Africa’s Negative Variance Of Democracy: Sit Tight Syndrome And Matters Arising

By Ogbu Ameh

Africa is a continent with vastly rich natural resources and human capital, yet very poor by global development index. It continues to rank very low by the year because successive ruling elite in virtually all the countries on the continent are mare power mongers who lack clear cut development agenda for their countries.

What they know best is self interest and aggrandizement to the detriment of the citizens who fulfilled their own part of the social contract.

The continent is poor because of the negative variance of democracy we practice as subterfuge for legitimacy of political power. A cursory study of the negative manifestation of this type of democracy and military incursion at intervals in most countries of Africa has produced the phenomenon called “Sit Tight Ruling Syndrome”.

African Sit Tight Leaders, with focus on the ongoing crisis in Ugandan is a reflection of the negative variance of democracy practiced across the African continent.  From Congo DRC to Cameroon where Paul Biya contested for his 7th term in office, In Togo where Gnassingbe Eyadema transferred power to his son who held on tight to power and many more around the African continent as I look at its implications on these countries developments as the Dictators often end up disgracefully.

In a Patriarchal society and system like Africa, Western concept of democracy is alien and inorganic to the political culture of the people. It is from this prism we can understand why electoral democracy had been a mirage mired in charade across the continent. like Gbagbo, Charles Tailor, Mugabe in this border less global village constantly under the watch of a global community in the 21st century.

Paul Biya took over in Cameroon as president in November of 1982. In spite of his dictatorship, Cameroonians have gone to the polls seven times to remove him. they failed woefully! It’s 36 years now!

For 38 years, Togolese struggled to remove President Gnassingbe Eyadema. The more they tried, the more they failed until his death in 2005, Gnassingbe ruled Togo in spite of the fact that he was rejected by the people. Electoral votes could not help them, at his death however, his son, Faure Gnassingbe took over power! Up till date and for a period of 50 years and counting, two men (father and son) ruled a country! A father and his son, just because the people are politically correct, waiting for election year to remove them with their votes.

Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. He took over power in Zaire in 1965 as a dictator after killing Patrick Lumumba. He later became a democrat and instead of opening up the political space as demanded by democracy, he unified all political parties under himself as one party system. People had their rights to vote, but it was just another useless piece of paper. It took a combined military revolution by the Rwandan Tutsi and the Ugandan army to topple his government in 1997 after 32 years in power.

President Teodore Obiang Nguema Mbasongo of Malabo is still very much in power since 1979. Is it that Equatorial Guineans do no have their rights to vote? By all means they do but the yoke upon their necks cannot be broken by a piece of paper.

For 42 years 175 days, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondinba ruled Gabon! Electoral votes or not, he won election after election until his death in 2009! Even after he died  his Biafran adopted son, Ali Bongo Ondinba took over power till date!

What about the most current and trending concerning the famous Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe? If not for military revolution, even at 93 years he would have been in power still. Over 40 years of rulership.

We could go on and on to cite examples but one thing remains outstanding in the case of Cameroon.

Haven tried all they could with their rights to vote, the southern part of Cameroun knew and understand the power of boycott!

Led by President Sisiku Ayuk Tabe who was later arrested by the brutish Nigerian army, the Republic of Ambazonia embarked on a total boycott in November 2017. No election, no schools, no office, no banks and no nothing! They declared a ghost town in the whole of their region and by the first quarter of 2018, UN led peacekeeping forces landed in Cameroun!

As I write now, serious plans are on-going for a UN monitored referendum for the Ambazonian Republic!

What they could not achieve with 32 years of voting, they have achieved with six months of boycotts. Why has voting as a prerequisite for participatory democracy failed in Africa since 1960?

In many countries of Africa, the oppositions mobilized the people to resort to civil disobedience and resistance as a weapon to weakens despots and tyrants. Since their votes had failed to remove Dictators from office. Just like the charade that came to pass as general elections in Nigeria this year. Tyrants are even more afraid of boycott than they are of  revolution. They can crush revolutions; Egypt, Sudan as recent case.  They can arrest the ringleaders, tag them treasonable felons and eliminate them but they have no antidote to a successful boycotts.

Voting works where institutions are strong and independent of the central government’s. Against the backdrop of the history of negative variance of democracy in Africa, we can look inwards to reflect on the philosophical lyrics of a legendary consciousness spiritual music maestro who once traversed the length and breadth of the African continent, late Robert Nesta Marley.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our own mind”, He had said it all, it is left for the living to listen and imbibe the message, internalize it and do the needful…The needful in this case is nothing else than alternative social political and economic production relations opposed to the tyranny of capitalism and it’s political image in democracy.

Comrade Ogbu Alexander Ameh is the Convenor of Generation For Change Africa Initiative (GFCAI), as well as a seasoned journalist and columnist.