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Opinion

Relevance Of  Democracy Tenets In  Africa

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The year 2021 went down in history as the year when military coups returned to Africa.
In just a few months, the African continent witnessed dozens of coups and attempted coups in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad. So far, 2022 has been no different. In February, a military junta took power in Burkina Faso.
For people who were around in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s — the heyday of coups across the continent — it feels a bit like deja vu.
Many in Africa are questioning the tenets of democracy and are asking whether it is still relevant in the continent today.
Across different social media platforms, I have come across many anti-democracy and anti-Western sentiments. Much of the frustration seems to be directed at democratically elected leaders who were hiding an autocratic streak, living extravagant lifestyles despite their poorer populaces. It is not uncommon for these leaders to change their constitutions for political gain and shutter civic space to block dissenting views.
This is all happening under the watchful eyes of the pioneers of democratic governance — Western Europe and North America. But, instead of taking action, these Western nations legitimise the dirty habits of these democratic-turned-autocratic rulers by prioritising their own economic interests over rights abuses and corruption.
On one hand, Europe and North America pour billions into the continent to promote good governance and support the fight against poverty and corruption. But, on the other hand, they also offer financial backing to Africa’s dictatorial leaders in exchange for unfettered access to natural resources.
The United States, France, Germany and Norway openly criticise the arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians in Uganda and police brutality in Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria. But they continue to import their raw materials from those countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo is embroiled in a protracted war in which the biggest victims are civilians. But that is no problem for the West — as long as the supply of cobalt and coltan continues to flow and power their smartphones, smart cars and smart homes.
These double standards have consequences. After 60 years of development aid, Africa remains the poorest continent in the world and still suffers the highest number of protracted civil wars.
I know: It is better to work with the devil you know than the angel you do not, right?
But many Africans are growing sick and tired of this line. They have finally lost their patience. So they are making their voices heard with the biggest and most influential tool at their disposal: the internet. Politically ambitious military colonels have heard their cries, and they are responding.
African scholars such as former International Monetary Fund executive Dambisa Moyo and the continentally renowned Kenyan political professor, Patrick Loch Otieno (PLO) Lumumba have lauded the benefits of strongman leadership unbound by terms or age limits.
Against the backdrop of failed multiparty democracies across the continent, this idea has fallen on attentive ears.
Some of the world’s most famous strongman leaders — from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — have become political rock stars among African millennials, despite their utter disregard for human rights and their routine silencing of journalists and opposition politicians.
Amid this resurgence of coups, I believe that democratic governance is more needed than ever in Africa. Not benevolent dictators. People should be able to make fun of a president’s funny hat without getting thrown in jail. As someone who grew up in Sierra Leone in the 1980s, I knew all too well what would happen if you even mentioned dictator Joseph Saidu Momoh’s name in simple conversation.
From communism to monarchy, the very fabric of modern-day nations hinge on the nuance of politics. With all its flaws, democracy has emerged as a strong global system.
Nearly all African states have tried this form of governance after their independence from colonial Europe. But generation after generation has achieved little since.
The existing regional economic bodies have failed to deliver to or meet the interest of Africans. The African Union is not held in high regard either. In fact, many now view these institutions as support clubs for dictatorial regimes.
Western nations also lost their moral high ground when they chose to “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”
But all is not lost. I believe that the coup trend can be bucked and democratic governance can return to Mali, Guinea, Chad, Sudan and Burkina Faso.
But African elites need to rethink what multiparty democracy means for them and what form it should take in order for it to prevail on the continent.
Western nations must also be ready to form new partnerships with African leaders that are visibly helping their people. They must also be prepared and willing to cut ties with leaders who fail their nations. Even if that hurts their political and economic interests.

By: Abu-Bakarr Jalloh
Jalloh is a commentator on Political and Economic affairs.

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Opinion

 Ideological Void In Nigerian Politics

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Any worthy endeavour in life is supposed to be under pinned by sound principles and beliefs that drive action. In politics, those beliefs and principles are ideologies. They are the principles which guide the political behaviour aka character of political actors and determine the direction of political activities, ranging from internal party positioning, discipline, campaign, electioneering and ultimately governance.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria did not enjoy the luxury of evolving political parties with ideological grounding. The complete lack of ideology has made Nigeria to flounder sixty years after independence. Some leftist scholars attribute the poor governance culture in the country to fallout of dearth of ideology.  The First Republic political parties emerged just to fill the vacuum created  by the absence of the colonial master. Neither the National Party for the Nigerians and the Cameroons (NCNC) nor the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) ever considered governance in their principles. The avowed   ideology of the NPC was to protect the interest of the monolithic North and the creed they profess. This is explicitly stated as a motto of the party.
During the 30-month fratricidal war, our leaders dallied with the two ideologies that ruled the world  but socialism and capitalism did not take root until Nigeria joined the Non-Aligned Movement. There was no autochthonous ideology like the Ujama Philosophy as posited by Julius  Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania or Consciencism of the Osagiefo Kwame Nkrumah’s variety in Ghana.
Nyerere’s philosophy found expression in the field of education too. Ujama was an integral part of the socialist project, focused largely on self-reliance, total liberation and empowerment of the person and society, and the active integration of education throughout one’s life and in every aspect of human existence. This paid off.
Nkrumah defined his belief system as “the ideology of a New Africa, independent and absolutely free from imperialism, organised on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of one and united Africa. Consciencism became a foundation of Africa’s revolution and triggered reactions in the diaspora.
Nigeria never had a philosophy. Only the Action Group, AG, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo adopted welfarism as an ideological paradigm and this influenced its political actions especially in the area of education.
Even after the protracted military interregnum, the second Republic that emerged toed the same pattern of ideological hollowness. There was nothing concrete to influence discipline, internal democracy and the dialectics of who gets what. The curious interplay of money, religion and regional politics  played a huge role in who controls power and allocates scarce resources.
It can be asserted without equivocation that since 1960, Nigeria has not evolved political parties with clear-cut ideology to drive change and development. This sad reality is what has defined political behaviour and actions.
One area where political actors have demonstrated ideological deficit in politics, is the deployment of money and religion in swaying votes. The rate at which some politicians decamp from one party to another is strange. While the constitution allows freedom of association, Nigerian politicians do not believe in building political structures on the long-term. If their political party fails to win elections, they defect to another which is assumed to be stronger-with mass appeal in the area. They are more guided by their stomach instead of principles. Like interlopers,  they jump even though there is no viable option or platform for the articulation of any progressive agenda. In party politics, turnover is very high in Nigeria.
Another visible area that shows ideological deficiency is during electioneering.
The campaign of the 1960’s and those of the 2020’s have not changed much. The familiar campaign promises are hinged on the promises of physical and social infrastructure such as education, health, job creation, agriculture and security among others. No politician has mounted any innovative campaign such as  the provision of social security, space policy, technology and biotechnology. By implication, most people canvass for power just for money and allocatable resources. They do not contest any election to transform society.
It is against this background that when they assume power, their administrations are characterised by non-adherence to transparency principles. They play politics with serious developmental issues such as basic education, healthcare, security and the welfare of the electorate. Politics is turned into a zero-sum game where the winners takes all and leaves nothing for the loser.
Understandably, the deployment of the instruments of thuggery creates a climate of fear during campaigns.
Elections are characterised by vote buying, indiscipline, pre-bendalism and violence. These symbolisms transmogrify into lootcracy when they assume power. Money is the real essence of politics in Nigeria. They are champions of ethnic, supremacy and sentiments. They forget too soon that they were elected on the platform of a Party.
Apart from looting, they abandon on-going projects or complete them at over-inflated costs. They deny even political appointees their lawful entitlements and rather use the looted money to bribe anti-graft agencies. They patronise native doctors in the night, neither sleep, dream nor see clearly the direction where their states are headed.
Ultimately, the enterprise of governance is reduced to a joke or at best a pool side party. They give politics a bad name and with their anti-people policies sentence millions to untimely death. They use policies, to strangulate people and dance on the graves of the down trodden hoi polloi.
In Nigeria, the character of politicians is dictated by the ideological hollowness in the system. The purveyors of new-breedism have become dreamers of social utopia. Whether our political parties will  initiate and nurture some fringe ideology is yet to be determined. Not today and certainly not tomorrow. It may occur only when there is some requisite political engineer.

By: John Idumange

Idumange is a public intellectual.

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Opinion

On The Brink Of Failed State?

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The most critical problem I have identified plaguing democratic governance in Nigeria is lack of quality and selfless leaders.  Many leaders lack passion for the people and the nation whose resources they hold in trust.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike aptly captured the sordid security situation in the country when he said, if there is a proper Commander-In-Chief, bandits and insurgent groups will not be allowed to drag the country to the level of unrestrained killing of innocent Nigerians.
This is unassialable truth because the country truly needs a strong Commander, In Chief-at the helm of affairs today; a President who knows his onions, in terms of tackling all forms of criminality in the land headlong.
After all, security of lives and property is a litmus test for and parameter to determine the effectiveness of any government. It is the primary obligation of any government to protect the lives and property of the people. If a government lacks the capacity and capability to discharge this constitutional responsibility to the people, then, such a government has failed woefully. This is because security is a critical national asset which serves as a springboard for growth and development to thrive. The absence of peace and security, no doubt, will elicit unnecessary tensions and apprehension that are capable of preventing people and corporate organisations  from committing their hard-earned resources into  a presumptuously unstable economy as a result of insecurity.
Insecurity is therefore, a major cause of job loss, underemployment and unemployment. It also orchestrates capital flight and hoarding. Security remains the pivot of development at all levels-community, local government, state and national.
That is why I can appreciate Chief Wike’s grouse and uncompromising stance over the spate of insecurity that now beclouds certain parts of Nigeria.
Wike was unequivocal when in an emotion-laden voice he said, “A proper Commander-in-Chief will never allow this country to go down like this. What is President Buhari doing with the service chiefs? Their business is to protect Nigeria and Nigerians. Look at the country, every day the only project we get is people have died. The only project Nigerians continue to get is killing…”
Is any person or group angry over Governor Wike’s swipes? Then, I urge them to be dispassionate.
The cases of incessant security breaches, leading to destruction of lives and property with impunity, are strong and negative testimonial that Nigeria is tottering on the brink of a Failed State.
I pray that the precarious security situation in  Nigeria should not snowball to expression of the Hobbesian theory of state where life was viewed as short and brutish, might becomes right.
Rather than criticising Chief Nyesom Wike, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should restrategise and work out modalities on how to bring out the country from the doldrums of insecurity before it speculatively, exits the reins of power.
The president and de facto Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, has given his word to Nigerians that he will leave Nigeria better than he met it. This is heart-gladening for every person who is passing through the unpopular economic policies of Buhari administration.
However, since this is not a prophecy, or word spoken by God through him, I wonder how Mr President can achieve this feat of not just restoring the economy,  security and other facets of national growth and development, to their friendly states, prior to the inception of his administration in 2015 but to surpass the successes and achievements of his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
That would be a miracle of the century indeed.
Mr President’s position on the state of the nation is like a man building castles in the air. Is it really possible? Is it one of the bogus promises, comical pranks and lullaby to soothe frayed nerves while the maladministration thrives?
The Buhari administration has barely one year to leave office, what is the dollar-naira exchange rate? What is the level of security? What is the  per capita income? How are civil servants faring? and what is the state of small and medium scale enterprises or businesses?
If Mr President had spoken as an oracle of God, I would have believed because of the dictates of my faith, but since he spoke for himself, only May 29, 2023 will tell.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

Why Kill Deborah For Prophet Mohammed?

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The murder of Deborah Samuel, a 200 – level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, has made it incumbent upon me to write a sequel to my last week’s piece, titled, “Was the Agege-bread Easter message a mistake?”.
In that article, I laid out in very clear terms the state of mind of a Muslim that could give room for the trivialising of such a historic event as the resurrection. Today, even though the death of Deborah feels like a knife in my heart, I am glad that at least the reading public can knowledgeably compare the Easter incident and last week’s barbaric murder and judge for themselves.
During Easter, the whole of Christendom was ridiculed, when the resurrection of Christ was likened to the rising of Agege-bread. Christians of all stripes reacted in various ways; some called for the total boycott of Sterling Bank, while the Christian Association of Nigeria called for the resignation of the CEO. However, no Christian, to the knowledge of this writer,  called for the death of Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, or for the burning of Sterling Bank branches across the country.
It must be understood that in christendom, the greatest blasphemy, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an act of the Holy Spirit, then Sterling Bank committed the greatest blasphemy against the Christian Faith. Are Christians ignorant of this? No. What then should have been the response of Christians? Exactly what CAN has done, forgive; and, follow peace with all men, as much as it is within your power.
One major thought from last week’s article was that if the script were to be flipped, and Prophet Mohammed or any pillar of Islam was the target of ridicule, people would be killed and places would be burnt. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Deborah Samuel.
My rational mind is compelling me to ask my Muslim brothers why they fight and kill for Prophet Mohammed if he is the messenger of Allah when we are thought by the Holy Quran that Allah is all-powerful. Is it that Allah is now weak? I think not. There might be a myriad of differences between Christianity and Islam, however, there are also points of convergence, and the almightiness of God or Allah is one of such. Hence my confusion.
I am compelled to assert that the global killings committed by Muslim fanatics for alleged blasphemy are a form of extreme paganism which has no place in modern society. More than 3000 years ago, a mob, like the one that murdered Deborah, gathered to kill Gideon because he destroyed the altar of Baal. They asked his father to bring him out, but his father, Joash said, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? … If he is a god, let him contend for himself because his altar has been broken down”. What is the difference between those who murdered Deborah and the pagans? Nothing, except that they were wise enough to allow Baal to prove himself as God.
Therefore, since we know that the Islamic religion is monotheistic, we should interrogate the source of these pagan tendencies. Especially, given the fact that some Islamic clerics are the ones calling for violence, sowing seeds against religious tolerance, national integration, and cohesion. In the past, much violence was perpetrated after Jumat prayers. In fact, before Deborah was killed, an Imam in Sokoto, in a video that has now gone viral on social media, was calling for the killing of a boy who allegedly has blasphemed Prophet Muhammad. He has not been arrested yet.
After seeing on YouTube, how these Muslim college students hunted down and murdered Deborah like an animal while shouting Allahu Akbar, it is hard to reconcile to the Muslim peace greeting: “Salem aleku”.
The Sultanate Council was very quick to condemn Deborah’s murder, reaffirming its stance on religious violence. But is this enough? Nigerians would want to know what portion of Islamic theology, as espoused by Imams in Jumat prayers, and Quranic verses responsible for this kind of insane behaviour. As a person, I will like to know the position of the Quaran on Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed and the position of the Islamic religion in relation to contemporary Nigeria?
Already, it is apparent, that these youths have the tacit support of the Northern elite, considering how former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was attacked, so much that he had to delete his twit condemning Deborah’s murder. For instance, a Twitter user who calls himself Otunba of Sokoto, declared the former vice president has lost a million votes in Sokoto. Yet, another user retorted, saying “ we are waiting for him to come to Sokoto for campaign”.
We must all bear in mind that, Deborah was executed by her coursemates. These students are not ignorant; they are informed, motivated, and they did what they felt obligated to do, based on an idea or teaching. But was the murder of Deborah alien to the North? Unfortunately, it is not. There have been several cases when christians have been murdered by irate Muslim youth in the North. In fact,  in June 2016, a 74-year-old Christian trader, Bridget Agbahime was beaten to death by a Muslim mob outside her shop in Kano after accusing her of insulting the prophet. The suspects were arrested but were later released when the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kano State declared that the state has no case against them.  Her only crime was asking a Muslim youth performing ablution in front of her shop to move away.
On Friday, two students were arrested; but on Saturday, Muslim youths in Sokoto went on rampage, demanding their unconditional release. In the mayhem that ensued, two Catholic Churches under the administration of Bishop Mathew Kuka, some ECWA Churches, and the shops owned by South Easterners have been touched. Even the way about Bishop Kuka is kept under wraps for his safety.  Consequently, a 24-hour curfew was placed in Sokoto metropolis. In the same vein, Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has placed a ban on any form of religious protest in Kaduna.
Deborah has been buried in her hometown, Tungan Magajiya, in Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State on Saturday, after her corpse was brought from Sokoto in very controversial circumstances.
The story continues to evolve, but one thing is clear, the North is a conservative Muslim country in Nigeria. If this is not so, the burden is on the Federal Government, as well as the state governments in the north to prove me wrong. Maybe, Deborah’s murder might be the ‘proverbial last straw’  that would break the back of  religious bigotry  in this country. In the interim, while we wait for answers from the Muslim community, Christians across the country must remain calm.

By: Raphael Pepple

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