Monday, June 25, 2012

Africa’s type of governance

 “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”
Genesis 11:6

Why do Africans not have a highly developed democratic system like the western states? Why is it always one coup or another? Why are elections so flawed?

These are questions that are prevalent around us. Simple answer, in my opinion, is the states were not created by us Africans, they were made by slave masters. Forcing us to live together in colonies they felt made sense to them. Or maybe was easy for them to deal with. The border lines of most, if not all of these countries were drawn on a centre table in a room in western capitals surrounded by politicians and western aristocrats without any input from the subjects.

Take for instance, the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 by Lord Frederick Lugard. It was done for business! Nothing more. Port Harcourt was named after British politician Lewis Vernon Harcourt by the guy who was in charge of Nigeria as at then. Truth is Africa was an extension of their way of life. And the human ‘things’ in Africa were not important to them. We either lived the way they did or not live at all!

In this world, I don’t know of any country as diverse as Nigeria is. The Fulanis up north and the Yorubas down south couldn’t be more different. They are so different, it’s unreal. How can the British then expect the Emirs of the Caliphate in the north to overnight form a long lasting relationship with the Awujales in the south? How can the Sardauna suddenly become friends with Jaja in the Delta region? A group that knows nothing but desert and sandstorms is supposed to, all of a sudden foster a long lasting friendship with a group that basically lives in water. All because the slave master said so?

How can the level of unity be the same in a country of over 250 indigenous languages as it is where they have only one language? In the bible, when God wanted to cause disharmony among men, He made them speak different languages. If God did it, would I be suggesting something out of scope to think the colonial masters encouraged the same? – Don’t quote me on that though. The UK has been a country since God knows when, they speak only one language, how can the differing groups of the nation not have a better understanding than a country like Nigeria? You only need to move around Africa to know what I mean.

When a person from a certain ethnic group is in a position in Africa, no matter how good he/she performs, other ethnicities want a shot. “Do they think they’re the only ones who can rule?” You’ll hear. And these are not even underground mutterings, I’m talking about what you see on national TV or in national dailies attributed to our ‘political minds’.

Ethnicity is a big part of our culture in Africa. Whether we like it or not, it exists. And it does not exist in the western states. Though there might have different races living in the community, they take a back seat when like ideas are on the table. Ideas are the lines along which cliques are formed in a true democracy and sadly, this is not so in Africa. How then does democracy work?

Please don’t get me wrong, I see nothing but strength and beauty in our diversity. But how long are we going to keep trying to achieve the same thing in the same way as a set of people who are so blatantly different from us? Do you know the feeling of being approached as Yoruba boy by, say an Italian asking you what the meaning of an Ibibio word is and you are as confused as he is? Especially as we both know if I were to ask him of the meaning of any Italian word, whether originating from the north or south, he will know it.

The US has been a mainly two party system for scores of years. The UK has only about three main political parties. But here in Africa, every aggrieved politician forms a party and we have political parties spring up every few weeks, who are we fooling?

In the midst of untold hardship on the citizenry in Nigeria, you have some clamouring for creation of new states. Seriously? New states? What type of democracy are we running?

When we will get it right, I don’t know. But I’m sure this generation of leaders and politicians have to somehow vacate the scene. I know we need the younger ones to step up to the plate. And I know we somehow need to break the mould and correct the error of our colonial masters by hopefully working together or at worst (and hopefully not) break up the countries in Africa into true components that reflect the identity of the citizens of every state on the continent. 

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