BusinessDay

Africa will rise, but when?

It is a pity that democracy faces threat globally, if one considers the tragedy in many parts of the world today. Lebanon where corruption and political failures have been pervasive; Hong Kong where China’s laws have extinguished previous democratic ways of life; and Afghanistan where the Taliban reigns supreme are a few examples. In Haiti, there is dysfunctional democracy as a result of political and institutional instability. The country lives under the thumb of bandits.

As a result of internal conflicts in some countries, the “exodus of citizens” displaced is very frightening. Those who have no other place to go stay in their countries with the hope of benefitting from the dividends of democracy, if any. Even in countries where democratic rule is firmly in vogue, a pattern of dictatorial governance has been experienced recently.

The experience in most African countries with democratic system of government is not impressive. Going by the news we hear and read daily, that a lot of people are not enjoying the dividends of democracy particularly in Africa, one is concerned. Not too long ago, Africans agitated for a re-introduction of democracy as possible answer to perennial problems of poor governance. Poor governance, instability, economic stagnation, mass poverty, ethnic inequalities and political domination as well as dictatorial governance have become permanent descriptions of most African countries. So, what we are witnessing today in a number of African countries is a struggle by Africans to get what you might call a crusade for true democracy.

Africans want participatory democracy. Africans are advocating for the rule of law, for government transparency and accountability. Africans are demanding purposeful development, as well as social justice and equity. But what do they get?

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African countries

Today, a few African countries have decided to wear unfashionable garments through military interventions. Those dark days are slowly spreading. The signs in some African countries are ominous. First, it was Zimbabwe in 2017, followed by Chad. This year, from Mali to Guinea and Sudan. These African countries have gone back to military rule. In fact, Niger escaped military rule narrowly. This has triggered a debate among public affairs analysts.

 Africans are demanding purposeful development, as well as social justice and equity. But what do they get?

Twenty years ago, any debate on democracy would have been a mere academic exercise because military rule was in vogue then. Today, most scholars are asking if poor governance was responsible for the rising level of military interventions in the continent.

Scholars who ask questions have interest in African affairs. These intellectuals are perturbed by the wave of insecurity, risk and uncertainty in the continent even twenty – one years into the 21st Century. Poverty and Covid – 19 pandemic have been conjectured by some scholars to have exposed the weakness of governance in many African countries.

As rightly observed, most sub-Saharan African countries have an army of unemployed youths. This is one of the causes of instability in Africa. And because of instability, Africa’s collective attention has been diverted from the developmental needs of various countries to the management of tension, human misery and aggression within the continent. Too bad!

The pathology of conflict in Africa has become so endemic in recent times that by its disruptive consequence, it has brought the process of socio – economic development to a virtual standstill. The Gross Domestic Product of the entire of Africa with over one billion people is less than that of France with barely 67 million people.

Truth be told, many African countries have dysfunctional democracy. Look at Ethiopia. You may wish to ask if politics have failed in Ethiopia? It was reported by the United Nations that Ethiopia is sliding into widening civil war. Crisis in Tigray is rising. The African Union (AU) and UN have called for immediate cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia.

Look at our country, Nigeria. The progress that was recorded since independence in 1960 have been reversed by human and social catastrophes orchestrated through banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and other crimes. At a conference held in Abuja many years ago, all discussants agreed that the survival of democracy depends on good governance. At another forum, eminent scholars once argued that Africans ought to have the character that will stimulate economic development.

When one examines any country where some levels of economic progress have been achieved, you will observe that the people are educated, organized and disciplined. This is what we find in other regions of the world where democratic governance has benefited the people. We contend also, that another cause of Africa’s security crisis is majorly political, though it may present itself as an economic, military, environmental and technological crisis. Yet, African nations need political harmony and economic development more than other regions of the world because of its overwhelming human needs.

Over one billion Africans need human security. A lot of Africans are hopeful. The hopefuls believe that Africa will rise someday. But some pessimists want to know when Africa will rise because of hazy developmental progress made so far in a world characterized by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Africans want action from political leadership because the process of building and developing a society is itself a daunting challenge under condition of peace. Undertaking this challenge, however, within the context of a society that has been devastated by insecurity and various forms of conflict is difficult.

If democracy was to be effective in Africa, the people must be allowed to elect their leaders through a flawless electoral process. Africans want to be prosperous in an economically stable polity. That is why I share the same view with an intellectual who is of the view that the relationship between democracy and the management of security is directly linked to the whole dimension of human security and the provision of basic needs to the citizenry. So, is national security sufficient to guarantee human security? National security is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee human security. Please, let me explain. Besides providing security of lives and property and sovereignty of nations, national security must provide economic stability and prosperity to citizens.

Undoubtedly, civilian rule in Africa is here to stay as the AU and ECOWAS have promised to reject unconstitutional changes of government. Most Africans are not interested in military interventions anymore. Africans want prosperity, not poverty. We must learn from mistakes of the past by not allowing those dark days to spread. Good governance is the foundation to development in a democracy. Democracy will not thrive in any country where many of its citizens are poor. When will Africa rise? Africa will rise when Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the continent, wakes up. Thank you.

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