New Delhi: With the Arab uprisings causing serial
upheavals in North African nations, it has rung warning bells for
"the 'life presidents' and 'sit-tight leaders' of the world" who
should draw lessons in democracy from the movements and take steps
to address "people's issues", says former Nigerian president Olusegun Obusanjo.
Obusanjo, who is in India on a five-day visit, said the "seven or
eight leaders" heading authoritarian government in the 54-nation
African continent should learn from the people's revolutions in
North Africa and, if they do not, they would be made to learn the
"important" lesson by their citizens.
"What has happened in North Africa is not just a lesson for
nations in Africa, but is a lesson for the world as a whole,"
Obusanjo, 75, who is at present a special envoy of United Nations
Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for war-torn Democratic Republic of
He was responding to a question on what lesson that the Arab
Spring and the subsequent regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya
and Yemen has for Africa after delivering an address at the Indian
Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House here Monday
The former Nigerian Army general also pointed out that the
situation vis-a-vis authoritarian rules in the African continent
was "much more worse" two decades ago. "But today, the situation
"The 'life presidents' and 'sit-tight leaders' are becoming
endangered. If you look at Africa today, you have seven or eight
such leaders. At one time, more than 50 per cent of Africa was
under such leaders," Obusanjo, who had three stints as head of the
Nigerian state, noted.
Obusanjo was the Nigerian head of state first from February 1976
to September 1979 after incumbent Murtala Mohammed was
assassinated. He was the first-ever military ruler to hand over
governance to a democratically-elected leadership after national
elections in 1979.
In 1999, Obusanjo, after retirement from the military, contested
the Nigerian presidential polls and won with over 60 per cent
popular vote to become the nation's head of state for the second
time. He successfully contested the presidential polls for a
second term in 2003 and remained Nigerian President till 2007.
"It is said that history repeats itself. But I say, if you learn
from history, it will not repeat itself. A wise man learns from
not only his own mistakes, but also from others' mistakes. And
these seven or eight leaders must soon learn. If they do not, they
will be made to learn the important lesson," the senior African
Talking of Tunisia, the northern-most African nation where the
first revolution now popularly called the Arab Uprising or Arab
Spring broke out, Obusanjo said before the movement erupted, it
was all calm on the surface in that country, but one suicide
triggered a wave that engulfed the whole of north Africa.
"The situation is Tunisia was anything but unstable, everything
was calm on the surface, everybody seemed to be happy. But one
individual decided to commit suicide and it erupted into a major
movement. Anything can happen," he said.
"It is not so much about democracy, but about unemployment,
particularly of the youth. It doesn't matter what sort of
democracy you have, but people's issues should be addressed," he