The Caucasians in their intellectual arrogance widely opined that Africa had no history prior to their coming. African historians and anthropologists took this bare-faced affront as a daunting challenge and showed that indeed Africa had well-developed institutions before their advent. There were empires – Ghanaian Empire, Kanem-Borno, Ashanti, Oyo, Songhai amongst many others. The richest man of all times was not John Davidson Rockefeller of the Standard Oil fame but King Mansa Musa of Mali according to a recent Forbes report. When he made a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 14th century, he gave out so much gold that the value of the precious metal collapsed and remained so for two grueling years. It is also on record that the cradle of civilization was Egypt and she gave the world its first university. A master stroke of the African civilization can be seen in the Chinua Achebe’s outstanding piece: Things Fall Apart.
Democracy has been proven to be the most desirable form of government as it is the most participatory. Dictatorships both monarchical and egalitarian have led to revolutions and rebellions the world over and democracy as defined by Abraham Lincoln can be seen as the lesser of two evils. Did the west bring this form of government during the colonial era as is widely claimed? It is instructive to note that the Igbos practiced this form of government through the age grade system which accounted for the total failure of colonial rule when warrant chiefs were introduced during the British inspired indirect rule system. Why has this beautiful system of government now really worked in Africa? The answer lies in the inherent autocratic nature of African rulers. A tragedy lies in the failure of nationalists to transit to democratic leaders. Osaygefo Kwame Nkrumah failed woefully in this regard. He was so popular that he won elections when he was detained at Fort James prison in 1951. After leading the former Gold Coast to independence in 1957, he then proceeded to ban all other political parties apart from the Convention Peoples Party which he founded in 1949. His political foes were either forced into exile or jailed without a proper trial. Elections were a ruse as the CPP used intimidation and brute force to ensure massive disenfranchisements and the subversion of the will of the people. The straw that broke the camel’s back was his declaration as Life President in 1964 – the remote cause of his February 24, 1966 overthrow.
Robert Mugabe was a core freedom fighter in the country once known as Rhodesia – named after the legendary Cecil Rhodes. Mugabe went to jail for a decade before the renamed Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. He has held on tightly to power since then and shows no sign of grooming a successor to hand over to at over 90 years of age. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Peoples Front (ZANU-PF) has perfected the art of massively rigging elections and altering the constitution to assure that their leader hangs on effectively to power. The country once known as the food basket of the continent is on the brink of a severe famine. Does this cut an ice on Mugabe? Certainly not! He was pictured enjoying elephant meat while his fellow countrymen starved on his 91st birthday. In 2011, a third of the registered voters were dead or aged 120 in a country where the life expectancy is just 44 years. This allegation of disenfranchisement was also bandied in 2013. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a local observer group with about 3000 monitors cited state media bias, campaign of intimidation in the rural areas and non-provision of adequate security as reasons why the elections was nothing but a sham. Nevertheless, Mugabe won 61% of the vote with Morgan Tsvangirai only getting 34% with the supreme court of the country declaring it as free and fair. Widespread global condemnation of the heavily skewed poll didn’t prevent the aged dictator from being sworn in.
The late Gnassingbe Eyadema shot himself to global consciousness when he participated in a coup that led to the assassination of Togo’s first elected President, Sylvanus Olympio on January 13, 1963. He went further to oust Nicholas Grunitzky in 1967. In 1970, he founded the Rally of the Togolese People and made it the only legal party in the tiny former French colony. He was re-elected unopposed in 1979 and 1986 and succeeded in getting the country’s constitution changed in 2002 to remove term limits on the office of the president. Upon his death in 2005, his son, Faure assumed office and was forced to step down by the international community and the Economic Community of West African States only for him to win a hurriedly packaged election by a 60% margin that same year.
The gains of the Arab Spring can be seen in the Tunisian elections of 2014. It was adjudged the freest since the country gained independence from France in 1956. It ended up in a run-off between the incumbent, Moncef Marzouki and the opposition leader, Beji Caid Esseksi on the 21st of December that same year. The opposition leader carried the day by trouncing the incumbent by securing 55.68% of the vote. In a rare show of sportsmanship, the incumbent conceded victory to the change agent.
In Libya, it turned out to be a bloody affair as only 630,000 people voted – less than half of the eligible voters. Five people died in clashes between the government forces and Islamic militants in Benghazi. Islamic insurgents opened fire on the defence headquarters leaving about 30 people injured.
World attention is on Nigeria – the most populous black nation on earth as its elections will come up on March 8th and April 11th this year. The reason for the postponement still remains ludicrous as the electoral body cancelled it from its earlier date because they want to fight the boko haram insurgency in only six weeks. No incumbent has ever lost since its electoral history right from independence in1960. For the first time since the return to civil rule in 1999, this is a neck to neck race which has split the nation into two parallel lines. The critical question is would the masses get a fair deal on the last Saturday of this month? An old adage goes thus ‘He who pays the piper dictates the tune’. Is it not the executive that appoints the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Is it not the executive that funds the body? How then can INEC bite the fingers that feed it? The National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki first flew the postponement kite in Chatham House London under the guise of the non-collection of the permanent voters cards by a majority of the voters? Was the cancellation a well-rehearsed script by the unpopular executive?
Nigerian voters should be on the alert and resist any attempt to have an unpopular government imposed on them on May 29, 2015. The might of the people was shown during the aborted second republic when the people of Ondo state rejected the verdict that saw the loss of late Pa Michael Ajasin in favour of Omoboriowo. Mass protests saw the impostor – Omoboriowo flee the state. There is no harm in being two times lucky.
The ball is in our court!