Democracy in Africa needs help
Many years ago, when we were in a class on policy development, one of our teachers asked us to listen and understand what he was teaching and how to apply it to our work rather than thinking and focusing on how to develop a political theory because even our teachers are not developing any. This was due to the fact that even our teachers are not developing any political theories. Given that it was a class for postgraduate students, the statement did not sit well.
I had a lot of trouble dealing with it for a while. Over the course of 25 years, despite the fact that I have, through my writing and verbal exposure on a variety of topics, made some contributions to the world of knowledge, I have not been able to develop any Theory, and it would appear that I have given up trying to do so.
In light of this, I would like to make a public proposal to those with insightful minds to assist democracy in Africa before the wobbling feet of this model of governance become completely paralyzed and are therefore inherently doomed for all time. Right off the bat, I am going to issue a challenge to the Western world, and I do so for two primary reasons. First, they gave birth to democracy, which can be defined as a form of government in which power rests with the people, which is then exercised for the benefit of the people. They also have a better understanding of the fundamental principles and statutes that underpin it, and they are leading the charge to promote it as the superior form of government.
Second, they have a better chance of gathering the resources and alliances necessary to develop a theory of help, assistance, or modification that will, as we have always been referred to it, meet international and universal standards. The flaws and deficiencies of democracy as it is currently practiced in the majority of African countries are to the advantage of some of us, in fact those who are the most charitable in the pursuit of its viability; as a result, we are unable to find a solution to the problem that lies within.
Given that any model of which we are all profoundly convinced can, at the very least, serve our purpose, we don’t worry too much about whether or not it is universally acceptable. One such example is the institution of gay marriage, which will never be tolerated in Africa. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of the way our family is organized. In any event, democracy is not a terrible form of government.
It is foolhardy for the developed countries to spend the money of their citizens to support preparations for general elections in countries of Africa; commit more resources and encourage their institutions to do the same to monitor those elections; only to be disappointed and hopelessly return to their countries after having done so.
I feel compelled to ask, “What do these foreign missions, international organizations, and observers do with reports of the elections that they monitor in African countries?” I will ask this question as quickly as possible. For example, what are they going to do with the reports of the elections that just took place in Nigeria, which ended a few days ago? In each and every one of their reports, as they were presented, they voiced reservations about the way the elections were conducted and how they fell short of meeting the expectations of the electorates. Is there a lot of emphasis placed on semantics and diction? We overheard them discussing a rigged election, infractions expressed in percentages, rigging, vote buying, bribery, and a variety of other terms that enriched our vocabulary. Where does this lead? What role can the United Nations play to ensure that the will of the people in the choice of their leaders is not undermined? This is the primary factor that contributes to the majority of conflicts that occur within societies.
The will of the people, as expressed through the ballot box, is being brazenly subverted and annulled by a small number of hostage takers of the collective heritage, enemies of democracy, and orchestrators of the general rot in Africa. This has been going on for decades in the majority of African countries, and the entire world has watched it happen. People enthusiastically file out, even in debilitating conditions, to use the ballot box which democracy claims is the conveyor belt of their wish, only to have the hope dashed. Every election year, they raise the hope of citizens who thirstily yearn for genuine change in leadership and in the order of things. In addition to this, enormous resources, along with the opportunity cost that goes along with them, have been cornered for the elections.
It is plainly obvious that the majority of elections in Africa are rigged to produce the desired results, thus subverting the democratic norms that are supposed to govern them. For example, I will never be convinced that the majority of voters in Cameroon turn out every seven years to willingly thumb print for the ailing Paul Biya, who is now their president for life in some sense. The same can be said for Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
Unfortunately, rather than acting as midwives during election processes, the electoral umpires here have proven to be major obstacles to the conduct of credible elections. This is a result of the widespread problems caused by weak institutions. None of them are able to checkmate one another; rather, all of them are subject to the whims of a small group of individuals who hold power at any given moment. Those who have holy mindsets and principles are pressured or persuaded to follow the same path of dishonor, which is a dishonorable path. The role that security forces have played in all of this is extremely discouraging.
Consequently, whatever solution is being considered must give serious consideration to the question of how to secure a clear cut separation between these institutions and political offices that are only temporary in nature. I am aware that having robust institutions will also bring about some order in the operations of the government and society. This order will, to some extent, be able to put a stop to the exploitative practices of the West in this location. However, there is no need to be concerned about this because it will, in the end, result in less of Africa being a nuisance to the rest of the world.
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Even though we acknowledge that democratic rule is preferable to military rule, the average Nigerian is likely to have doubts about several aspects of democracy’s operation as it is carried out in their country. These doubts include the level of greed and corruption that is prevalent, and the situation becomes almost intolerable when the most fundamental and important part of democracy, the way elections are carried out, is compromised. If the West, which created it and claims to defend it, does not reevaluate its operations and provide us with a model that is successful, we will create our own model on our own, regardless of how crude it may be.
My former professor’s perspective on our unique circumstance is one that I now understand and appreciate more fully as a result of our inability to implement a solution to our governmental problems that is based on a model that has proven successful in other parts of the world, as well as our inability to find ways to improve the integrity of our voting system.