Francis Bacon, in one of his essays, wrote that “young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet;…. use extreme remedies at first; and, that which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them; like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn.”
In contrast, “men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive empires home to their full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success...”
In most countries of the world, the compulsory retirement age is 60 years. However, a research conducted into the age of 45 presidents from Africa, revealed that 31 of them representing 69% are above the retirement age of 60 - all things being equal.
In the rest of the world (including Europe, South and North America, Australia and Asia) out of 45 presidents, only 17 representing 38% are above 60 years in 2011.
Three Presidents from Africa are above the 80 year mark including Sir Anerood Jugnauth of Mauritius who is 80, Abdoulaiye Wade of Senegal 84 and one of the oldest living presidents in the world, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 86. In the rest of the world, Greece President Dr. Karolos Papoulias is 81, Italy’s Giorgio Napolitana is 85, and Singapore’s Sellapan Ramanathan, like Mugabe, is 86 years old.
Within the 70 year range, there are only two presidents in the rest of the world; Portugal’s Anibal Anthonio Cavaco is 71 and Uruguay’s Jose Mujica is 75. There are 8 Presidents from Africa within the 70 range including but not limited to the 79 year old Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Cameroon’s Paul Biya who is 78 and Cape Verde’s Pedro Verona Pires 77.
Within the 60 years range, there are 11 presidents from the rest of the world including but not limited to Slovakia’s Ivan Gasparovic 69, Hungary’s Pal Schmitt 68 and Czech Republic’s Vaclav Klaus who is 68.
In Africa, there are a total number of 20 presidents out of 45 being in the 60 year range. Some of them include Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza 68, Sao Tome and Principe’s Fradique De Menezes 68, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma 68, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang 68, Libya’s Al Gaddafi 68 and Angola’s Jose E. Dos Santos 68.
Within the 50 year range, Africa has only 9 presidents with Chad’s Idriss Deby topping with 59 years. Benin’s Yayi Boni is also 59. In the rest of the world, there are 22 presidents within the 50 year range. On top of that list is Romania’s Traian Basescu 59, Ireland’s Mary MacAleese 59 and Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo 59. These are closely followed by Argentina’s Cristina Fernandaz de Kirchener 58 and Poland’s Bronislauv Komorowski 58.
There are 6 presidents from the rest of the world within the 40 year range with US Barack Obama topping the list at 49 years followed by Mexico’s Felipe Calederon 48.
It is interesting to note that the two most powerful countries in the world USA and Russia have much younger presidents as compared to other countries. Barack Obama is 49 and Dmitry Medvedev is 45.
Admittedly, Africa has had its share of the young leaders like Gambia’s Yahya Jameh 45, DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila 40 and Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe 44. Honestly, these might not be good examples because the process that led them to become presidents is questionable.
It can therefore be seen that while many countries are benefiting from younger presidents mostly within the 50 year range, Africa makes use of retired labour. We choose as our leaders people who are on retirement, people who have exhausted their strength and need to rest at 60. Instead they push the youth behind and take frontline positions, when it is clear that they cannot envision the future clearly, are out of touch with the times, and “who object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive empires home to their full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success.”
In the US, no president has ever been up to 70 years at the time of inauguration. The youngest US president at the time of inauguration to date has been Theodore Roosevelt who was 42 and the oldest so far being Ronald Reagan who was 69 years at the time of inauguration. If John McCain had won the US elections in 2008 at 72, he would have been the oldest US presidents. Why would the US vote for Obama who was 46 instead of McCain who was 72? Why would the UK make David Cameron (53 at the time) Prime Minister instead of Gordon Brown 59 at the time?
Understandably, due to the nature of politics in most African countries, many young people do not want to get actively involved for fear of victimization should the party they hold allegiance to loses the elections. Many people lose their jobs once their party is out of power. So they prefer to wait until they retire at 60 before they enter into serious politics at an age when their strength and enthusiasm have been chipped away by the times.
A recent example in Ghana is Mohamudu Bawumia 47 who was deputy governor of Bank of Ghana, and took a leave to contest as running mate to the NPP’s Nana Akuffo Addo 66. When his party lost power, he also lost his job at the Bank of Ghana.
Interestingly the up coming 2012 elections in Ghana have two main contenders, both 67; the President John Atta Mills 67 and Nana Akuffo Addo 66. Whoever wins the elections will hit 71 in office.
With this realization Africans should collectively and democratically weed out the old stock and bring in new energetic young men who will embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet, adventure more and will drive the African continent to its full period.