Thomas Sankara, a true African leader

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara

I don’t really want to talk politics on my blog but then when you air your views on migrants or even about black hair you are already being political so why not go all the way!

Well, this will have to be for another day, as what is making me speak about Thomas Sankara, this great African political figure who was the President of Burkina Faso for only four years, from 1983 to 1987, is not the urge to analyze Marxism in Africa, but just the fact that watching a documentary about him on ED TV the other day (Captain Thomas Sankara by Christophe Cupelin on channel 190 on DSTV), I was so drawn to him, and even if the man has been dead for more than twenty-eight years now, he seemed so alive to me and so likable!

Throughout the film, he was always smiling, an authentic and infectious smile.

Of course he was not an angel. How can you perpetuate a coup, and even be a president and remain an angel? But still, you can be a decent man, and that is my perception of him.

The name alone he gave his country speaks volume. He changed it from “Haute Volta” to “Burkina Faso”, an expression that means: the country of people of integrity. Would you not be proud to be able to answer to the factual question: “Where are you from?” with this meaningful and empowering response: “I am from the country of people of integrity!”

He was a real feminist, too. Imagine that he instituted a men only market day, every week, when women customers were not allowed into the market, and if men wanted to eat that day, they had to go to the market themselves, bearing in mind that it was a big shame for a man to be seen buying food in the market, a woman’s job!

Of course this measure was not the best measure as it was coercive and obviously, many men will have their wives buy food the day before, but still, I like the spirit behind that decision.

In the four years Thomas Sankara was in power, he tried to do so many things: stop female genital mutilation and forced marriages, reduce illiteracy, build roads by the people with their bare hands … Revolution is not an easy task. As he stated it: “out of ten things I will try, only two will succeed, so you have to keep going for it, again and again”.

Of course, nobody knows what will have happened if Thomas Sankara had remained longer in power. Because as the saying goes: “Power corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and chances are, we would have ended up with another revolution gone wrong in Africa, But as things are, the man was a visionary.

I had tears in my eyes when I heard him speak about his best friend, Blaise Compaore, who later led the coup that overthrew him and brought him to his death. He was saying that, one day, someone came to report Blaise Compaore as preparing a coup and he replied to that man: “Blaise is my best friend, he knows everything about me, when I can’t sleep at night because I am worried about one thing or another, I will call him at 2 am, 3 am, any time of the day and night, and he will be there for me without fail, he can’t have a personal life because he is there for me 24/7. It must be very though on him and I wonder who is there for him”. “So”, Sankara concluded, “the day you hear that Blaise Compaore is preparing a coup against me, there will be no need to warn me, because that will mean that the coup has already succeeded, as the man knows me inside and out.”

And he was proved right! Your enemies can actually do less harm to you than your close friends. An enemy can’t betray you, only a friend can, and that is what is so scary sometimes to me. But I am learning to trust more thanks to my older daughter who once surprised me. A few years back, she was sharing an apartment with some friends in America and her computer was stolen and I was not happy with her about it. I hope you will learn how to lock your bedroom door now, I told her, but she calmly answered: No, I won’t.

I pondered over it and I came to understand that she was right. You are not supposed to live in mistrust of the people surrounding you. Locking your door is not supposed to be the answer. Sometimes it is difficult to do otherwise, but at times it is better to move out, to get rid of the dishonest employee, to stop surrounding yourself with untrustworthy persons.

Don’t get me wrong. In a student residence for example, you have to look after your belongings, but this is not the same as sharing an apartment with friends. I am certainly not going to sleep with my bedroom door open or drive without locking my car, here in Lagos. But I strongly believe in the Chinese saying: “the more secure door is the door you can leave open”.

But to get back to the topic of this post, it is not everyday that you stumble upon an African Head of State who is selfless and sincerely love his country. I think Thomas Sankara truly deserves his iconic status and is part of the few African leaders who merit to be remembered. So, please, watch that documentary if you have the opportunity or read more about Thomas Sankara’s amazing policies, on his Wikipedia page here.


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