HomeNationalWhy democracy is not working for Africa, by Obasanjo

Why democracy is not working for Africa, by Obasanjo

• Analyst: Democracy not failing Africa, Africa failing democracy
• Off-cycle elections: Nigerians losing trust in electoral process, ActionAid warns
• ‘How collective action, integration can drive Africa’s interest in global politics’

Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, said democracy has not been working as a system of government in Africa because it was forced on the continent. Obasanjo stated this, yesterday, in his address at a high-level consultation on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa’, held in Abeokuta.

The former president said Western style of democracy failed in Africa because it did not take into consideration the views of majority of the people.

Describing Western liberal democracy as a “government of a few people over all the people or population”, Obasanjo said: “These few people are representatives of only some of the people and not full representatives of all the people.

“Invariably, majority of the people were wittingly or unwittingly kept out. This is why we should have ‘Afro democracy’ in place of Western liberal democracy.” Obasanjo said African countries have no business operating a system of government, which definition and design they have no hands in.

“The weakness and failure of liberal democracy, as it is practised, stem from its history, content, context and its practice. Once you move from all the people to representatives of the people, you start to encounter troubles and problems.

“For those who define it as the rule of majority, should the minority be ignored, neglected and excluded? In short, we have a system of government in which we have no hands to define and design. And we continue with it, even when we know that it is not working for us.

“Those who brought it to us are now questioning the rightness of their invention, its deliverability and its relevance today without reform,” he said. Obasanjo explained that the essence of any system of government should be the welfare and well-being of the people.

“Here, we must interrogate performance of democracy in the West — where it originated — and with us the inheritors of what we are left with by our colonial powers.

“We are here to stop being foolish and stupid. Can we look inward and outward to see what in our country, culture, tradition, practice and living, over the years, that we can learn from; something that we can adopt and adapt with practices everywhere for a changed system of government that will service our purpose better and deliver?

“We have to think out of the box. And after, act with our new thinking. You are invited here to examine clinically the practice of liberal democracy, identify its shortcomings for our society and bring forth ideas and recommendations that can serve our purpose better,” he said.

In his remarks, a former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, noted that liberal democracy in Africa is confronted with many challenges, adding: “Non-delivery of development outcomes for the people must be adequately addressed so that democracy can deliver.”

But a global affairs analyst, Paul Ejime, differed, saying democracy is not failing Africa; rather Africa is failing democracy. Reacting to the Liberian election in a telephone interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the weekend, Ejime, an international media and communication expert, rated the poll as transparent.

According to him, Nigeria and other African countries have a lot of lessons to learn from the just-concluded presidential election in the West African nation.

The election was won by Joseph Boakai, a former Vice President of the country, who defeated incumbent President, George Weah, in a keenly contested run-off election on November 14.

“One of the key issues in Liberia during the first round of the election in October is that the voters did not wait for the results to be counted. They cast their votes and went back to their homes.

“It shows a level of trust. Election is supposed to be a process, not an event. It requires an electoral umpire that can be trusted. When people can trust the electoral commission, and the political agents can be the eyes and ears of the political parties, you know that democracy is growing,” he said. Ejime described election as a “multi-stakeholder enterprise” with separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary.

“We should have a judiciary that can dispense justice, a legislature that is independent of the executive and the judiciary. The people should not engage in vote buying and selling, ballot box coup and political coup, which give rise to military coups.

“The judiciary should understand that it is the last hope of the common man; if the executive and the legislature trample on the citizens, they run to the judiciary, if the judiciary is involved in truncating democracy, who will the people run to?

“The military should learn that their job is in the protection of the nation’s territory and not to lead in political governance,” he said. The analyst also commended Weah for conceding defeat, saying that he saved the country, the ECOWAS region, and himself from another long spell of turmoil.

This came as ActionAid Nigeria expressed concern that despite assurances by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the off-cycle elections conducted in Kogi, Balyelsa and Imo were marred by irregularities, including low voter turnout, result falsification, violence, and vote-buying.

The organisation, which aims to achieve social justice, gender equality, and eradicate poverty, said: “This casts a shadow on INEC’s integrity, neutrality, and independence, constituting a major impediment to the development of democracy in Nigeria.

“The off-cycle elections witnessed violence in various locations, including Anyigba, Dekina Local Council of Kogi State; Sagbama and Brass in Bayelsa State; and Ikeduru Local Council of Imo State.

“The continued unleashing of violence on innocent Nigerians during elections is dehumanising and an affront to their fundamental rights to vote and associate.”

ActionAid, in a statement signed by Country Director, Andrew Mamedu, recommended a post-election audit to assess successes and challenges of the elections and provide insights for future improvements.

Meanwhile, the Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, has emphasised the role of collective action, solidarity and integration in driving Africa’s interest in global politics.

He said Africa must be more united in purpose and character, and strengthened by humanitarian values that underpin the continent’s position on many issues. Osaghae disclosed this at the Joint Seminar on Making Sense of Security in a Turbulent World, organised by NIIA and The Embassy of Korea Republic in Lagos. He said Nigeria has good relations with Korea, fueled by commonalities of history, especially colonial past and economic foundations.

“Korea is an example of what global partnership can do. And for Nigeria, the country represents the power of partnership, where two nations come together to achieve things that are mutually beneficial.

“Nigeria can be stronger than what it is today and I think this is what countries like Korea have recognised. That’s why they place a great premium on relations,” Osaghae said.

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