To the adoring masses of Ghana, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah is "Showboy," and Guineans pay tribute to the strength of their President Sekou Toure by calling him "Elephant." But on the Ivory Coast (which lies between Ghana and Guinea, and wants no part of their merger), crowds have tagged their own strongman with the simple name of "Vive." The name could not be more apt: few men in the kaleidoscopic politics of French Africa have shown a greater talent for survival than 53-year-old Félix Houphouet-Boigny.

Houphouet first became the idol of his people...

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