The people’s President and his titles

Heads of State and Government the world over seem to attract a lot of titles to themselves. A few of the titles relate to their duties while most are acquired as part of the whole process of big ego massaging. As a general rule, dictators acquire the longest and wordiest titles of all. There are very few exceptions to this rule.

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Any mention of meaningless titles will never be complete without a visitation of the titles assumed by Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada.

Although Amin had a relatively short tenure as President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, he acquired a streak of titles that only faced stiff competition from his dictatorial tendencies for ridiculousness, inappropriateness and outrageousness. He was an epitome of evil and believed in using titles to intimidate his people.

Amin assumed a chain of titles some of which exposed his grandeur and stupidity. He demanded to be referred to as His Excellency President for Life and Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin. Despite having a British military background, Amin ignored basic regimental tenets that define a Field Marshal as the highest military rank above a full general. When Amin sprung out the coup that deposed President Milton Obote, he was a mere Major General heading Uganda’s rag-tag army.

At the height of his imbecility, Amin embellished himself with titles such as VC (Victory Cross), DSO (Distinguished Service Order), MC, CBE (Commander of the British Empire), Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea. He pulled an ingenious dig at the British establishment by conferring unto himself the title of Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

In less than eight years in power, Amin managed to amass titles that can only be attained by an individual within the reasonableness of two lifetimes. He loaded himself with a repertoire of titles that one man cannot ordinarily achieve within the limits of a mortal’s time on earth. If Amin had been blessed with as many years in power as President Robert Mugabe has so far served, his titles would read like the opening chapter from the book of vows of a secret cult of dictators.

What about the titles Mugabe has garnered? He has managed to cling to power for a period approaching 35 years. He has acquired a lot in his capacity as President of Zimbabwe. Some of the things Mugabe has naturally acquired include riches, properties, respect, dishonour, notoriety and a measure of meaningful and meaningless titles amongst other things. His length of time in power, his dictatorship and his selfishness have combined to precipitate Mugabe’s obsession with omnipotence. Inevitably, despots such as Amin, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Germany’s Hitler, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and those closer to us came to be after the fulfilment of the said toxic precipitants.

At independence Mugabe humbly stuck with the modest title of Comrade Prime Minister. Later on he succumbed to diplomatic etiquette which imposed the title of His Excellency the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe upon him. With time he realised the value of investing in power. He sought to get validation from his subjects so as to feel powerful and in charge. The easiest way to make people acknowledge his might, potency and importance was to remind them of his areas of influence.

Mugabe started overloading himself with titles to panel-beat the people into submission. Currently, he has a string of titles that bring both shock and awe as well as some sense of humour.

It is common for Mugabe to be referred to as His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces and President and First Secretary of Zanu PF. He has also accepted the titles of Chairman of Sadc and African Union Chairman.

In addition, the tired public has gone on to bestow upon him more titles only in despair. He is regularly referred to as Chancellor of all State Universities, Life President of Zimbabwe, “Son of Man”, Conqueror of the British Empire and Liberator of Farms. Such outrageous titles reflect the desperation within.

As Mugabe amasses more years in his unending tenure as president, it is obvious that he will be lumbered with a long and unbreakable chain of titles. He will continue to acquire some titles both formally and informally as well as officially and unofficially. Most of the unofficial titles will be bestowed upon him by restive citizens in a desperate bid to mitigate the suffering and the pain accruing from his dictatorship and tyranny.

The long list of official and unofficial titles leaders end up having is both a celebration of their personal achievements as well as an indictment of their archaic and despotic leadership styles. The operative rule is that if the titles are too many and too flowery to comprehend, probably they convey a statement of evil intent. Citizens who get tired of dominance have a right to seek solace from humour and they reserve the right to lampoon the executive institute.
Long live the life president of Zimbabwe.

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