I was a kid when Thomas Sankara was murdered in cold blood in the coup that toppled him, led by his best friend and deputy, Blaise Compaore.
I didn’t even get to know about the event until many years later when I came to myself. I used to listen to a lot of Alpha Blondy songs back in the day, and it’s possible I might have heard Sankara’s name the first time in the song he dedicated to him ( Watch “Alpha Blondy – Sankara” on YouTube –
Captain Thomas Sankara was just 33 when he seized power in what was then known as Upper Volta in 1983, and he hit the ground running with policies aimed at delivering his beloved country from the clutches of corruption and the overlords, France.
He not only changed his country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (Land of Upright Men) but he worked towards ensuring that it’s people lived up to their name, and most importantly setting a personal example with his life and behavior.
His drive to make Burkina Faso self sufficient remains unparalleled anywhere in Africa. He not only shunned foreign aid, he refused advice from the International Finance Organizations like the International Monetary Fund, IMF whose policies over time has been consistent in further impoverishing the already impoverished African peoples, wiping out the middle class of many nations in its wake. At a time most Francophone Africa, clung unto France for ‘air’, he called their bluff.
His ambitious reforestation programme was widely embraced nationwide by all and sundry, and had he survived for longer, maybe Burkina Faso would’ve become like Israel where arid land became fertile land, to the extent of becoming exporter of farm produce of repute.
At a time no one was talking about Female Genital Mutilation, FGM Sankara had outlawed it, while championing the cause of the Girl-Child by enacting policies that promoted their Education, outlawing forced marriages and even polygamy.
Captain Thomas Sankara oversaw the vaccination of over 2.5 million children against Meningitis, Yellow Fever and Measles ( a feat which remains unattainable in an Africa slush with international aid money that ends up in the pockets of private individuals, owners of NGO’s, and government officials).
He understood the importance education plays in the liberation of the mind hence his emphasis and the particular attention he paid to his mass literacy programme remain exemplary.
If there was anything you could accuse Sankara of, then it could be that he ruled by fiat, but his was a military government, and one could say that of all those who took over power in West Africa in those days (Rawlings in Ghana, and Buhari in Nigeria), none of their policies were designed with a human face like those that emanated from the body chaired by Sankara.
His simple and exemplary lifestyle disarmed even his avowed critics. This was one guy who sold off all the luxury Mercedes Benz cars he met in office, replacing them with cheap Renault cars, of which he drove himself to work daily, stopping at traffic lights, Oh Sankaraaaaaaaaa!
This was Africa’s Revolutionary. Our Ché!
On the 15th of October, 1987 this visionary was murdered in a coup led by his friend (and deputy) with whom he’d joined the army at the age of 19. Blaise Compaore was orphaned at a very young age and was taken in by Sankara’s parents.
They showed him no respect at all in death, burying his body at a grave marked by a paper with his name on it.
While he held sway, rulers of other francophone West African countries saw him as a threat, fearing that their own people could be inspired by him (and they were) and think to replicate his revolution on their own soil. It was on this, that the French leveraged upon to instigate his ‘REMOVAL’.
Since his demise, and Compaore took power (to this day), all the gains Burkina Faso made in those days have been reversed and the country remains one of the poorest in the world, depending largely on foreign aid (the French especially).
Captain Thomas Sankara, though young was Africa’s dream and model leader, unfortunately we haven’t seen his likes since he passed.
Unlike many of Africa’s vain leaders who ensured that monuments were made in their names, streets and boulevards named in their honor, Sankara’s is etched in our hearts were no natural or human disasters can reach, where he though dead lives forever!