The man Robert Mugabe always stood out among men. The mention of his name since he stepped out as a freedom fighter in the former Rhodesia has always invoked passions of some sort. He was a man destined to standout. History probably thrust upon him the mantle of leadership laced in hope and greatness.

At Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the name Mugabe invoked hope in every African. He invoked hope particularly in the people of South Africa who were at that time being crushed by the Apartheid machine. Nelson Mandela probably found hope in Mugabe from his lonely prison cell in Roben Island. Zimbabwe gave all Africans hope. Mugabe personified this hope. He was the leader of a potentially great country. Zimbabwe was a country where all found hope, whether you were black or white. Zimbabwe with a strong economy was the food basket of Southern Africa with the potential to feed the sub-region.

After 37 years in power, the story is now different. Zimbabwe is now a shadow of its old self. Great hope has turned into desperate despair. Mugabe has brought this potentially great country to its knees. The economy is in shambles and the country now on food aid. In the name of equitable land redistribution, he destroyed the agricultural base and potency of Zimbabwe. The oppression of the citizenry became common place. Torture and gross violations of human rights became the order of the day.

Mugabe at 93 was determined to die in office. The will of the very people he fought to liberate didn’t matter anymore. Elections became a charade and a mockery of the electoral process. He had several chances to leave office honorably after his party lost elections but wisdom seemed to have eluded him. In the natural cycle of life, we grow wiser with age – but this is not the case with Mugabe.

He was a man destined for greatness – a sure candidate for Africa’s Hall of Fame. Providence had stage managed greatness for him. But with his own hands and the “Grace” of his wife, he has thrown himself to the opposite side of the equation. He is now top on the list of those to end up in the dustbin of history.

The story of Robert Mugabe is tragic. The man himself a tragedy – once a hero, now a villain. What happened to Robert Mugabe?

Audu Echono