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Thabo Mbeki: Celebrating 80 Years of Impactful Living



Why Nigerians Should Return To Study Of History - Falola
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola
I was honoured to deliver the 12th Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture on “The Africa Union at 20” a couple of weeks ago. In a few days, on June 19, 2022, President Thabo Mbeki will be our guest on an edition of The Toyin Falola Interviews. Interestingly, that will be a day after his 80th birthday. Among my friends and people I highly revere, President Thabo Mbeki will be the newest to join the Octogenarian Club. Not every human is privileged to witness eighty years on earth. Beyond witnessing, only a few people have had the opportunity to have experienced the kind of life Thabo Mbeki has enjoyed. And even fewer of that age range can claim to have had as many impacts and influence as the second President of South Africa has had, not only in his home country, South Africa but also on the African continent and the world at large.

In human societies, the idea of change is an often-romanticised concept. While we love the concept of change, especially if it is positive or neutral, we are not always openly receptive to it when it happens to us. We shy away from it and are sometimes all-attacking on the harbinger of change, especially if it involves someone we love and idolise. Just as high school students would give a hard time to a new teacher employed as a replacement for their retired favourite teacher is the way the people of a country would give a hard time to the successor of their favourite president and idol. President Thabo Mbeki was faced with a somewhat similar situation. Having succeeded South Africa’s most-revered, idolised, and loved president, Nelson Mandela, anyone would be right to think that President Mbeki’s administration would face huge criticisms and attacks. Truly, it faced criticisms and attacks, even from within the inner circles of the party. Nonetheless, his governance and significant contributions to the Pan-African state prove that a country may have more than one impactful hero and revered national in succession.

Thabo Mbeki: Celebrating 80 Years of Impactful Living

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki is a full-blooded Pan-Africanist. He was born into the African National Congress, the South African political party that has been solely responsible for producing the country’s presidents since independence. President Mbeki’s father was a vocal and influential member of the African National Congress, and young Thabo spent his childhood learning the party’s values, ideals, culture, and norms. As he grew older, he became more familiar with the ideals and struggles of the party. Being a member of the most notable party opposing the apartheid government and its system in the country, Thabo Mbeki had a first-hand experience of what his people were made to go through. He saw how his people were considered anti-people, dangerous, and dissenting in their home country! Thus, from an early age, Mbeki learned to associate with his people, identify himself with them, and join them in fighting for their cause.

The African National Congress can never forget Mbeki’s strategic and diplomatic roles in shaping the party’s social proof and acceptability. Mbeki’s activism as a party member was on an intellectual and diplomatic front. He championed the intellectual battle against the apartheid government with other countries worldwide. Thanks to Mbeki and his contributions to the party, the injustices of the apartheid government got more international media coverage, drawing the attention of other nations to the plights of the indigenous South Africans and the need to put an end to the apartheid system in the country. Using his skills and experience, Mbeki was one of the African National Congress’ bulwarks, pre-and post-1990.

READ ALSO: The African Union At Twenty: Advances, Challenges, And Future Opportunities

Although President Mbeki spent his early adult life at a university in England, he returned home in time to witness the lifting of the ban on the activist African National Congress party. Furthermore, he continued to commit more of his time and energy to the party, which saw him rise through the ranks, becoming the Deputy President of the African National Congress Party in 1994. Thus, it was not a surprise when he emerged as South Africa’s first Deputy President to Nelson Mandela. In his capacity as Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki was not a ceremonial office holder like the average Vice or Deputy President. He was both Deputy President and Prime Minister, seeing to the day-to-day of the South African government. If the Mandela-led South African government were a company, Mandela would have been the Chief Executive Officer or Board Chairman, and Thabo Mbeki the Chief Operations Officer. Such was his involvement in the government of his predecessor.

President Mbeki helped institutionalise some memorable policies during the Mandela government, which he continued to uphold during his governance. He played a participatory and important role in the first post-apartheid government, resulting in his appointment as the President of the African National Congress in 1997. His emergence as the president of the country’s most influential political party also meant his eventual nomination as the unopposed presidential candidate of the party. President Mbeki became the second President of South Africa in 1999, with Jacob Zuma as his Deputy. As President, Mbeki proved that his election to power was not a waste. He deployed strategies that helped the South African economy grow and become a fertile ground for home-based and foreign investors. Undeniably, one of the best governments, if not the best, that South Africa has ever witnessed was that of Mbeki. There was a drastic drop in the nation’s debt and budget deficit, and President Mbeki also championed economic growth—not through unrealistic leaps and bounds but consistent and growth-focused measures.

During his time in government, Mbeki proved his Pan-African spirit to the core. He further developed and supported the Black Economic Programme, and some of his policies were considered socio-democratic because they were citizen-focused. However, no human is without enemies, and no one is perfect. Even within his innermost circle, Mbeki had his fair share of hatred, hostility, and conspiracy. Although he was the most qualified to lead the country, and he made several propositions and introduced life-improving policies, internal crises in his party that were fundamentally about his deviation from so-called extremist socialist views led to his removal from the position of the party president.

President Mbeki also had a rough time with Jacob Zuma, who was supposed to be his Deputy and right-hand man. Zuma, who became the country’s fourth president, had corruption cases and clues that he was involved in shady business in government. As a principled man, Mbeki would have none of that. Things escalated to the extent that Mbeki removed Zuma from office and replaced him with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa’s first female Deputy President. The choice of a female replacement for Jacob Zuma proves that Thabo Mbeki is a leader who ranks competence, skills, and experience above biases like ethnicity and gender. His choice of Ngcuka as his Deputy opened the door for the participation of more women in high-ranking political positions in the country, seeing as the next Deputy President was also female.

Mbeki’s replacement of Jacob Zuma further aggravated the issues that his party leaders had with him. As a result, his second term in office was cut short because they pressured him to resign. Anyone who has followed the turn of things in South Africa will agree that forcing Mbeki to resign was a mistake.

Mbeki is a Pan-Africanist committed to the revival of Africa without looking back, despite a forceful and bad outing from governance. He has contributed to democracy and Pan-Africanism through thought-provoking lectures and books. Also, Mbeki was instrumental to South Africa’s swift rise to become one of Africa’s most recognised states, as he championed several Africa-facing policies at a continental level. His other contributions to the continent and the world include the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the Thabo Mbeki School, and the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library. Through these, Mbeki furthers his beliefs in and advocacy for an African renaissance. No human is infallible. President Mbeki’s government had its downsides; however, casting our reminiscent thoughts about South Africa during Mbeki’s tenure reveals nothing short of a strategic economic and political foundation and expansion.

For all the good he has done, the kind of life he has led, his convictions, and his Pan-Africanism, I felicitate President Thabo Mbeki on the occasion of his 80th year on earth! Please join us for a conversation with President Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki

Sunday, June 19, 2022
5:00 PM South Africa
4:00 PM Nigeria
3:00 PM GMT
10:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Interview With Beautiful Nubia



Beautiful Nubia

Please join us for a conversation with the renowned Nigerian Songwriter, Music Composer, and Band Leader, Olusegun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia).

Sunday, March 19, 2023

5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 11:00 AM Austin CST

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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Conversation With Kunle Afolayan



A  renowned Nigerian Actor, Producer, and Director, Kunle Afolayan will on Sunday, March 5, 2023 have an interview with the Toyin Falola Interviews at 5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 10:00 AM Austin CST.


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Touching Base With Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi’s Perspectives On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections



Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi is a well-versed law professor, international relations activist, and commentator. It was delightful to have her join us, alongside Miriam Oke, Chido Onumah, and Jibrin Hussaini, at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, where we discussed Nigeria’s 2023 elections.

If anything, the primaries being organised in the nation’s two most influential parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress, are pointers to what should be expected of the 2023 Nigerian elections. As is customary, the primaries have been rife with electoral malpractices, vote-buying, and unscrupulous voting figures, and there is a shocking video posted on Twitter by Bashir Ahmad, former Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, who lost his bid to secure the ticket of the APC to contest for a seat in the House of Representatives primaries in his home state of Kano. The video shows how supposed delegates are handed pre-ticked ballot boxes and are asked to put them in the ballot box without even batting an eyelid at the malpractice.

The ball is being set in motion. Atiku Abubakar is the People’s Democratic Party flag bearer for the presidential seat. The All Progressives Congress has recently screened its presidential hopefuls and will soon appoint its flagbearer. Peter Obi, who defected from the People’s Democratic Party to the Labour Party and has since been elected as the party’s flagbearer for the presidential seat, is a seeming third wheel in the routine two-dominant-party multi-party system practised in the country. The stage is set. Or is it?

This piece is not much of a sequel to the one on Chido Onumah’s perspectives on the 2023 elections because Dr Akiyode-Afolabi had her unique views on the questions asked. Nonetheless, it will follow a similar pattern, where we will examine points touched on by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi during the interview.

Electoral Violence and Nigeria’s 2023 Elections

Sad as it may seem, electoral violence is an immemorial issue rocking the Nigerian state. Throughout all its republics, Nigeria has witnessed killings and maiming during election periods — whether at the polling booths on election day or among political rivals setting targets on each other’s backs. Nigeria’s electoral process is peculiar, involving the recruitment of violent electoral mercenaries, often branded as party thugs. These thugs sign off their loyalty to a political party and wreak havoc on the party’s behalf — from ballot snatching to intimidating voters to bow to their party’s will.

In the Nigerian political scene, these party thugs sit with political kings. They are deemed crucial to the electoral process and candidates’ success. The recruitment and payment of these party thugs consume huge financial resources. However, political leaders and public officeholders fail to consider the expected uselessness of the party thugs within the governance period of three to four years that separate pre-election and election years. Having tasted ill-gotten wealth that far surpasses what they could have earned honestly, and without any honest and paying job, these party thugs resort to all sorts of vice to pay their bills and keep themselves in shape. Thus, it is not uncommon to find that party thugs become robbers, kidnappers, bandits, and street-terrorising thugs who incessantly cut holes through the state’s peace, security, and quiet.

In most cases, we would rather relate the incessant kidnappings and unrest to unknown gunmen or herdsmen-bandits rather than the true perpetrators of the evil — anarchical party thugs with weapons they were equipped with during the election period. Thus, the rivalry for power and politicians’ insatiable desire for control, regardless of the extent they go to get it, could be strongly linked to the violent crises that have rocked the country for a while now.

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For Dr Akiyode-Afolabi, violent political mercenaries in Nigeria and the political aspirants and parties who are their enablers act out of an abundant enjoyment of sheer impunity — the knowledge that they can do and undo, wreak whatever havoc they want to, without bearing the consequences. Although several of the perpetrators of this electoral violence are known, nothing is done to bring them to justice, further reinforcing the need to carry out their vice during the next election. Over the years, electoral violence has become a norm in Nigeria, and nothing is being done to curb the menace, especially in punishing the perpetrators. Thus, the electorate have joined the camp of political aspirants and political thugs who see electoral violence as part of the electioneering process in Nigeria. For members of the electorate who have difficulty processing electoral violence as a part of the electioneering process, the option of apathy kicks to the surface — especially among women and the youth who earnestly believe politics in Nigeria is a dirty game, and electoral violence is inevitable. Thus, it is not surprising that Nigeria has had a low voter turnout over the years.

The case of electoral violence and the state’s reaction to it is like several other policies in Nigeria. While the Electoral Act was proactively drafted to cover electoral violence and how to punish offenders and culprits, there has not been any action to make that part of the Act functional. It is akin to the numerous nation-improving policies whose existence has never gone beyond the paper. If we were to dig to the roots of why the aspect of the Nigerian Electoral Act that punishes electoral violence has not been enforced, we would be quick to find out that the average Nigerian politician is either directly or indirectly complicit. Thus, those at the helm and those willing to take over from them are all involved, making them reluctant to enforce the punishment for electoral violence, that is, if they consider punishing the crime at all.

Nigeria’s Three-faced Need and the Importance of a Long-term Agenda

The need for a long-term agenda should not be misconstrued as supporting the cabalistic unending Northern presidency agenda or any other agenda that does not mean well for Nigeria as a nation. Rather, it represents Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s thoughts on what is truly needed to get Nigeria out of its current quagmire. The international relations activist considers the 2023 elections in Nigeria a big issue for the country, particularly because there are more people interested in the presidential position than we have had in quite a while. Nonetheless, most of these aspirants are people who have either held a political position or currently hold one. They are people we know so well. Given their deeds while in office, it will be difficult to convince any right-thinking Nigerian that there is hope for the country if any of the candidates being paraded were elected as president.

The double tragedy that is Buhari’s eight years in office has seen the country go from bad to worse. The country’s debts keep piling up, with no way of repaying them year after year. The people are impoverished, and the currency continually suffers a blow of worthlessness and devaluation, inflation, and the unemployment rate keeps rising. To make matters worse are the rife killings, banditry, and the near state of anarchy that the country has been thrown into. Has any of the numerous candidates aspiring for the presidential seat shown they are the visionary yet pragmatic leaders that can help Nigeria realise a remarkable positive change?

Careful consideration of the likeliest players at the 2023 polls, vis-à-vis the criterion above, would show that Nigeria is not prepared for an election. Dr Akiyode-Afolabi proposed a three-aspect strategy to help us discover a new Nigeria. These are aspects that cannot be fully realised within a four-year term. Thus, there is the need for Nigerian politicians, regardless of their differences—although there are no marked differences in Nigerian politics—to consider government as a continuum and treat it as such. This will help ensure that even if power falls to the opposition camp, the remarkable and change-focused plans that have been kicked into action by the previous government will continue to be nurtured by the new government. This is the only way we can fully realise the three-dimensional solution proposed by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi.

Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s first proposed dimension is the need for an empowered political class. The Nigerian political field is riddled with whimsical people who are of the anything-goes breed as long as they get elected to office. That is why serial defection is nothing to them, and they can shamelessly befriend a foe today and betray a friend tomorrow. They are overly selfish lot who constantly put personal needs and gains before national needs and expected gains. The Nigerian political class needs to be empowered enough to engage the electorate in an ideological and issue-based manner. A look at the pre-campaign clamouring in the camps of the presidential aspirants will show that they think so little of Nigerians that they believe not much is needed in the way of plans and strategies to convince the people. It is also why Nyensom Wike, who lost his party’s presidential ticket, deemed it fit to incessantly chant, “give me power… power!” To him, that was enough to get him the ticket to become Nigeria’s next president.

The coming months will show us lamentable political campaigns with no depth, so shallow that every reasonable Nigerian would be too ashamed to identify with a country where such gimmicks pass as enough campaign to convince the people to vote for someone. There is a need to empower citizens and help kick structures in place to organise Nigerians and help them truly understand what they want. Nigeria has so much suffered from poor governance that asking the average electorate what they expect from the aspirants — what they look forward to hearing that could convince them to vote for an aspirant — would most likely render them stammering.

In Nigeria, constitutional reformation is of great necessity. The Nigerian Constitution has outlived its essence. What use is a constitution if it does not amply meet the state’s needs nor adequately answer its citizens’ burning questions? The systems of the constitution no longer effectively serve us as a nation, which is why there have been agitations and clamouring for secession, restructuring, regionalisation, and central policing, among other issues raised. In the end, until Nigeria intentionally kicks these three dimensions into action, and until there are successive tenures that consider the government as a continuum and reach a knowing agreement to nurture and not impede the realisation of the three-dimensional issue, a new and positive Nigeria will be anything but reality.

  1. *** This is the third and final report on the interview held on May 22, 2022, on the 2023 elections in Nigeria. The views of our distinguished panelists have traveled wide and have been reported in several newspapers.

For the transcript, see:




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