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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Reuben Abati: The difficulties of having a Macron as president in Nigeria


Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year old who was sworn in on Sunday, May 14 as the new President of France has become a reference model for persons who would also like to see young Nigerians occupy high positions of responsibility, including the Presidency.

There is a Not-Too-Young-To-Run-Campaign already being promoted, with plans to seek relevant constitutional amendments. The Macron Miracle may still take a long time to come in Nigeria’s democracy. A young Nigerian seeking to be President of Nigeria, under circumstances similar to Macron’s would find it difficult.

They don’t have a sit-tight syndrome in France. President Francois Hollande who handed over power to Macron had only done one term in office, and was eligible to run for a second term. But seeing that his ratings were low, he just didn’t bother.

In Nigeria, Hollande’s supporters, ethnic, political and religious, would have threatened to kill anyone that stood in his way. Hollande himself would have insisted that it is his right to have a second term by every means possible.

Macron would have been accused of trying to bite the fingers that fed him. He would have been told to go and sit down and that he knows nothing about politics. Five years ago, Macron was unknown.



He got his first major job in 2012, and was appointed in 2014 as Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, both by President Hollande. He has never run for any elective office. To become President he had to start his own movement, “En Marche!” He doesn’t belong to any of the existing political groups, right or left.

In Nigeria, even if he is the best thing since toothpaste, he would need Godfathers, and he would need to spend money, to bribe voters and the “kingmakers”.

Macron is President of France, the youngest since Napoleon, on the strength of sheer luck, ideas, vision and the people’s choice.

In Nigeria, the voter would have placed little premium on his ideas. He is married to his former drama teacher. She is 64. He is 39. Her first son is Macron’s age-mate. She is now the First Lady of France.

 The French public is laughing at the cradle-snatching incongruity of their professed love. Nigerians would have laughed even more, but this would probably not have been an issue for some Nigerians if Macron was 70 and his wife, 17.

When Macron holds his first France-Africa summit, he will be hosting African leaders who would be mostly of his grandfather’s age.

Cameroon’s 84-year old President, Paul Biya, became President in 1982, when Emmanuel Macron was just 4 years old. That is where the real joke lies.

Immediately after he was sworn in, Macron visited wounded soldiers at a military hospital. Yesterday, he travelled to Berlin for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He hit the ground running and named Edouard Philippe, 46, his Prime Minister. To have the kind of change we admire in other democracies, we must begin with a reform of the processes, culture and tone of Nigerian politics.



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