DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

Democracy is not a new term on the block but rather a long time practices that has now been accustomed to so many people, states and countries. Athens was a democracy throughout most of the 5th and the 4th century. Only in 411BC did oligarchs succeed in establishing a government where the few and wealthy ruled over the many and mostly poor. Neither oligarchic regime lasted even as long as a year. But tensions between oligarchs and democrats were always present in Athenian politics. In as much as Plato criticized democracy, the truth is that our 21st century is no more as primitive as the 5th and 4th century.

Historically, the opposition to democracy is not a new thing but a long time reality. Democracy has always come under attack from the monarchists and aristocrats. Ideological conservatives, too, tended to have strong reservations with regard to popular rule.  Notwithstanding, the catholic church also allied with anti-democratic force so as to continually gain hold on people thus the ideal of democracy has become the norm at least right from the ancient time.

Democracy is derived from two Greek words “demos” meaning people and “kratia” meaning rule of power. It is important to note that there is no universal definition of democracy but it has come to mean a rule of system where the people have the utmost say. The most popular definition given so far is that of Abraham Lincoln, an ex-president of the United State of America who in his own ideas defined it as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Lincoln went up to be one of the America’s greatest Presidents of all time.

There are fundamentals and principles of democracy; all these are attributes that defines the beauty and uniqueness of democracy. When we observe the Locus of Authority, Rule of Law, Principle of Legitimacy and freedom of choice as well as many others, we only come to the fact that democracy is the beauty of any government. The legality and power of democracy comes from the electorates. A system where the masses vote in elections for their preferred candidate who they feel is capable of governing them. Today, it has gone to include a house of parliament that will help checkmate the powers of the executives. Democracy has given so much right to the average man.

The greatest challenge facing the Africa continent in its state policy and affairs is that since most African countries gained independence, our political leaders have failed to see democracy as service to the people. This singularly accounts for the reason behind so many dictatorial tendencies in governance in most of these countries. The refusal of these political leaders to relinquish power at the expiration of their tenure is a worrisome issue that needs to be re-addressed timely. It is a pity that Democracy is yet to stay in Africa in-spite of all the benefits and goodies it has to offer. Africans will not in a hurry, forget the long regime of Idi Amin of Uganda, Mimiery of Sudan, Sid Barre of Somalia, Arap Moi of Kenya, Babaginda of Nigeria, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Matthew Kerekou of Benin Republic, just a few to mention.

In the Africa context and arena, perhaps we can right argue that South Africa represents the true virtue of Democracy. A country that gained its independence in 1994 and has continually maintained stability in all ramifications especially in her polity and governance. As a matter of necessity, all African leaders should emulate Nelson Mandela; the first elected president of South Africa who after twenty seven years of imprisonment for fighting against the apartheid policy in South Africa rose up to be its greatest leader not only in the county in African as a whole. Dr. Nelson Mandela voluntarily refused to vie for a second term in 1998 where it was obvious that he was going to win after performing remarkably well in his first tenure (1994-1998). Mandela is a man of virtue and moral and has become an inspiration to many leaders in the world. Which World leader doesn’t want to meet Mandela? A man who showcased the glories of Africa and sought for a day the world will come to Africa to experience its beauty. Today, South Africa is hosting the World Cup; another privileged for the world to see how Democracy is practiced in Africa rather than believing that Africa hope for the future is already damaged by our political leaders. Mandela has written his name on the annals of African Political history. Generations to come will live to remember this man of honour and integrity.

Mandela should therefore be a role model for other African Leaders especially the despots among them who see leadership as their birthright and that of their children. Such leaders should be reminded that it is the inalienable political right of the electorate in their countries to decide who presides and that by forcing themselves into office through rigged elections and other mechanism available points out to only one clear fact: they are not democrats.

What we see in Africa today is an unfortunate misrepresentation of democratic ideas and ideals which has been the lot of African continent. In this age of civilization, Africa is still backward not because the resources and power is absence but because a few individuals have sold their conscience and sabotaged these resources they were mandated to manage for the benefit of all. They have developed doctrines that are similar to dictatorship in the name of Democracy. The most baffling thing is that the people are not readily inclined to stand up and fight this illness. One can’t heap the blames on them for they are being ruled. What we must call to order is the forces that aid this plot. For example, the military should not be made to see evil and pretend like nothing exists. Well, today, a clear distinction is drawn between the democrats (civilians) and the military (dictators), however where civilian begins to allow power intoxicate their conscience, what would be the fate of many others?

The problem doesn’t end in the leaders but the followers also. The followers are not equally being fair to the quest of fairness and justice. Bribery had found its way into their hearts and thus corruption has become the order of the day. It is only in Africa, that a good man is seen as a bad person and the man who refuses to be corrupt is a disease to the society; he should be found among the dead. Such as ideas and beliefs they have been craved out over time. A great pity!

Indeed what most African Leaders both past and present have failed to realize is that history has never been so kind to people who use their power and privileged position to work against the collective interests of others. They were all eventually forced out of office in a shameful manner.  Idi Amin of Uganda died in a foreign land of renal failure and was not deemed fit to be buried even, Hastings Kumuzu of Malawi died of health failure after losing his elections to be a democratic elected leader. The most annoying part of it all is that these leaders were all educated and understood Democracy too well; they were elites.

Democracy since its inception is still crawling and thus time is fast changing. It is now a wake up call that our electorate system must be sound enough to produce credible leaders who will behave like the Plato “Philosopher king”. In the same light as Plato, until our democratic leaders are Mandela alike and  Mandela alike are elected leaders, Africa, I’m afraid, will continue to be exploited with no hope of a brighter future.

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About ogungbesan20
I'M A STUDENT OF SOCRATIC SCHOOL OF THOUGHT AS MUCH AS I BELIEVE IN THE PRACTICES AND THEORIES OF ALL KNOWLEDGE LEADING TO TRUTH. ....SHALOM......

One Response to DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

  1. samba says:

    Info well appreciated

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