In 1997, a Nigerian professor of political history published an essay titled, ‘Democracy in Africa: What Prospect?‘ in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria. The title of the essay attracted my attention and sadly disappointment at the end. The erudite scholar seems to have an axe to grind with western experts and all those foreign ‘social shepherds’ who give advice to Africans on the direction African development should take and particularly their declaration that ‘the problem of Africa today is the problem of democracy.’
The essay contains strange opinions such as his advice that Africans should be making a choice between ‘ordered recklessness’ (military government) and ‘disordered recklessness’ (civilian government). However, his conclusion that ‘what Africans are crying for now is good governance’ caught my interest. He added, ‘but they have been led to believe that this is necessarily the same thing as democracy.’ Unfortunately and this was the cause of my disappointment, the professor left the question on how to get to the haven of good governance hanging without clarification.
There is no doubt that Africa is facing serious dilemma with respect to democracy. Democracy has become the catchphrase for everything that is wrong with Africa. It is the magical word expected from any African government seeking foreign aid or technical support from donor agencies. Every project document must contain a paragraph or two specifying the democracy plan and programmes before it can receive a favourable attention. Like the Professor, every thinking African must be worried about the sincerity of our foreign friends with respect to this democracy crusade. We must begin to wonder for whose benefit is the advice that Africa should or must embrace the western model of democracy. Is it for the interest of Africans or for the interest of those exploiting the riches and wealth of Africa?
Democracy is a philosophical idea and a political practice invented by Ancient Greeks to regulate the civil administration of their city-nations. The Greeks designed their democratic practices, as principles for harmonious social relations and as institutional arrangements of state, to limit the role of wealth in the decision-making processes of the city-states. In its original form, it was not a particularly perfect practice since it denied slaves and women the right of citizenship.
However, the lofty universal principles it engendered have received lots of tinkering here and there ever since across the globe. In every country where seekers after the truth of existence have shown interest in the principle of democracy, they have made attempt to uphold for everyone the basic principle of equality of persons. They have tried to ensure the rights of every citizen to participate in the affairs of the state/society to which he/she belongs, and they have initiated and tried to device justifiable and amicable strategies for decision-making in handling the affairs of their society.
Noble thinkers have also tried to improve or device the best approach of delegating political power in a state and of safeguarding against the abuse of power by people delegated to handle the social, economic and political affairs of the society when the geographical spread of the state is too large to support direct participation of every citizen.
Despite the fact that every state/nation geared its democracy towards the practice of the afore-mentioned principles, there are as many variants of democracy as there are nations in the world. It is a known fact among students of politics that monarchical parliamentary democracy is not the same as federated republican democracy. Moreover, neither is socialist democracy the same as communist democracy. Yet, each of these systems of democracy claims it is the ideal and the best form of democratic practice. At this moment in the history of the world, every enlightened African needs to critically review the thrust of the sanctimonious powers of the world as they push, shuffle and blackmail African countries into embracing one particular form of democratic principles, reforms and practices.
The questions that each enlightened African should be asking are, which of the democratic practices is suitable for my country? Is it not true that the type of democracy in practice in a nation is a reflection of the nature, history and culture of the people concerned? Is it not true that there is a history behind the monarchical parliamentary democracy of Britain? Is it not also true that both the federated republican democracy of the United States of America and the pluralistic republican democracy of the Swiss have pertinent history behind them? If these facts are true, why should Africans not allow their nature, culture and history determine the types of democracy suitable for each household, each community, each region, each state and each nation.
Looking at several stable democracies, it is apparent that the philosophical ideal a nation wishes to pursue will definitely determine the kind of democratic practice a people will adopt. For example, if equality of persons, impartial social justice and individual freedom are ideals a nation decides to pursue and safeguard, the parliamentary democracy of Britain will definitely not be a suitable choice for these aspirations. It is a commonly known fact among the well-informed people that the British democratic practice does not hide its abhorrence for the principle of equality of persons.
The British monarchical social order built its culture around a rigid, hierarchical and non-mixing class system where the sovereignty of the nation resides solely in the personality of the reigning King or Queen. The British Monarch owns all and sundry, both the land and the people on it belong to the crown and the noblemen. The British state, contrary to the popular belief and sponsored political propaganda, is run like a sophisticated Mafia, where every crucial decision of government is made in secret and the nationals are carefully kept in the dark at all times. It is also true that the British parliament does not hide its disgust for the principle that ordinary subjects of the crown have sufficient common sense to participate in the political affairs of Britain apart from casting the vote when those who know best about such cerebral matters call for election.
In comparison but very different in conception and practice is the democratic constitution in a republic. Essentially, democracy in a constitutional republic takes for granted the principle of equality of citizens in every respect and facet of the word as a sine qua non. Even though this is the conceptual frame of a constitutional republic, the contradiction arises with its design of a representative democracy that tends to accord almost a monarchical status to its political leaders.
Under a constitutional republic, leadership ought to be anathema because it is totally at variance with the concept of equality of persons. Every citizen ought to have the right and the opportunity to offer self for election in order to serve the state or community. Service and not leadership ought to be the singular motive and cardinal goal of every elected representative. However, when a state elects representatives under the platform of leadership or ruler-ship in an election, then it becomes imperative that the business of people’s representatives will not be to serve but wholly to rule.
The innocuous value that seems to accept the essential role of elected representatives in the American democratic constitution as leaders/rulers inadvertently destroys equality of citizens. As a result and in practice, the people cannot expect full accountability of the tenure in office from their leaders/rulers since cultural perception of leader-servant dichotomy expects the habit of given full account of stewardships from only servants.
Leadership connotes supremacy or superiority and it will be degrading under the present principle of political leadership/ruler-ship in United States for elected representative of the people to give full account of their stewardship to their subjects. They may, if they so wish and this could only be at the pleasure of the leaders to give a perfunctory account of their stewardship but the electorate cannot compel them to do so in full detail. At few times when called upon to account in full, it has always taken the full weight of the Congress to squeeze out the truth from the political leaders. This practice is a fundamental flaw in the doctrine of anti-classical democracy that tends to support the inescapable role of political leadership in democracy.17
Political scientists have traced the root of this kind of leadership attitude in the American democracy to its historical link with Britain. History tells us that the American war of independence was in fact, among many other things, a rejection of the inherited status quo of the traditional monarchical colonial parliamentary government that consistently transfers political and economic powers among family members. Under the monarchy, the Kings, the governor-generals and the prime ministers occupied positions of personal leadership and responsibility that almost in the past tended to assume a divine authority. This hereditary traditional position wittingly throws out all ethical considerations of equality of persons, a primary requirement of republicanism. In spite of the desire of the founding fathers of United States of America to do away with monarchy in their lives, the vestiges of monarchy still run deep and wide throughout the sophisticated democratic practices of United States of America.
In the last few years and because of the unique access to public and private information through the Internet, Americans and the world at large are gradually coming to terms with the fact that the much-flaunted American democracy is under the control of a few fabulously wealthy families. In other words, the democracy of United States is a camouflaged monarchy under the auspices of a cabal and clandestine oligarchy.
Unfortunately, Africans who lack knowledge and understanding of the democratic and leadership fraud in America love to ogle and ape the leadership practices in United States as they push and press their countries to adopt the U.S model of government. In conversation, these Africans routinely throw in the phrase, ‘even in America’, as an incontrovertible statement of fact to demonstrate that the American democracy is a superior political order.
On the other hand, there is the Swiss democracy as a different example of a constitutional republic. Since 1830 Switzerland has been essentially pluralistic – a system that allows different ethnic, tribes, groups etc. to preserve their own customs and to hold equal power within the same society/nation. This is particularly evident in its strict abhorrence and “hostility to all purely personal power”.
According to Wolf Linder, “the Swiss were not unaware of the aristocratic and oligarchic democratic regimes around them but they wisely cling to their own popular ideals of pluralism”. Today the Swiss democratic principle of pluralism manifest itself openly from the cantonal legislatures to the Council of State where for example, “chairmen of councils do not as a rule hold office for more than one year at a time and are not immediately re-eligible as chairmen.” As a result, the type of larger than life aura bestowed on the American Presidents is practically non-existence in Switzerland.18
J. K. Galbraith while visiting Switzerland said he asked people randomly about their leaders and he noted that most Swiss could not even recall the names of their past or current Presidents. In essence, the personality traits – charm or charisma, height, sex appeal, glamour, attractiveness, dress sense, wealth, etc. – of the elected political representatives is immaterial to the democratic practice of Switzerland unlike the United States where the embedded media have turned vanity fair into laudable democratic virtues.
African countries have played dice with several borrowed versions of democratic practice and they have had their fingers burnt. There is nothing wrong with any version of the practice except that to lose sight of the history behind the practice and the evolutionary process that informed its design is for the borrower to curry avoidable disaster. Therefore, is it not high time African intelligentsia accepted democratic principle as not a principle written in stone but as an idea that is open to reviews and corrections as circumstances demand?
Hence, for Africans to expect they can borrow one variant of democratic practice and transfer it wholesale from one culture to another is a demonstration of the ape-like mentality. This writer will like to invite all thinkers in Africa to begin afresh on a course of seminal reflections that can unravel the history and the philosophy of the lost cultures of Africa in order to ascertain the type of democratic practice relevant to each nation of Africa. The culture of a people holds the key to their beliefs and their understanding of the meaning of life. Unless a democratic practice flows from these beliefs and understanding, it can never fulfil the physical and spiritual needs of the people concerned.
As mentioned in previous section above, the history of Africa since the period of colonisation shows that the cultures of Africans have been bastardised as the foreign conquerors perverted and ridiculed the philosophy or the meaning of life, as Africans knew it. As it were and after a long association with these conquering forces, Africans are neither here nor there in the global socio-economic and political equations. The popular belief systems in practice all over the continent are artificial and they hold no meaning to the psyche of Africans. We have mentioned in the past that the African ancestors might have embraced these foreign faiths as a means to an end since it was the only path open to them for social elevation and social acceptance into the ‘civilized societies’ of their conquerors. It is high time every living African woke up to the reality of a spiritual vacuum in Africa before our enemies eat or bury us alive for good.
In this respect, when we see an African reverencing, adoring, venerating, hero-worshipping and wagging the tails for the royals, nobles, moneymen and women, military and civilian politicians and all other dishonourable humankind, we are tempted to conclude that these subservient behaviours are evidences of lack of knowledge of the historical facts of human existence.
Hence, societies/peoples that invest so much trust and build so great hope on the ‘antisocial, histrionic and narcissistic’ humankind need to know they are investing in whirlwind. The dishonourable personalities of our world are not worthy of such high and noble expectations. Understanding this truth, calls on each of us to seek liberation and emancipation from the rock bottom level of human existence that our enemies have consigned us.
There is a need, more than ever before, for Africans to rid their lives of ignorance, fear and other complexes that have turned a noble race into a slave-enduring, poverty-managing, inferiority complex-inducing, powerlessness-adjusting and hopelessness-accepting mentality. It is my considered opinion that as long as Africans subject themselves to the business or project of integration into the heinous, inhuman and unsustainable economic global order and its corresponding artificially–constructed and anti-people democratic practices, so long shall the on-going pathetic state of Africans continue. I sincerely believe that the present pathetic state of African race, with a badly wounded, mangled and trampled human dignity and presently classified as a third-rated people in the comity of nations, needs the attention and concern of every living African.
Africans need untainted knowledge and a clearer insight into the global arrangement of political, economic and social institutions before we throw ourselves headlong at any democratic institution on offer. The idea of imitating western institutions or parroting after western experts in our drive to bring progress, prosperity and social development to Africa without a good understanding of the spirit that moves the western world is to consign Africa to the third-rated position of the world forever. We need to have known by now that aping the West or the Middle East in matters of governance and institutional arrangements of politics and economics can never emancipate Africa from its lowly and beleaguered position.
The current global democratic practices seem to favour the shenanigans of the dishonourable members of all societies. Democracy tends to give the hoodlums an easy access to plan and execute electoral fraud or electoral coup d’état in every country. There seems to be a real confusion among the larger population as regards the concept of democracy and the democratic practice of party electioneering. The secret powers running the affairs of our world seem to have sold a political dummy to the world.
By equating democracy with political party activities and most disastrously around money power, they have succeeded in perverting the noble ideas behind the Greek democratic ideals. As it were, it seems what the world celebrates as democracy is actually the celebration of money.
In another words, democracy as at today is the immortalisation of the power of Mammon. Now, everywhere in the world and under the pretence of democracy, criminal gangs are mopping up governments. No nation seems capable of defending itself from the evil fangs of the political hoodlums as they cleverly entrenched themselves in the machinery of government dictating inimical policies of greed and avarice that will eventually ruin our world.
Democratic practices and institutions as presently configured in the world have failed to prevent the parasites, psychopaths and miscreants of the world from taken over national governments. As a result, democratic practice in every country is disenfranchising the noble people while welcoming into its fold all the privileged criminals of societies or their puppets.
In every country, the true honourable people have been frightened off from partaking in the democratic processes. The premeditated and orchestrated hooliganism sponsored and organised by the godless moneymen and women has left the coast clear for the hoodlums and dishonourable people to hijack the institutions of government for nefarious activities. The truth of the matter is, democratic practices as presently undertaken in Africa and even in most part of the world, can no longer produce honourable men and women for elective offices. This fundamental problem of governance needs the attention of all supporters of true democracy.
If indeed the scenario painted above is true, what shall the awakened Africans do? There is a need for the intelligentsia of Africa to look again at the concept and practice of democracy afresh. It is glaring that the democratic institutions we are currently building all over Africa under the auspices of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Multinational conglomerates cannot serve the human needs of Africans. These convoluted and impracticable types of democracy are another forms of colonialist impositions meant to serve the national interest of the Western nations. If so, how long shall Africa continue to play the fool?
The essay by the professor of political history mentioned in the first paragraph of this discourse is brilliant in its analysis of democracy and good governance until one realises the social context that informed the write up. The essay seems to be a covert endorsement of a demonic military administration that was trying to transfigure itself into a civilian administration in Nigeria in 1997. The fact that an intellectual of that calibre could be championing military recklessness as an example of good governance for Africa is an indictment of the pernicious role African elites are playing in the ruin of Africa.
This writer is beckoning and urging all Africans to wake up today to face the reality of our losses. Africans are a castaway people, castaway from our natural habitats and left adrift on the sea of life. We must be prepared to navigate together the chaotic and turbulent sea of life in order to find our own native shore. The shores of life are infinite; Africans no longer need to relegate themselves to the alien shores. We do not need to remain a lodger anymore on foreign shores.
Let us stand up in faith to seek and to search until we rediscover and regain our natural shores of life where we can build new and truthful edifices that will befit our understanding of the meaning of life.
We must reject and we must shatter the alien ‘law-tables’ currently in use. The principle of might is right is an alien philosophy of psychopaths and snobs. This philosophy can never bring peace to our planet because the political masters and managers that designed it relish in wars and bloodshed. Its concomitant political arrangement needs a large population of slaves and subservient ignorant citizens to function.
Let the creative thinkers or visionaries or sages or the wise men and women of Africa begin today the gruelling task of articulation, formulation and compilation of basic ideas, of offering earth-shattering propositions and of propounding unthinkable theories and ideologies on which we shall design and erect new political institutions.
Every enlightened African ought to have realised by now that all the popular values currently in use – in philosophies, in religions, in education, in economics, in politics, and in societies – are perversions of the truth of life and reality. The type of values defined by enemies of humanity as achievement, success and happiness are nothing but illusions.
These decadent values pushed out and sustained by the army of elite psychopaths of our world are not supposed to bring satisfaction or happiness to humankind. These values are created to set mankind on a permanent edge as they positioned us in a state of perpetual desires for perishable materials and an insatiable greed for worthless possessions. We are psychologically programmed through our shrines (television boxes) and set up to be forever seeking and wanting more of the fix of fiction of life like drug addicts or junkies.
This is the truth about the state of our present global existence and you need to know about it before you are finally buried alive by the Dishonourable Africans and their handlers.
My people, please wake up from your slumber!
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
22 April 2001
17. J.A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Unwin University Books, 1965 (11th Impression)
18. William E. Rappard, The Government of Switzerland. U.S.A.: D. Van Nostrand, 1936 (Quoted from Wolf Linder, Swiss Democracy: Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multi-Cultural Societies. Britain: The Macmillian Press, 1994)