How many young folks, nowadays, in Africa have an inkling of the name and persona, Thomas Isidore Sankara? Few, I must say and such is why Africa drudges on her race to development and self-reliance. When people are oblivious of great men in their ancestry and their visions of society, how can they get themselves together and seize the moment for their advancement? Never ever!

In the chronicles of African history, there have been leaders whose legacies continue to resonate long after their time in power. Among them, the name Thomas Isidore Sankara stands out above the rest as a symbol of unwavering integrity, visionary leadership, and a deep commitment to the betterment of his nation, Burkina Faso, and the entire African continent. This appraisal seeks to shed light on the persona, character, mode of administration, integrity, discipline, and charisma of Thomas Sankara while condemning his tragic assassination, the French orchestration of it, and ultimately, ranking him as the greatest leader Africa has ever witnessed. It was even so disheartening knowing that this great African leader was murdered by his long-time comrade, ‘friend’ and associate, Blaise Compare, a man whom Sankara’s parents had embraced as a fellow son.

 The Persona and Character Of Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara, often referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” was born on December 21, 1949, in Yako, Burkina Faso. From an early age, he displayed qualities that would later define his character as a leader. He was known for his humility, sense of justice, and unwavering commitment to social justice. Sankara’s modest lifestyle, including his refusal to use the air conditioning in his office, endeared him to the people and set him apart from the excesses often associated with leadership in Africa.

Sankara was a charismatic and eloquent speaker, capable of rallying his fellow citizens with his vision of a better Burkina Faso. He understood the power of words and used his speeches to inspire change, urging his countrymen to be active participants in the transformation of their nation. Admirably, he was a leader who had a great passion for music as he, in the days before his emergence into the political terrain of Burkinafaso, ventured into learning to play the guitar and he was known to be an enjoyable guitarist.

His Administrative M.O: A Revolutionary Approach

Thomas Sankara assumed power in Burkina Faso in 1983 through a popularly supported coup. His administration marked a departure from the status quo in Africa, as he implemented sweeping reforms and embraced a revolutionary approach to governance.

One of the most striking aspects of Sankara’s administration was his commitment to self-reliance. He initiated programs to reduce Burkina Faso’s dependence on foreign aid, including campaigns to grow more food and reduce imports. During the short reign of Sankara’s reign, Burkina Faso suddenly grew to be one of the highest producers of cotton in the world. This commitment to self-sufficiency was in line with his vision of an Africa that was free from the economic and political shackles of foreign powers and this was so very much to the disdain and displeasure of the Western world, especially, France, their colonial masters. Sadly, these moves and revolutionary reforms spurred France to surreptitiously scheme and incite the assassination of the greatest leader Africa ever knew. If leaders like Thomas Sankara with the likes of other great men like Patrice Lumumba had lived out their lives, they would have been trailblazers of the advancement of Africa and shining examples to other African rulers and nations to imitate

Sankara also introduced progressive policies aimed at improving the lives of Burkina Faso’s citizens. These policies included mass vaccination campaigns, efforts to combat desertification, and initiatives to promote gender equality- he was the first African leader to embrace the female gender into political administration as Africa had and has always been a patriarchal society, still till date. He believed that the true wealth of a nation was its people, and he worked assiduously and tirelessly to uplift the lives of the Burkinabe people.

He even changed the name of his country from Upper Volta which she was formerly known to Burkina Faso, meaning, ‘The Land of The Incorruptible People’ and the name of his people, ‘Burkinabe’, meaning, ‘The Upright people’. This so much showed his noble intention for his country. He so much tried to share and spread the ideals of uprightness, simplicity, and integrity amongst the then-growing population of Burkina Faso.

Integrity and Discipline: A Shining Example

One of the hallmarks of Thomas Sankara’s leadership was his unwavering integrity and discipline. He set a high standard for himself and his government, leading by example in all aspects of his life. Sankara’s personal integrity was a stark contrast to the corruption and self-enrichment often associated with African leadership from time to time.

He eschewed the trappings of power and luxury, choosing instead to live a simple life in a small house and drive a modest car. Sankara famously sold off the government’s fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars and replaced them with Renault 5s, known as “the people’s car,” to save money. These actions endeared him to the Burkinabe people and solidified his reputation as a leader of the people.

Vision and Charisma: A Man Ahead of His Time

Thomas Sankara’s vision for Burkina Faso and Africa at large was nothing short of revolutionary. He saw a continent free from the yoke of imperialism, where African nations could chart their own course without foreign interference. His commitment to pan-Africanism was unwavering, and he believed that Africa’s problems could only be solved through unity and self-determination.

Sankara’s charisma and ability to inspire were evident in his speeches and interactions with the people. He had a unique ability to convey complex ideas in simple terms, making his vision accessible to all. His call for self-reliance, social justice, and gender equality resonated not only in Burkina Faso but across the African continent.

The Tragic Assassination of Thomas Sankara

The life legacy of Thomas Sankara was truncated by the tragic events of October 15, 1987, when he was assassinated in a coup led by his close associate, long-time comrade and popularly considered ‘best friend’, Blaise Compaoré. Sankara’s death was the most devastating blow to Burkina Faso and Africa as a whole as it extinguished a shining light that began to illuminate Africa. It marked the end of a promising era of progressive leadership and a setback for the ideals of self-reliance and social justice in Burkina Faso and the entire Africa. In reminiscence, Thomas Isidore Sankara was martyred as the last of Africa’s great leaders. Since his death, none of his kind in character, integrity, discipline, charisma, and progressiveness has ever emerged as a leader in Africa, save for the great Nelson Mandela of South Africa, to whom I still place Sankara ahead. Although a flicker of such similitude is beginning to burn somewhere in East Africa, in the name of Patrick Lumumba, he is yet to principally stir the ship of political administration in his country as to do any comparative equation with the ‘Great Thomas Sankara’

The circumstances surrounding Sankara’s assassination remain shrouded in conspiracy and controversies. What is clear, however, is that his vision, rhetoric, and policies had made him a coterie of enemies both within and outside Burkina Faso. The French government, in particular, was uneasy with Sankara’s independent stance and his calls for African nations to break free from neocolonialism and undoubtedly, they sponsored his assassination.

French Involvement and Support for His Assassination

It is a stain on the integrity of history that the French government, seeing the greatness and character of such a leader, decided to scheme and sponsor his assassination only for their selfish, neo-colonial interests.  France, which had long maintained a stranglehold on its former African colonies, saw Sankara as a threat to her interests and his vision a troubling awakening to Africa that would speedily dismantle the tradition of neo-colonialism. Sankara’s call for self-reliance, his criticism of continued foreign dominance with interference, and his efforts to reduce Burkina Faso’s dependence on France were viewed with alarm, contempt, and dis-ease by the French supremacist establishment.

There were very strong and reasonably verifiable allegations that the French government provided support to the plotters of the coup that led to Sankara’s assassination. While the exact extent of French involvement remained and remains a subject of debate, as France would only necessarily remain clandestine in such a conspiracy as they prided themselves on being symbols of noble ideals like democracy and egalitarianism, it is clear that the French government did not view and welcome Sankara’s vision for Africa with favor and acquiescence. Just as Patrice Lumumba challenged Belgium, Thomas Isidore Sankara was unwaveringly interested in breaking the French domination over his people and wanted to protect and walk his country along the trajectory of self-reliance.

Sankara’s Legacy

Despite his untimely death, Thomas Sankara’s legacy endures. He remains a symbol of integrity, nobleness, vision, and unwavering commitment to the betterment of Africa. His ideas continue to inspire movements for social justice and self-reliance across the continent.

Sankara’s life and leadership demonstrate that it is possible to be a visionary leader without succumbing to corruption or external pressures. His commitment to the welfare of his people and his vision of a united, self-reliant Africa are ideals that continue to resonate with Africans today.

Ranking Thomas Sankara: Africa’s Greatest Leader

In the pantheon of African leaders, Thomas Sankara stands as one of the greatest, if not the greatest leaders who walked the sands of Africa’s soil. As a matter of personal opinion, I echo him as the greatest African leader who has walked the red soil of the African continent. Among the pinch of great leaders Africa has struggled so greatly to have in the likes of Patrice Mulumba, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, our Jaja Wachukwu, Olufunmilayo Ransom Kuti, and only a few others, Thomas Isidore Sankara stands as Primus Inter Pares as his unmatched integrity, nobleness, vision, illuminating eloquence and commitment to social justice set him way above all leaders of his time and even those who came before him and have come after him.

Sankara’s approach to leadership was democratic, even as a military ruler. He believed in the active participation of the people in the governance of their country, and he sought to empower ordinary citizens to take charge of their destiny. His policies aimed at improving healthcare, education, and gender equality were ahead of their time and continue to serve as a model for progressive leadership. He was and may be the only African leader who was accessible to the people. Thomas Sankara usually jogged around the city alone with no guard around him. Such is unseen amongst the lives of any African leader from time till date. I brag to be contested.

During the Burkinabe revolution that ousted the man-monster who put an end to this African visionary leader and hero, pictures, drawings, and images of Thomas Sankara were hoisted in the air, hanging on the people’s hands as they marched on to overthrow Blaise Compaore.

Thomas Isidore Sankara; An Ideogram of Inspiration to Africa

Thomas Sankara’s life and leadership were tragically cut short, but his legacy lives on. He remains a beacon of hope for those who seek to build a better Africa, free from the shackles of neocolonialism and corruption. Sankara’s vision of self-reliance, social justice, and pan-Africanism continues to inspire generations of Africans who are committed to realizing his dream of a united, prosperous continent.

While his assassination was a grievous and colossal loss, Thomas Sankara’s impact on Africa and the world cannot be erased. His image appears in the almanac of great leaders the world has ever known. His memory serves as a reminder that visionary leadership, unwavering integrity, and a commitment to the welfare of the people can bring about transformative change. In the pantheon of African leaders, Sankara’s name will forever stand as a testament to what is possible when a leader dedicates themselves to the betterment of their nation and their continent. Sankara stands as a blueprint and model for African leadership

Could it be that the memory of the life, legacy, character, and vision of Thomas Isidore Sankara is the soul behind the wind of revolutionary putsches sweeping through French-Africa in our most recent times? If you ask me, my conjecture would be affirmative.  May Africa begin to birth new revolutionary visionaries of the sameness of this great African leader, Thomas Isidore Sankara.  

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