By Afolabi Aribigbola
The trial of the alleged perpetrators of the assassination of Thomas Sankara including his former friend Blaise Compaore who succeeded him in 1987 did not only come as a surprise to many but essentially a lesson to many political office holders in Nigeria nay Africa.
This is because of their erroneous belief that nothing will happen after all and no one will ask them questions not to talk of trying them in the court of law.
Of course, many of the atrocities being committed are often swept under the carpet without any fear of future sanction or punishment. In contract to past happenings in Africa, a military court in Ougadougou, the capital city of Bukina Faso on Monday October 11, 2021 commenced the long awaited trial of 14 people including the former president suspected to have had a hand in the murder of the vibrant revolutionist in 1987.
Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara was born on December 21, 1949, in Upper Volta (today Burkina Faso). He was a young army captain and Marxist-Leninist that became a fierce enemy of the global system of neocolonial, imperialist capitalism. Consequently, he made one of the greatest attempts at popular democratic emancipation in post-independence Africa with a novel experience of broad economic, social cultural transformation.
Thomas Sankara became popular with widespread movement not because he was a Head of State of his country but essentially because he sought to make a difference in the social, economic and political narratives of his home country and Africa by seeking wholeheartedly to transform the life of the people. After all, there were Heads of States before him that did not only conform and support the imperialists in suppressing Africans but also in looting the meager resources of their countries. Thomas Sankara was indeed lauded for radical policies and defiance of the big powers, while his calls for decolonization gained wide acceptance in both academic and activist circles in the West. His ideas were well embraced and celebrated in Nigerian universities especially among the radical groups then.
One thing that gave him out as a revolutionist concerned with the emancipation of his people was his spirited efforts to transform socio economic and political systems of Africa through what have been referred to as endogenous development that is essentially dependent on its own strength rather than outside support. His principles were premised on relying on one’s own strength, mass participation in politics with the goal of changing condition of life, emancipation of women and their inclusion in the political process of development; and the use of state as an instrument for economic and social transformation.
His approach is hinged on five principles. He sought to decolonize minds in Bukina Faso and across the continent, but his revolutionary dreams were cut short when he was gunned down in a 1987 coup after just four years in power. These principles enunciated and practiced by him between 1983 and 1987 was well applauded and supported by the people especially the teaming growing youth population and intelligential of the time in Africa including Nigeria where university students celebrated his emergence and protested his untimely termination of his bright and promising ideology and tendencies.
Unfortunately, these laudable principles he championed were truncated by agents of imperialism. He introduced reform programmes that focused on reducing the size of the civil service, improvement in healthcare, nationwide literacy, food self sufficiency, measures to help peasant farmers, vaccination campaigns and building pharmacies in villages as well as promote women’s rights. In a nutshell, he urged Africa to refuse to pay its debts to western countries that earned him enmity with those countries and their support for those that overthrew him. In addition to other contributions, he renamed his country from it colonial name of Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, “the land of honest men.
What interest this columnist is that 34 years after the dreams of Thomas Sankara wwere terminated, those suspected of perpetuating the heinous crimes are being brought to book. Our hope and expectations are high for the success of the entire trial efforts. In addition, what this unique development portends and which attracts the attention of discerning minds is that people in power should consider this development for the purposes of checking and moderating their actions and inactions.
Political office holders in Africa and especially where impunity is the order of the day need to learn a lesson from what is unfolding in the case of Thomas Sankara. (Asegbe ka nkosi, aspamo lowa). Whether the suspected killers of Thomas Sankara are convicted or not at the end of the trial, the fact remains that the evils committed by a set of people were not forgotten, while Thomas Sankara is remembered for his good deeds and valuable contributions to the emancipation of his people and indeed Africa.
One lesson from the story of Thomas Sankara was that he was concerned and committed to improving the lives and condition of his people which made people to love and cherish him.. The present crop of leaders in Africa are not concerned with socio economic emancipation of their people but to amass wealth for themselves and their unborn generations as well as to perpetuate themselves and their cohorts in office. Indeed, Thomas Sankara’ actions, principles and deeds revealed that development in indigenous and that Africa can only be developed by Africans and not by external influence. This has been amply demonstrated by the Asian Tigers that wholly depend on their citizens to grow and develop their countries as against African leaders’ tendencies of looking up to metropolitan Europe and America for assistance and development. Contemporary leaders should borrow a leaf from this and engage their citizens for creative development drive as propagated and promoted by Thomas Sankara.
Of greater importance is the fact that the scenarios of the rise and assignation of Thomas Sankara as well as the trial of the suspected killers, thirty four years after, represent a hope and future for the continent. In the first instance, it signals the fact that any crime committed against individuals can always be revisited and culprits punished. His emergence in the political scene with great ideas and intentions also indicate that sound ideas, knowledge and principles can come out of Africa. Thus, leaders in Africa could borrow from this and sit down to generate home grown ideas and principles that can be deployed to free, promote and propel African development in a sustainable way.