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World’s poorest president bows out gracefully

World’s poorest president bows out gracefully
March 02
13:58 2015
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Can you imagine a Nigerian president riding in 28-year-old VW Beetle? Or living in his own house, forgoing the heaven-like Aso Rock? Or giving 90% of his salary to charity? Or — the most difficult one — having to leave office quietly when he could have manipulated state institutions to give him another term in office, given his popularity?

It may never be replicated in Nigeria, but it has happened in Uruguay, where the outgoing president, Jose “Pepe” Mujica, has broken all records in presidential modesty.

A former guerrilla who spent 13 years in jail, Mujica was elected president in 2010 for a five-year term. The Uruguayan constitution forbids an incumbent from seeking re-election, so he had to leave office on March 1, 2015 despite his street popularity. Of course, he made no attempts to change the constitution.

The 79-year-old socialist has handed over to his predecessor and successor — Tabaré Vázquez, who is now on his second term because of Uruguay’s peculiar law.

In an interview with BBC, Mujica recalled the years he spent in detention, two of them lying at the bottom of an old horse trough.

“I was imprisoned in solitary [confinement] so the day they put me on a sofa I felt comfortable!” Mujica joked about his status as president.

“I’ve no doubt that had I not lived through that I would not be who I am today. Prison, solitary confinement had a huge influence on me. I had to find an inner strength. I couldn’t even read a book for seven, eight years – imagine that!”

But you are not likely to say that of any Nigerian politician who had been to jail before coming to power – they seem to be overwhelmed by the flow of cash as soon as they assume office.

Yet, Mujica cannot understand the global fascination with his modest lifestyle.

“This world is crazy, crazy! People are amazed by normal things and that obsession worries me!” he said.

“All I do is live like the majority of my people, not the minority. I’m living a normal life and Italian, Spanish leaders should also live as their people do. They shouldn’t be aspiring to or copying a rich minority.”

He will also be remembered for stabilising the country’s economy and promoting equity and social justice.

Neither will he be forgotten for legalising abortion and marijuana in a country with Catholic majority.

He said: “Marijuana is another plague, another addiction. Some say it’s good but no, that’s rubbish. Not marijuana, tobacco or alcohol – the only good addiction is love!.

“But 150,000 people smoke [marijuana] here and I couldn’t leave them at the mercy of drugs traffickers. It’s easier to control something if it’s legal and that’s why we’ve done this.”

On his retirement plans, he is not going to be typical.

“I have no intention of being an old pensioner, sitting in a corner writing my memoirs – no way!” he said.

Don’t expect him to write “My Watch” in a hurry then.

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18 Comments

  1. WazobiaNet
    WazobiaNet March 02, 15:26

    Simply Wow. God bless him forever. Amen.

    An example to our Democracy.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jummy
    Jummy March 02, 15:54

    Great Man!

    Reply to this comment
  3. TruthTeller
    TruthTeller March 03, 08:45

    A wonderful man with a truly wonderful life! A huge inspiration for upcoming leaders who have the desire to be free from the clutches of greed and corruption! Nigeria obviously needs a leader like him! A leader that can influence others by the modesty of his daily living! May the Lord strengthen him and prolong his days as he bows out of office!

    Reply to this comment
  4. TruthTeller
    TruthTeller March 03, 08:48

    A truly great man!

    Reply to this comment
  5. lawan yakubu
    lawan yakubu March 03, 09:34

    An example from a good leader.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Mama T
    Mama T March 03, 14:15

    He is a child of God indeed. You can hardly find two of his kind. Present n past Leaders, plz borrow a leaf from him. God has blessed U.

    Reply to this comment
  7. excelzo
    excelzo March 04, 00:31

    President Mujica’s is an exceptional one. Though he might not agree a normal looks abnormal in a world where abnormal wears the toga of normal occurrence. I have just one plea: Please write a book even if it’s a pamphlet. The book will outlive you and prepare millions for true leadership.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Tsanyawa
    Tsanyawa March 04, 06:29

    this is absolutely out-of -this world story. Not only in the newest democracy, this is one perfect record breaking that you may never see even in the western democracies. It is then foolhardy to emerging a replication of this perfect exemplary leadership on African soil. Never in Nigeria either!

    Reply to this comment
  9. WOWO
    WOWO March 04, 07:10

    It is said that the world needs a man .
    A man who cannot be bought
    Man whose word is his bond
    Man who can say NO even though the whole world says YES . That is really what he is.God bless him

    Reply to this comment
  10. Emperor
    Emperor March 05, 08:45

    Simply amazing. Great to know that there are still some good leaders. Trouble is that to a lot of leaders identifying with their people is disgraceful. Remember the statement of a one time senator who opined that they senators did not go to Abuja to display poverty?

    Reply to this comment
  11. AKEREMASEEGBE
    AKEREMASEEGBE March 05, 13:41

    we did not come to this world with anything and we will not go with anything.certainly,there is expected end and we shall account for our deeds either here on planet earth or after death.therefore choose between life or death.

    Reply to this comment
  12. scopy
    scopy March 05, 20:44

    I can only cast my vote to a gem like him, very certain that vote will be treasured. had I voted for OBJ, regret will be my name. he spent some time in the prison but learnt nothing from it.

    Reply to this comment
  13. caesium
    caesium March 06, 04:21

    This made me teary eyed. Hope someday we have someone like this in Nigeria and the whole continent of Africa. Greatness shall be ours forever if we do

    Reply to this comment
  14. mark folorunso
    mark folorunso March 07, 07:40

    I give him a ‘Nobel prize’ in Leadership, humility and contentment.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Willie
    Willie March 08, 03:59

    let every reader adopt this man’s method of leadership in his office and after 3 months return to this page to evaluate himself.it can be very easy and convenient to point fingers and condemn others..

    Reply to this comment
  16. acuba
    acuba March 08, 21:10

    I love the comments posted but would love to draw the attention of all sundry to the fact that the said mujica was humbled to the state he ended up at.he was imprisoned for more than 10 yrs.he didn’t come from affluence and abandon it all willingly.the only one who did that was Jesus Christ.so for all his successes let’s note that our leaders only need to be humbled but the question is,who will humble them?

    Reply to this comment
  17. hatty
    hatty March 08, 21:47

    The only thing I hate about his tenure is legalizing abortion. It’s like ruining all his goodness in one bite

    Reply to this comment

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