Obama’s Victory: Provoking African Politicians to Positive Actions

By Adeola Aderounmu

In Africa the things that should unite us have been used to divide us and the outcomes are hunger, poverty, impoverishment, penury and wars.

At this moment (Nov the 5th 2008) in the United States, history has been made. Barack Obama born of a Kenyan father and an American mother became the 44th President-elect of the United States of America. American democracy is not perfect. It has its short comings and pitfalls. The rigging of votes by George Bush in Florida in 2000 and the dirty campaign mastered by his father will remain as some of the most shameful highlights of American democracy.

Nevertheless the peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president to another is a trait that is worth emphasising when it comes to American politics and democracy. As Barack Obama waits in the wings as the president-elect of the United States, it is time to take up some provocative issues with some African countries and their leaders. This moment of Obama’s glory and triumph of people power must not be wasted without reminding Africans about their backwardness. This is the best time to provoke those extremely bad leaders and looters who are spreading poverty as a way of life for millions of Africans.

Americans have voted and Obama has been declared the winner. McCain was very quick to send his congratulatory message to Obama. If Obama had lost, he would have done the same to Senator McCain-send him a congratulatory message. McCain and Obama campaigned and sometimes one spoke ill of the other but that is the nature of politics. They did not however send assassins after each other and they did not wish each other dead. The crux of the matter was the United States as a country and how best the country can make progress. In Nigeria, many politicians have been killed under mysterious circumstances and no one has been held responsible for the killings.

Recently in Zimbabwe and Kenya the instrument of governance and violence was used to send many innocent people to their graves. Mugabe killed as many people as he could in 2008 just to silent the opposition and remain in power. In some African countries, the urge to remain in power or to acquire the power is with evil intention and revenge. Will there come a time in the history of Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe when elections will be held without violence?

McCain is not talking about power sharing and he has not told his supporters to go on the rampage. No one has complained about rigging of elections or the minor irregularities. The country comes first and personal interests stay in the background. Kenya and Zimbabwe are today practising a useless form of democracy called power-sharing government. The implication is that one corrupt leader coerce with another potential corrupt leader to destroy the mandate of the people. This scenario also implicates the opposition in these countries as agents of evil. A man who is seeking the good of his country will under no circumstances participate in an evil regime or a regime that is strangulating democratic principles.

They always argue for the government of National Unity in the name of peace. That is blatant lie. Who created the chaos in the first place? What these corrupt African leaders do is to sow distrust and hatred in the population and then capitalise on these misdemeanours to accomplish their own selfish ambitions which is primarily self-enrichment. In Nigeria, there has not been any peaceful election since 1959 except in 1993 and the results of that peaceful election were annulled by a military gangster called Ibrahim Babangida. The winner of that presidential election was imprisoned by another military dictator called Abacha. MKO Abiola the man presumed to have won the only peaceful and fair presidential election in Nigerian history was killed under the leadership of a dictator called Abdulsalami. Interestingly though the United States government was implicated in the assassination of MKO Abiola. This is because he died when an entourage sent from the White House was visiting him in a Nigerian Prison!

I have stated earlier that the United States is not a perfect country. Still the democratic principles in a way offer a lot of exemplary approaches that could be borrowed. In the just concluded presidential election in the US, the world didn’t even have to wait for all the results to be announced or counted. The winner of the presidential election-Barack Obama, was known even before the counting was concluded. This is impossible in Nigeria or Kenya. It will be an abomination in Zimbabwe for a winner to emerge when the final vote has not been counted. It will be a recipe for violence and disaster. As a matter of fact, votes have never been counted in Nigerian elections. Since 1959 this country that pride itself as the giant of Africa has continued to waste billions of naira on conducting elections that never matters. Nigeria is severely corrupt and unbelievably incapable of conducting a decent election 48 years after it became independent. This is very shameful indeed.

In April 2007, Mr. Obasanjo who was the outgoing president in Nigeria single-handedly installed Mr. Umar Yar Adua as Nigerian’s new illegal president. He was able to do this by conspiring with the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) whose Chairman is a man of questionable character. Obasanjo himself employed Mr. Iwu as the chairman of the INEC. But there is nothing independent about the INEC. It was manipulated and controlled by the ruling party in Nigeria. Mr. Obasanjo it must be noted had ruled for 8 years (1999-2007) using the power of force rather than votes. The votes were rigged and manipulated twice to allow him win the elections. The story of Nigerian Politics continues to be a very bad example to other countries in Africa. It is both devastating and disheartening.

I was particularly taken aback by the massive support that Obama received from Nigerian politicians and law makers. But have these lazy and corrupt Nigerian politicians sat down to ask themselves this question: Are we (Nigerian Politicians and leaders) stupid? They should ask themselves more questions:

• Why can’t we conduct peaceful elections in Nigeria?
• Why do we kill ourselves during election time in Nigeria?
• Why are issues and policies never discussed since the collapse of the second republic in Nigeria?
• Why do we rule the country by looting public treasuries and spreading poverty like wild fires?
• Do we need psychiatric tests before we are allowed to run for public offices in Nigeria?

Agreed that the incursion of the foolish military into governance in Nigeria (and other countries as well in Africa) landed a negative blow to our sense of purpose and direction as a nation: still that is not enough excuse to practise the kind of crude democracies that are seen in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

In some African countries like Somalia, there is complete absence of a government. In 2008 Congo, a genocide war is brewing intensely because of the fight for the nation’s wealth. In Africa the things that should unite us have been used to divide us and the outcomes are hunger, poverty, impoverishment, penury and wars.

Some people blame the western world for most of the suffering, pains and political instability in Africa and even in parts of Asia. I beg to disagree on this generalized concept. In our modern world every nation has the means and possibilities to steer the wheels of its progress independent of its colonial masters or former oppressors. What is needed is the proper diplomatic dispensation that pursues mutuality rather than supremacy or vengeance as we saw in Zimbabwe. At this stage and age of globalization, I strongly believed that each nation is shaped not only by foreign influences but also by the thoughtfulness, soundness and sanity of its leaders and politicians. The sense of belonging instilled in the citizenry also plays a key role in nation building.

The question of public service in relation to intelligence, reasoning, accountability, probity and sanity therefore becomes very important in the analyses of the woes of sub-Saharan African especially. What is wrong with sub-Saharan Africa? Why does the attention of the world have to remain fixated on poverty, diseases, corruption and the gross incompetence of the leaders, politicians and warlords of sub-Saharan Africa?

Some people also argued that it took the US and the British over 200 years to accomplish their stable democracies. This is simply lame excuse and idle talk to allow African leaders to spread their shallow intelligence in a jet-age world. What is clear is that the parameters to measure progress over the last 2 centuries have been dramatically transformed. We are now living in a technologically advanced world.

This is the age of computer advancement and no silly excuse can be offered to support retrogression and redundant Cognitivism. What took months or years to achieve 200 years ago can now be done in micro-seconds. Even when I was a little boy, I wrote letters and waited for weeks and months before getting responses. Do African leaders and their uninformed supporters have any idea how long it takes now to get a response for my electronic messages or chats? Give me a break! The global world is now a leveled playing field and one part of the world cannot continue to refer to the prehistoric timeline of countries like the US and Britain in order to ascertain when to achieve true greatness. With the kinds and nature of resources in Africa, it should be the wealthiest continent in theory and practice.

There is corruption everywhere in the world but the nature of the corruption in Nigeria and some other countries in Africa for example is unparallel. There are probably more than 90m people representing more than 50% of the population in Nigeria who are living on less than 1 dollar a day. This is the difference between corruption in Africa and other places. The effects are profound in Africa.

It amazes me when people compare corruption or its impact in my country Nigeria with other places. The institutions of governance are heavily compromised in Nigeria. What is expected is that people move in and out of institutions that are functioning and regulated. For example whether George Bush likes it or not he would vacate the White House in January 2009. Bill Clinton before him did the same without any bitterness. It has never been like that in Nigeria. It is always a case of someone forcing himself in and other people forcing him out. This is the failure of institutions and a serious questioning of our collective intelligence is always brought to the front when these anomalies come to play on the world stage.

But the anomalies are not unexpected. For instance there is absolute disorganization and disorientation in our attitudes in Nigeria. In the US election it is possible to see exactly how many people voted, their race, their gender and their ages. This is an impossible mission in Nigeria. From the scratch, the voters register lists are falsified and ghost names are on the lists. Underage voting is common practice in Nigeria. Above all, it just doesn’t matter about the irregularities because a caucus of people would eventually sit down and verbally decide who wins and who lost in Nigerian elections. In several cases, the political godfathers determine the case of the contestants and the amount of money that can be spent during the bargaining plays a key role. We have seen in Nigeria where someone who is not a contestant or a candidate won an election!!!

Nigeria is presently seeking political reforms while Kenya and Zimbabwe are making do with unified corrupt governments. It is time to have intelligent inputs and outputs in the governments of these countries. Their progresses or failures will continue to inspire the rest of Africa. But there is an urgent need for re-awakening in Africa. From Congo, to Uganda, to Nigeria, to South Africa, to Kenya, to Zimbabwe, to Angola, to Rwanda, to Somali, to Eritrea, to Ethiopia, to Togo, to Ivory Coast, to Senegal, to Gambia, to Niger and to the rest of Africa. It is time to wake up. The victory of Barack Obama should henceforth be used as a new yardstick for the election processes for Africa.

No one should see this as an impossible mission unless we want to tell ourselves and the rest of the world that Africans are not intelligent. Do we want to tell the world that we are incapable of running smooth democracies? How much time does Africans need to be able to ascertain their independent which they fought for? Some diligent leaders fought and earned independence for Africa. Haven’t we allowed their labours to be in vain?

Africa cannot copy the exact form of democracy that we see in America but what is wrong with conducting peaceful elections? What is wrong with transferring power peacefully from one democratically elected president to another? What is wrong in building institutions that will stand for all time while allowing people and leaders to pass through them? What is wrong with trying for once to end the reign and spread of tyranny in Africa? What is wrong if African countries like Nigeria start to use the power of governance to create and spread wealth among the people? What is wrong with ending the wars and poverty across Africa?

Hopefully the presence of Obama in the White House and on the world stage will inspire Africa positively. Time will tell.

One thought on “Obama’s Victory: Provoking African Politicians to Positive Actions

  1. The Democratic Republic Congo is on fire because of what the west formed against that country
    Why has Africa had so much civil war? look in the for the answer in the DRC. In all other regions of the world the incidence of civil war has been on a broadly declining trend over the past thirty years: but in Africa the long term trend has been upwards. Of course, every civil war has its ‘story’ – the personalities, the social cleavages, the triggering events, the inflammatory discourse, the atrocities. But is there anything more? Are there structural conditions – social, political or economic – which make a country prone to civil war? Might it be that the same inflammatory politician, playing on the same social cleavages, and with the same triggering events, might ‘cause’ war under one set of conditions and merely be an ugly irritant in another. In the Congo Surprisingly, the dominant factors are economic. in this case ther are three factors which matter a lot for the risk of civil war: the level of income, its rate of growth, and its structure. If a country is poor, in economic decline, and is dependent upon natural resource exports, then it faces a substantial risk that sooner or later it will experience a civil war. Typically, such a country runs a risk of around one-in-seven every five years. Like Russian roulette, things might go well for a while, but then some conjunction of circumstances – the personalities, the triggering events – ignite violent conflict. These are indeed the proximate ‘cause’ of the conflict. But the big brute fact is that civil war is heavily caused for by power houses of the west. The big business who are looking for the natural resources.

    Let’s start with the political economy. The most obvious route is that natural resource rents are a ‘honey pot’. Politics comes to be about the contest for control of these revenues. This produces a politics of corruption – aided and abetted by foreign corporate behavior – and sometimes directly a politics of violence.
    The stakes are highest in low-income countries because the control of the state implies massive revenues relative to other income-earning opportunities. Further, this politics of rent-seeking diverts the public arena from its normal function of achieving the collective action that is necessary to supply public goods – the social and economic infrastructure that all societies need.

    The society that loses out twice over: in the struggle for resource rents other resources are dissipated, and the supply of public goods declines. Nigeria provides a striking example of such a politics of contest for oil rents.

    The second route by which natural resource rents increase the risk of war is through the detachment of government. Because resource-rich governments do not need significant other tax revenues they become detached from their electorates. In most societies, because electors have to pay high taxes, they scrutinize the government to see how it uses their money.

    This was indeed how democracy developed in the West. The campaigning slogan ‘no taxation without representation’ can be inverted to the depressing reality of ‘no representation without taxation’. In many resource-rich societies the resource rents are not seen as belonging to ordinary people in the same way as income taken from them in taxes – hence the detachment.

    The government is able to ignore the concerns of the population. Mobuto’s Zaire was a classic example of such detachment.

    That is not surprising. The West is less interested in human rights in Africa than in justifying and setting the stage for a new Cold War. The BBC reported on 13th July it “has found the first evidence that China is currently helping Sudan’s government militarily in Darfur”.
    Yet, China’s real crime is its dominating investments in Africa which now exceeds British, USA, European Union, World Bank and IMF aid budgets, combined.

    A recent World Bank confirmed that China is financing infrastructure projects in more than 35 African countries with Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mosambique, Nigeria, the Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe among the biggest recipients. In the DRC, China has agreed to build thousands of kilometers of roads, several hospitals and three universities. Unlike the West, China gives Africa quality projects on time and much more cheaply.

    In their most direct statements yet recorded, African leaders made their views about the West clear during the Chinese Africa summit, held in Beijing in November 2006. Speaking to Lindsey Hilsum of British Channel Four television, former president Festus Mogae of Botswana said “”I find that the Chinese treat us as equals. The West treats us as former subjects (read slaves). Which is a reality. I prefer the attitude of the Chinese to that of the West.”
    For his part, President Museveni who is seen as a darling of the West said, “The Western ruling groups are conceited, full of themselves, ignorant of our conditions, and they make other people’s business their business. Whereas the Chinese just deal with you, you represent your country, they represent their own interests, and you do business.”
    I think that the magic ingredient that makes the difference is scrutiny of government by the country’s citizens. Unfortunately, scrutiny is a ‘public good’ – that is, if it is provided, the whole society benefits. The incentives for individual action are thus all wrong – basically, the smart thing to do is to sit back and hope that someone else goes to the trouble of providing public goods such as scrutiny. Societies need ‘collective action’ to overcome the public goods problem and because Africa’s societies are so highly diverse -more ethnically diverse than anywhere else in the world – they find it unusually difficult to supply public goods at the national level.

    Of course, people and groups lobby the government, but overwhelmingly this lobbying is not for the national interest but for individual or group advantage. But there are ways around this problem. In an ethnically diverse society it is probably much easier to organize scrutiny at the local or regional level than at the national level – at the local level ethnicity is likely to unite people in collective action, just as at the national level it is likely to divide them and frustrate collective action. If the rents from natural resources could be transparently and fairly distributed to sub-national levels of government there is some hope that such governments would come to face serious citizen scrutiny. The challenge is to get to this stage where rents accruing at the national level are seen to be fairly distributed to the regions.

    This, to my mind, is the agenda for corporate social responsibility in DRC: transparency in bidding for resource concessions; transparency in revenue payments to governments; and cooperation by banks in tracking misappropriation of rents. Sadly, it is far from the currently dominant agenda. International resource extraction companies live in terror of two powerful forces – Western consumers who may boycott their products; and the local people living around their installations, who may kidnap employees and damage equipment.

    They have responded to Western consumer pressure – itself based on a lazy, teenage misdiagnosis of Africa’s ills – by trying to look like good employers and good environmentalists. They have responded to local extortion rackets by providing health and education facilities in the neighborhood of their installations. Frankly, both of these are at best irrelevant. High wages mess up the labour market and so cost jobs; it is governments, not companies, that should be supplying basic social services. What has got lost is the legitimate, indeed essential role that companies can play in helping African societies to scrutinize their governments. Corporate social responsibility in Democratic Republic of Congo must be radically redefined.

    I think it’s time for Congolese poeple to wakeup and stand for their country not UN or European Union will be able to stop the conflict.
    May God Be with DRC
    Rev. Freddie Nsapo, MPA


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