• info@factcorner.org

Facing The Giants: Building Our African Democracy

By Mary Alabi

We will recall that the Biblical David, a young shepherd (not herdsman, please!), at the age of 17, had to go up against the gigantic, 9-foot ‘Philistine Champion‘, and by the stroke of divine intervention, he won that battle for his country Israel. Africa, especially Nigeria, a West African country tagged as ‘the giant of Africa’, seems to be fighting a really ‘big unfriendly giant‘ (BUG), in this quest for institutionalizing democracy, and setting up long term development in areas such as health, education, security, etc., for the deserving benefit of its teeming population. Africa, especially its youthful, energetic, highly creative, innovative, and globally respected squad have been trying so hard to fight this BUG for years, but it keeps showing up at the gates every single day, threatening even the existence of some nations, like the Biblical Goliath. Unfortunately, this hydra-headed monster also has its many forms and strategies it deploys in its manifestation, the most famous of which has been endemic corruption, and the latest of which is large scale insecurity, especially in Nigeria and parts of West Africa, where there are daily killings, banditry, rape, kidnappings, amongst many other horrors.

General Sun Tzu said If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. We have been having conversations on the ‘Every Voice Matters‘ weekly online programme (a FACT corner Project based in the UK) with some key social change fighters in this war, about how exactly to go up against this untiring monster, and save our continent’s future, and many angles have been brought forth with regards to building our African democracy: 

  • Foundation, Purpose, and Will for our democracy: When the foundation is faulty, what can the righteous do, is a Biblical verse too. Foundation here refers to the mindset of the people in a democratic process. If democracy is described as a type of government where the supreme power lies with the majority of the people, then we need to be sure that such people are not just ‘politically independent’ but ‘politically literate’ to take the right decisions in instituting democracy, and this has so much to do with the people’s mindset, as the foundation. When the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable, is another famous quote, which means that if African leaders do not see the way, then the citizens may be in for a long ride. If African leaders cannot state clearly the vision they have for their countries in terms of long term development, and taking their places on the global scene (and not just 7-point agenda with financial budgets for spending), then the followership would continue to be apathetic towards national issues because they can’t relate, or feel the pulse of such leaders. Africa needs the right leaders anyway, leaders who are competent and caring enough to lead Africans to the promised land. African citizens also need to become more strong willed to make this democracy work for them, as good things don’t usually come easy, even in developed climes. However, where there is a will, there is always a way.
  • Youth awareness and engagement in the democratic process: As young Africans who have the drive, energy, and audacity to succeed in our efforts, the onus lies on us all to take up this Davidic duty for our nations and continent. Facing a giant is scary, and may be termed illogical and unadvisable by some, however, we would also never know the joy of victory if we refuse to take any risk at winning. Many young Africans are already doing some things in terms of advocacy, protests, education and engagement; we need to encourage ourselves to continue to put more efforts at these, to ensure we get our desired results.
  • Timing for African democracy: We also considered whether timing is a factor or reason why African democracy has not been institutionalised yet. Considering many studies into non-democratic thriving nations of the world, such as China, and UAE, some have postulated that a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ should have come to some African countries after the military regimes, before democracy, so that some level of development could have been attained before continuing with the democratic process. However, some have also submitted that the timing for democracy was not the issue (wondering if we even have benevolent dictators here in Africa), but the collective will of Africans to make our democracy work for us.
  • Dialogue with stakeholders by the government: We also discussed the approach of our governments to when citizens ask for their rights or demand accountability from them in governance matters. The usual approach has been to tag these citizens as troublemakers, hate speech mongers, opposition (of course, positive criticism is allowed in democracies), or separatists, and then arresting some, we found that it is the right of citizens to ask questions or make demands with regard to constitutional provisions, therefore, the right approach for governments should be to engage these citizens in constructive dialogue. Engaging the stakeholders to find the way forward, not seeing them as enemies, is the right approach.
  • Role of the Judiciary as a pillar of democracy: We discussed the significance of this pillar of democracy, especially when it is independent, empowered, and un-interfered within its functionality. Unfortunately, there have been reports of interference from the executive arm, in matters such as financing, even up to electoral systems and processes, which has reduced to a bare minimum, public trust by the citizens. The judiciary must be empowered to become independent enough to carry out its functions effectively, and the rule of law must be respected by everyone in a country, while decentralization of powers need to be effected in African countries to make our democracy work for us. 

Giants do fall, but we need to keep fighting. With courage, persistence, hope, and divine help, we will succeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *