Western democracy not working for Africa

Former President Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo has lamented the effect of Western Style Democracy on Nigeria's fledgling democracy

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has insisted that Western liberal democracy has not worked for Africa.

Obasanjo said liberal democracy does not take into account the continent’s history, culture, and tradition.

Obasanjo’s assertion that Western liberal democracy has not worked for Africa prompts a closer look at the historical context. Africa’s political landscape has been shaped by a complex interplay of colonial legacies, tribal dynamics, and struggles for independence. The imposition of Western-style governance structures during the colonial era often ignored the rich diversity of cultures and traditions present on the continent. As African nations gained independence, the challenge of adapting imported democratic models to suit local needs became evident.

One of Obasanjo’s key arguments is that Western democracy does not adequately consider the deep-rooted cultural and traditional values inherent in African societies. The emphasis on individual rights and freedoms in Western democracies may clash with communal values prevalent in many African communities. Obasanjo contends that a one-size-fits-all approach to governance does not account for the diversity of cultures across the continent, leading to a potential disconnect between the democratic ideals promoted and the lived experiences of African citizens.

In many African nations, tribal dynamics play a significant role in shaping political landscapes. Obasanjo highlights the importance of recognizing and navigating these dynamics when establishing governance structures. Western-style democracies, with their emphasis on party politics and majority rule, may not align seamlessly with the intricate web of tribal affiliations present in African societies. Obasanjo’s argument underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of power dynamics to ensure political stability and representation.

Obasanjo’s perspective gains further traction when considering the challenges African nations face in consolidating democratic principles. Issues such as corruption, electoral irregularities, and weak institutions have been persistent obstacles on the path to effective democratic governance. While Western democracies are not immune to these challenges, the solutions required in an African context may demand a more tailored and culturally sensitive approach.

The former president explained that the Western style of democracy failed in Africa because it did not consider the views of the majority of the people.

He stated this while delivering his keynote address at a high-level consultation on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa’ in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.

Obasanjo, the convener of the gathering, described Western liberal democracy as “a government of a few people over all the people or population and these few people are representatives of only some of the people and not full representatives of all the people.

”Invariably, the majority of the people are wittingly or unwittingly kept out, he said.”

He advocated for what he termed, ‘Afro democracy’ in place of Western liberal democracy.

According to him, African countries have no business in operating a system of government in which they have no hand in its “definition and design”

Obasanjo said, “The weakness and failure of liberal democracy as it is practised stem from its history, content and context and its practice.

“Once you move from all the people to a representative of the people, you start to encounter troubles and problems. For those who define it as the rule of the majority, should the minority be ignored, neglected and excluded?

“In short, we have a system of government in which we have no hands to define and design and we continue with it, even when we know that it is not working for us.

“Those who brought it to us are now questioning the rightness of their invention, its deliverability and its relevance today without reform.

“The essence of any system of government is the welfare and well-being of the people: all the people.

“Here, we must interrogate the performance of democracy in the West when it originated from and with us the inheritors of what we are left with by our colonial powers.

“We are here to stop being foolish and stupid. Can we look inward and outward to see what in our country, culture, tradition, practice and living over the years that we can learn from, adopt and adapt with practices everywhere for a changed system of government that will serve our purpose better and deliver?

“We have to think out of the box and after, act with our new thinking. You are invited here to examine clinically the practice of liberal democracy, identify its shortcomings for our society and bring forth ideas and recommendations that can serve our purpose better, knowing human beings for what we are and going by our experiences and the experiences of others.

“We are here to think as leaders of thought in academia and leaders of thought with some experience in politics.”

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