population will vote for a younger president and I think some African countries should implement the no more than 2 term rule,but again we have these young presidents clinging to power because of greed.At the end of the day we need young energetic people who are willing to put the country’s interest first in regardless of all the temptations leading to greed and like I said have a democratic government .
      • Dick Mullen African leaders on the whole, are not dynamic. To me they are wise and statesmanlike (some) but they appear dusty and out of sync with the ever changing world and unable to cope with the supposed wealth of corruption within their own ministries. Religion weighs too heavily on the decisions made; Gods word remains the rule of thumb, he’ll be present in every discussion and figure somewhat in every decision made. Old and new laws (e.g. homosexuality laws) are also out of sync which impacts on the wests ‘man in the street’ perception of a backward thinking continent. But also, the young African, given the internet and American TV imports, are aware of this and are frustrated by it, and share a mindset more in-line with the West than their elder countrymen. As our young men grow into adults over the next decade we’ll see the beginnings of a cultural revolution so disenchanted are they in the way things are currently run.
      • Tremayne Primm I believe it is not only an issue of age but of how long they can remain in the position of leader/President. No one should be allowed to be president. There needs to be an age when one can run for president and how long you can serve. You leave no option for someone to come and take the reigns and implement more updated policies to move with society.
      • Kojo Amonoo @Syl, you’re right…I would much rather have a democratic government led by an old president than a dictatorship led by a young president .The age limit I’m referring to, is one of retirement, because the presidency is a job, not a career.I am sure intheir respective countries, they do have retirement age for most jobs ,so why not the presidency?.I do not want dwell too much on the age as such, as it is just one of many issues around African leadership.But when I consider the statistics in comparison with Europe , I do not want to be dismissive of it either nor it’s impact .@Dick ,you’re spot on.See what happened in Ghana when a relatively young Rawlings came to power and ushered in a new democratic era …and he was still relatively young, even after his term in office .@Tremayne ..that’s exactly my point. If a retirement age was set and a 2- term limit was imposed .. one would either be caught out by the retirement age,the two- term limit or both.
      • Sheteh Newuh Great analysis Kojo and I agree with almost all contained therein. While it is accepted that age means wisdom, Ola Rotimi already pointed out that ‘old age does cruel things to the mind’. We must not forget the concept of diminishing returns which surely sets in with any prolonged presidency. 
        I may not be too concerned about term limits but I surely worry a lot about age limits… a person younger than 35 for example may not make a good president in a large country, but not every person above 60 is necessarily wise because of age. So I think getting a limit to the age when a person can be president can go a long way.
      • Tremayne Primm Youth brings new ideas and concepts the older person would not entertain. With age it is more difficult to get that person to entertain new ideas or change their concepts, youth is more adventurous. In the United states you can run for president when you are 35 years of age. I have yet to see anyone that young run for president. President Obama and Kennedy are the youngest and they were in their forties. In Africa, the people need to stop being afraid of their government and demand change. It will not come if the people remain passive.

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