ACROSS many African countries, all the way back to Nigeria and down to the State of Osun, there is a heavy knee on the neck of democracy, threatening to snuff life out of it in the George Floyd manner. Democracy is on oxygen in Chad and Mali and the anti-democratic cancer is spreading.
It is a shame that Africa had to contend with internal and external forces that are against democracy and her development right from inception of nationhood at the point of exit of her colonisers some 70 years ago till date. At the point of encounter with Europe, a majority of Africans was under one form of monarchy or the other. The inbuilt systems for order, and against tyranny, within those monarchical systems never meant they were anything other than monarchy. Therefore, the transition to “freedom,” democracy and the Rule of Law (after the colonist have had their field day and had to leave stylishly or forcibly) was unarguably an imposition, albeit a welcomed one.
Majority of the ruling elite across Africa, and many of the founding fathers, hooked on monarchical majesty and privileges, never fully embraced modernity and democracy. Therefore, many of them quickly colluded as willing tools in the hands of the departed colonial masters (who never meant us well and were only eager to modernise the colonisation) to eliminate the few great leaders of vision who have embraced modernism and were intent on pushing African countries to the height of development. Assassinations and coup d’états were common throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, where outright apartheid governments were not sustained. Rulership of African countries was always remote-controlled, often at any and all costs, into the hands of willing tools of the West in the then bi-polar world which gave way to American Imperial domination in the uni-polar late 20th and 21st centuries.
If we understand this development, it will be easy to comprehend why a majority of our elites, sustained by former colonial powers, has remained uncommitted to modernity and democracy all the while, preferring imperial rules and military dictatorships as they build themselves into monsters, refusing to build strong institutions instead. Being merely stranded with the democratic order of the 21st century in which military rule (a crime against humanity) has gone out of fashion, they nevertheless sustain the strongman modality: godfatherism, mafia and cabal operandi, and all sorts of violent and intimidating “operating system” for what Fela Anikulapo Kuti referred to as “demo-crazy and demonstration of craze.”
For the last 70 years though, the above realities did not go without patriotic struggles from the people and their champions among the elites – writers, journalist, musicians, scholars, politicians, artistes, students’ leaders, legal luminaries, and many more who saw through the imperialising and underdevelopment agenda, and fought heroically, sometime paying the supreme price, in order to keep the liberation fire burning. In Nigeria, the resistance span from the first stone hauled against the slave traders to the recent #EndSARS and Kaduna NLC protests.
Political parties are one of the strong institutions of Democracy. In the hand of imperial elites, however, they become smokescreens for manipulation of the people by select few who are merely contending bitterly among themselves to be the chief slave drivers. Imposition, lack of internal democracy, monetisation of the polity, electoral frauds, crimes and violence; in simple terms, lack of principle, ideology, transparency – while holding out fancy manifestoes and promises to the people – are chief characteristics of party politics across board.
The new generation of patriotic citizens, especially youths, seeking freedom from centuries of elite-based, imperial-controlled governance, anywhere in Africa, Nigeria or State of Osun, must realise that democracy works (as the best form of government on earth) only if the people take ownership of it through principled struggle. As grotesque and bastardised as democracy may become, it remains the only hope, rather than the resort to self-helps of all kinds that have propelled us in just a few years to the edge of catastrophe.
Democracy and Party politics, however deformed, is still a game played according to clearly set out rules. The elites gainfully delight in side-stepping the rules, those who must save democracy from suffocating under their brutal knees only need to insist on playing always according to the rules. Democracy can breathe again, survive, and translate to “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress” only through principled struggle by the young generation who must embrace it.