Your Excellency Sir/Madam,
In this edition, do permit me to concisely deliberate on how we could build and strengthen our African democracy, such that they really reflect the will and aspirations of the generality of the holpollols (common men) of this greatly endowed but ironically impoverished continent, are widely met in each of our countries right across the continent.
In my mind’s eye, I can see Africa like a line of a popular poem titled “The Ancient Mariner,” in which the writer retorts “water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.” And this is against the backdrop that most of what is referred to as democracy in Africa is either “bogus, pseudo or fragile democracy,” in spite of the proliferation of the so-called “multi party pluralism,” said to be practiced in almost all of our countries.
Democracy, as we all know, is in summary, “power by the people, of the people, for the people and to the people.” In which case, if democracy were really operating just on this vestige, the general interest of the masses would be the foremost in all our government policies, laws, concession agreements, institutions, and general operations, both in our public and private sectors. And this would include all spectra of our lives and livelihood, including education, health, housing, agriculture, science and technology, energy, marine and extractive industries, road connectivity, culture and entertainment, etc. My greatest disappointment and dilemma however is that while democracy is working effectively for the West and translating invariably into significantly and continually improving the living standards and general welfare and development of their societies, in Africa, it seems to be proving counterproductive due to how it is largely practiced.
In most of Africa, democracy has neither improved the lives and living standards of the ordinary man, nor substantially developed our respective countries. This is primarily because our democracies and state institutions have been made to “revolve around certain powerful personalities parading as demi gods and goddesses,” instead of being ran by “strong institutions” and pragmatically standard systems that favour no one above the other. Most of our leaders have turned out to be extremely selfish and voluptuous, thereby subjugating our institutions into subservience, in order to support and maintain their system of rampant corruption; eventually leading to bad and repressive governance. So in order to correct these perennial misnomers of our societies, we need to clearly identify the fundamental flaws in our systems and “modus operandi.”
Fore mostly, I would like to opine that the systems of democracy we have readily adopted and replicated like a “strait-jacket” from the “West,” seem to be too advanced, given our feeble institutions and general manner of operations. So until we can build strong and independent institutions, void of “remote control interferences,” favouritism and nepotism that further safeguards certain individuals as “sacred cows” or “untouchable” regardless, we need to “adapt” our democracy in such ways that they would work at preventing such excesses and abuse of power that would be counterproductive to the very essence and constitution of such institutions and systems. More or less, the “rule of law” must be equally applied to all and sundry without regard to persons, roles and status.
For instance, in the USA and UK, the legal systems are completely independent and impartial, regardless of whatever suit is under redress and the personality involved. This is mostly unlikely in our African legal and justice systems, which to a large extent seem to favour the rich, influential and powerful, above the poor, downtrodden, vulnerable and disadvantaged. This is also due to the fact that many of our government appointees, whether qualified or not, are compromised to their appointing authorities. So they do not necessarily work in the utmost interest of the nation, equality, justice and impartiality. Rather, they operate with the preconception that George Orwell so correctly depicts in his classic political satire that “all men are equal, but (corruption and bad governance make) some more equal than others.”
Furthermore, most African elections have been characterized by massive rigging and fraud, which have, over the years entrenched “so-called democratic” dictators; leaving African voters with less hope of any salvage. Even our judicial, legislative and executive arms of government are not actually seen to be working independent of the “almighty executive president;” with his/her “super imposing” arms. This has made our democracies that were supposed to have rescued us from military coupes/dictatorships and mostly atrocious and senseless civil wars, to be “bogus,“ though often times sanctioned by our Western colonial masters and actors.
In view of the foregoing, due to decades of institutional decadence and the intricacies of replicating Western democracies and “best practices,” I would like to proffer the ensuing “adaptation” measures to help grow our African democracies.
Though our constitutions normally promulgate that our Presidents or Prime Ministers are given the sole prerogative to invariably appoint several top and sensitive public functionaries, who play pivotal roles in our democracy, I would like to proffer that for example, our Chief Justices, members of the Office of the Ombudsman, the Auditor Generals, Chief National Elections Commissioners, the Anti-Corruption Commissioners, Good Governance Commissioners and other relevant crucial national functionaries be not solely appointed by the President; rather that, for instance, the National Bar Associations (or their duly constituted officials) nominate a limited amount of Justices, who they consider qualified, impartial and independent minded to the Presidents; and the Presidents would then choose from the nominated Justices, to be the Chief Justice.
They could also make similar nominations to the Office of the Ombudsman and Anti-Corruption Commission; while the Chartered Accountants could also nominate some doyens/doyennes of their peers, with high integrity and independence to be the Auditor General; and such like to all national anti-graft, integrity and good governance positions.
This, I believe would lend more credence and professionalism to these crucial national positions that would help constitute strong and formidable national institutions that would in turn build and strengthen our democratic and good governance institutions, thereby fostering sustainable democracy in our current bogus or fragile democracies. I submit that this kind of adaptation and reforms to our democracy would render them more credible, institutionally driven and sincerely pragmatic.
I am of the firm opinion that such adaptations and reforms would usher Africa into the thriving democracy and all transcending “African Renaissance!” most desired across the entire continent.
LONG LIVE A VIBRANT AFRICAN DEMOCRACY AND RENAISSANCE!!
Abraham J. Williams