NO SUCH THING AS A 63-YEAR-OLD INFANT


By Akin Ojumu

In response to a recent commentary I wrote on the coup in Gabon titled, “One Week One Coup D’état,” a brother of mine called me out for failing to put the blame for Gabon’s woes on the French Colonialists whom he claimed are responsible for the state of affairs in the impoverished Central African nation. 

According to my brother:

“Where is your rebuke for the Colonialists who perpetuated these puppets in power; to suck the wealth of these nations and subjected the masses of these nations to abject poverty. This write-up, to me, is just dousing the smoke, while doing nothing about the fire that generated the smoke.”

This commentary is an answer to my beloved brother’s rebuke.

Gabon became an autonomous republic within the French Community on 28 November 1958. Two years later, the country became fully independent on 17 August 1960. For the past sixty-three years, Gabon has been self-governing and has only had three presidents. 

The first president, elected in 1961, was Léon M’ba. When he died in 1967, Omar Bongo Ondimba, his vice president, became president. After 42 years of ruling the country, Omar Bongo also died and was replaced by his son Ali Bongo Ondimba. In August 2023, after Ali Bongo rigged himself to another seven-year third term, military officers announced a coup d'état and cancelled the election results.

Since independence, Gabonese leaders have been autocratic. These three despots suppressed freedom of the press and freedom of expression and excluded other political parties from power. They changed the constitution to vest power in the Presidency and turned the country into a 1-party state.

I’d like to liken independence to growing up. As a grown-up, you learn to take responsibility for yourself. We all start as infants with no personal responsibility whatsoever – everything that we need done is done for us. As we progress through the various stages of childhood, we take on more and more responsibility.

“When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

We learn to tie our own shoes, clean our own rooms, and turn in our own homework. We learn that responsibility has its rewards – and irresponsibility has other, less-than-desirable effects. In many ways, the difference between a child and a man is his willingness to take personal responsibility for his actions.

Something is inherently wrong with a 63-year-old adult who refuses to grow up and is stuck in the id stage of development. An adult who still talks “Da da, da da” and can’t form proper speech patterns is an adult with a developmental disorder. A grown man who crawls around on his knees when he is supposed to be walking is an adult with serious issues.

To enter into adulthood and still continue to wear diapers because you never stop bedwetting or defecating on yourself is to have a medical malady. An adult who, like a child, can’t tell right from wrong, has difficulty understanding and following simple instructions or staying organized, is an adult with major concerns.

A 63-year-old grown man who blames his circumstances in life on others is an irresponsible man. At some point in his life, a man stops pointing fingers at others for his misfortune and starts accepting the fact that he is hoist by his own petard and his station in life is the product of his own decisions.

The same can be said of a nation which, after decades of autonomy, remains in infancy and can’t seem to get its act together. Such a nation has serious issues. Blaming “Colonialists who perpetuate puppets in power” is a copout. It’s the sort of untenable excuse Africans like to make when they want to avoid taking responsibility for bringing their own nations to ruin.

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