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Governance: Why democracy is failing in Africa

Zambaga Rufai Saminu Zambaga Rufai Saminu, author

Thu, 26 Jul 2018 Source: Zambaga Rufai Saminu

Ghana is described as the beacon of hope in democratic governance in Africa. The reason is that the country has enjoyed turn over test, one of the criteria for democratic consolidation as compared to most African countries.

Consequently, Ghana like many other democratic African countries has enjoyed relative peace and stability due to this system of governance adopted after independence for well over five decades though with intermittent military interventions.

The system, multi-party democracy had replaced hitherto traditional form of governance, slavery and colonialism. All the visible walls of these historic governance structures and their shadows had consequently been dismantled during the introduction of democratic system of governance.

The model, which preaches self government and freedom subsequently gave birth to an absolute end to slavery, colonialism, dictatorship sequentially and much more later military rule in Africa .

All other known forms of governance, inculding theology (religious), especially in northern Africa, apart from the aforementioned, seemed to have failed the continent culminating in the escalation of upheavals, violence, protracted disputes of all kind, resulting in lost of lives and properties.

Today, due to democracy, there seems to be relative peace and stability, making social and economic activities thrive in most African countries as being reported in the media.

Civil society, media platforms and individual liberties are respected and observed for citizens to enjoy full scale benefits of freedom with so as to seriously develop themselves to contribute their qouta to development of democratic nations.

In enjoying democracy, citizens have also learnt to take active part in determining policies and programmes of their countries, therefore making democratic governance a shared responsibility.

The culture of tolerance, rule of law, upholding human rights, unleashing potential of free markets among other benefits continue to accompany activities of democratic States through good governance.

The nightmare of western democracy

I am sure readers are fascinated by the illustration here depicting the impact of democracy, and its influence in governance, particularly in Africa.

Unfortunately, Africa is not enjoying the full scale benefits of democracy because, Western influence in the governance structure is greater than the tenets being promoted by actual democracy.

The damage caused by western democratic pillars in the African continent is so overwhelming and therefore can not be quantified.

Through the concept of western democratic governance, Africa has lost much of its leadership culture, heritage and pride. This is because, an unhealthy democracy is much centred on paper work at the detriment of millions of good African people who are kept outside leadership bracket because they are unlettered (uneducated). The concept therefore favours the educated bourgeois and upper class in society.

The concept has also succeeded in degrading traditional leadership which for generations had been the only considered form of governance for the African people, prescribed by the African people and being applied by the African people.

In democratic Africa today, Kingdoms have been side-lined, destroyed for democracy to thrive whilst kings and queens have been made to give away the pride of the continent through implementation of adhoc policies being churned out by government authorities though created by western powers .

The moral fibre, beauty and sanctity of Africa, has been tainted, weakened and in some areas destroyed by known and unknown forces through implementation of established norms as contained in western form of democratic governance. For instance, democracy in many parts of Africa has subtly introduced the culture of disrespectfulness in sacred communities, which is alien to the continent.

Elders, opinion leaders and adults continue to receive insults, attacks and unprecedented image battering from children and adolescents. This is largely caused by excess freedom as guaranteed by constitutions of democratic nations. People turn to misrepresent freedom and liberty as prescribed in democratic culture, with disregard to values, cultural principles, respect for elders and generally human diginity.

Underage citizens no longer believe in their elders because they share common platforms with them as provided by the governance structure. This has been ordained and contained without complaint. The recalcitrant youth spew as much as they can, launch blistering attacks as they can and get away with them because they are entitled to a certain freedom of speech.

On the other hand, many traditional rulers, opinion leaders, elders in the African society have given up their responsibility, including parental guidance, because of the growing role of democracy in the continent. They are now expecting democratic structures to work to perfection in addressing many of the social, and economic challenges facing citizens, including upbringing of children, their welfare, etc and therefore reneging.

In addition, many opportunities hitherto coming from certain cultural perspectives, either through the clan system of family management, cultural purity in the promotion of communal labour, unity development projects have all been given away to governments. People no longer take responsibility for their own development, and actions that require their input etc.

Democracy with western culture has also succeeded in deviding communities in the African continent into smaller units, and occasionally creates confusion among people of same geographic and decent ethnic backgrounds.

Excess freedom and misapplication of it has also contributed to social vices, crime and general indiscipline in the continent. In the past, instant justice was applied to deal with deviant characters and miscreants who failed to observe traditional values, norms and development pillars in the African society, but democracy has dismantled all these African value systems.

Failed Electoral Systems

In the past, there were conventional methods, and ways determining qualified and suitable candidates gunning for leadership positions in the African society.

But under democratic governance, anyone who qualifies as a citizen stands the chance of being elected into any high office depending on the constitutional requirement without any instrument to measure the temperament, character, ability and capability.

Elections are therefore conducted to select leaders for communities and countries despite the sanctity of the process always been questioned.

Again, the level of resource application in deciding who leads a political party, nation or community when applying democratic principles, has been catastrophic. The process has provided avenue for the rich to constantly force themselves on vulnerable people as leaders.

The display and misapplication of scanty national resources by political parties through mounting of billboards, paraphernalia, and other souvenirs during campaigning, rallies ahead of election moments just to woo electorates, obviously makes democracy very expensive for poorer nations crying for development to want to adapt and adopt. When people invest heavily in the process, they turn round to reap the benefits in government through fair or fowl means, therefore promoting corruption.

This is one development which has crippled nations, all smaller political parties in the African continent. They cannot afford to meet the yawning demands of the electorates as against their opponents considered as resourceful.

The constant change of government in democratic nations, has not helped in promoting sustainable development. This is because, programs and projects of governments vary. Ideologies also vary, therefore reducing governance to the level of one step forward from one party, one step backward from another, and the situation remains unhealthy.

All leaders in Africa who have served more than stipulated constitutional timeframe as dictated by democracy, either defied the democratic orders in their countries or succeeded in holding onto power before introducing incomplete democracy to their countries

Expression of multiple and yet varied views on simple but critical national issues by highly respected people in society has also played avoidable damaging role in breaking down development pillars in Africa. Every one speaks and no one listens, simple because of freedom of speech embedded in democratic governance

Wrong application of media freedom, fake civil society activism, misapplication of rule of law, programs and projects through critical application of electoral systems in the process, has also hampered development in the continent.

Democracy with African Characteristics

Africa stands the greater chance of benefiting significantly from democratic governance provided the democratic pillars are adequately positioned side by side with African values and principles.

For instance, why can't democracy with African characteristics allow our respected chiefs to play an active part in the governance process.

Why can't democracy with African characteristics maintain the values, culture and traditional system of handling indiscipline, injustice and information management in society to take firm roots.

Again, Why can't democracy with African characteristics allow citizens to own development, take responsibility for their own actions and inaction in managing resources, people, issues as previously known and observed in the continent. This is because, the application of western democratic pillars has rather emboldened people to misconduct themselves and hide behind unproductive institutions of law in the name of democracy to get away with crime.

Like the Chinese have done, applying socialism as a form of governance with their own characteristics. They have refused to allow other continents or nations to dilute the purity and sanctity of their systems irrespective of the type of governance chosen.

The African continent can do same but with tactful application of tried and tested hybrid measures adopted from the democratic principles and the African characteristics infused to allow space for values aiming at spicing up the process of governance to spur growth in the continent.

Africa is for Africans, therefore they (Africans) must determine the direction of the continent using practically tried and tested value systems capable of solving problems and not creating them as western democracy has done to most countries in the continent.

We stand together firmly in governance or fall apart in disarray if our model of governance chosen cannot fit our context as a continent. Our underdevelopment is traceable to poor leadership, and this is traceable to weak governance structures orchestrated by western powers.

Lets promote democracy with African characteristics.

Columnist: Zambaga Rufai Saminu