Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The African Revolution: DITCH DEMOCRACY!

Lately I've been getting very riled up about the African continent.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an extremist. If I think about something long enough, I get very passionately pulled to one side or the other. I finally agreed to watch Blood Diamond, after avoiding it, because I know how depressed I get after watching these movies. It's not that I try to pretend that Africa is not in crisis. Its my home, I know very well the problems we face and create and I am constantly reminded of them, but like I said, I'm an extremist. When I watch movies about/think deeply about the problems we face in Africa, I fall into an infinite pool of negative emotion. Rage turns to hatred, which quickly develops tumors of irrational fear and anxiety, or morphs into hopelessness. None of these things are bringing about solutions or working to improve my stress level.
Either way, I watched the movie. After I calmed down, I had a long conversation with an older African man about the solution to Africa. We quickly came to a radical consensus that democracy was NOT the way forward and needed to be dropped instantly in the attempt to salvage our continent.
Democracy is the Western government of choice. And since we are not the same, its possible that democracy cannot work for us in the same way it works for them. The whole 'freedom' thing is seen very differently in Africa. Freedom here is getting married to whoever, as long as you're over 18. At home that simply will not go over well. Not even with your best friends, if they care about you. Freedom in my home country, is being able to have a 'heew' (event) with loud music and not expect the police to come to your house because you are disturbing the peace. In the West, that would not fly too well either.
If I am right (which I may not be), then using democracies is not only going to be unsuccessful, but is also a medium by which the African continent will stay "down", trying to reach a standard set by someone else that is not suited to us, and failing. So I figured we should try something of our own. I will tell you now that I don't have a solution, but I did play with some ideas. If you think of any better ones, please feel free to share.
The first idea I dabbled with was small-scale monarchy. The idea is that we stop looking at our countries as one large body under one man (El Presidente). Rather, we look at them as a group of numerous constituencies (or villages: the word has negative connotation but try and see past it for me), with each one having a monarch/chief who is advised by elders in the village. Decisions are made based on values, customs and traditions. This is subjective, but it works for families, so it should work for a set of families who are trying to succeed together. The thought of going back to our roots and what-not is always somehow revitalizing. It brings the self-satisfaction of thinking we had it right all this while, and we were doing it long before anyone taught us how.
As nice as it all sounds, its obvious that our previous systems, beautiful and elegant as they were, were (i) not without flaw and (ii) impractical in the 21st Century. Please feel free to argue otherwise, but a kingdom today would have many problems. With the treacherous side-by-side advance of intellect and selfishness people are just not concerned with the wellbeing of anyone but themselves, let alone a set of other families. The Kingdom would be corrupt; rich king with a bunch of wives, poor families. It would be better than rich President, poor people who are brainwashed into thinking that somehow, a piece of paper they placed in an already pre-set ballot resulted in their present way of life. Like they chose this person to rule them, like they chose to live under the pretense of free-ness. But it's still not a drastic improvement.
You have to guess that Marxism came in at least somewhere in my considerations. It has to. Regardless of your personal feelings, you can't help but consider the Manifesto... it's genius. I figure it wouldn't work too well because there's too much room in the system to change things. Think Animal Farm (George Orwell). Governments don't usually follow a theory they didn't make up themselves to the T. This leaves a 'heory' which frankly is just not the same thing. In all seriousness though, as one aspect of equality becomes exception to the rule, its hard to hold tight reins on the others without looking like the very same government the people were trying to escape by revolting.
Egypt is currently trying to get a revolution going, and more power to them. But the effects, longterm effects are not certain. People sometimes get so riled up trying to get rid of the current failures that they do not foresee the future catastrophe lying ahead. Anyway, we hope for the best for Egypt.
Maybe the mother of all government styles will turn out to be a well ground mix off all the possibilities. Perfect government is attainable only by God, so we are not going to reach that, but its not too far-fetched to just look for something that works for us.


  1. So, what type of government does God have then? I am inclined to believe He has set up a monarchal government, but would He prefer it otherwise? He only gave man government here on earth because they demanded it. Would it stand to reason that if we followed the type of government He set up there would be fewer problems within a country?

  2. Food for thought. I agree with copying God, I think its probably the best option IDEALLY. But since no nation has just one belief about God it makes it difficult to implement.

  3. wonderful piece, but i feel you fail to acknowledge the fact that democracy in Africa is not done right (I can name countless examples of flawed democracy in Africa). So you criticize the democracy in Africa but I say we have not really tried democracy in Africa, and that is probably the best system of Government ever though about. I think its a better solution than Monarchies, or 'copying God' as you put it. it is not perfect but I think its the best system we have. Again, wonderful piece keep em coming.

  4. *ever thought about

  5. "I fall into an infinite pool of negative emotion. Rage turns to hatred, which quickly develops tumors of irrational fear and anxiety, or morphs into hopelessness. None of these things are bringing about solutions or working to improve my stress level." << exactly why I avoid the news @ times

    I don't think the problem is with democracy or any other system for that matter, I think the issue is with people abusing/misusing power and the lack of proper checks and balances.

  6. The copy and paste of democracy does not work. Especially given the historical and cultural context in which our imperfect nations-states function. However, I don't think going back to the romantic past is the better solution. You can't drive a car forward looking at the rear view mirror. We need democracy, where people have a voice in decision making but we also need a culture of public discourse, active participation ,individual empowerment and countless subtleties that makes democracy democracy. We, ourselves, have resisted what freedom is and can be.

    For too long have the people of Africa, , Asia and Latin America shied away from finding their solutions for their problem. The solution is not to ( if i may) ditch democracy but mold democracy given ground conditions given the socio-political context-but again that up for discussion.

    But well written and the blog is great. And respect from The Friar.

  7. Anonymous (number two), Democracy is the best form of government? Will you explain why exactly it is the best option for government. In my experience of different governments, it would seem that democracy does the exact opposite of what it was designed to do. It tears itself down with all its opposing sides fighting for their say. It does have good things, I admit, such as checks-and-balances. I would, however, be more obliged to see from your perspective if you would explain yourself more fully.

    Friar, I do not believe it is going back into the romantic past, nor am I sure about your comparison to looking back in a rear-view-mirror while driving forward. You are right in the fact that we can not live in the present if trying to live in the past, but we must not forget the past. Those who do not look back into the past for revelation are doomed to repeat it. And I do agree that to ditch democracy (especially during this time) would not be a good idea.

    I am not trying to fight. I am just probing, testing the waters if you will.

    Yours respectfully,
    Anonymous (number one)

  8. Because democracy (when done right)allows for change and therefore ultimately leaves the power with people. In a free and fair election which is a central tenet of any real democracy, if the people do not like what is going on in their country they can change it simply by voting, and if they do like the way things are they can ensure things stay the same also by voting, ultimately the people decide and will have a chance every 2 years or 4 years to evaluate their country's progress. I feel that is the best from of government, government for the people by the people. anonymous(2)

  9. Feel free to comment on the piece, you do not have to be a member to comment, you can just type in the space below. I can't wait for the next piece Omonse, please let us know when it is coming out.

  10. You have quite aptly re-echoed some of the thoughts I've had concerning the problems we face in Africa and while I agree with you on some of the salient points you made, I defer slightly from your opinion that ditching democracy in its totality is the way to go. Democracy has worked for the western people no doubt and while there are various obvious cultural differences, I believe that Africa can and should make it work. However, I believe refining it a little to make it suitable to African community is needed.

    Democracy has often been popularly described as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. This is what is required of any good governance and we cannot just throw it away simply because it hasn't worked yet. Throwing away democracy will be analogous to angrily thrashing your router because your internet failed to connect. I propose that the system of democracy be fine-tuned to suit the nature and state of the African people. Having said that, I believe your suggestion of breaking bigger countries into smaller and more manageable factions will succeed tremendously. I feel that the primary reason why democracy has failed to work in Africa is the lack of accountability, the incessant bureaucracy, red-tape and its use for personal enrichment. If Nigeria for example is broken into smaller regions, it would be easier to note improvement or the lack thereof in regions very easily. I feel this might also foster a healthy competition as no region would want to fall back in development whilst others are improving. So, yeah I concur that democracy hasn't being working but I believe that ditching it is not the answer. Instead, let us embrace it and reconstruct it to suit our purpose.

  11. I agree with Mr. Oladapo, i like the router analogy lol..