For the past few weeks, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been passionately advocating for an Africa-based democracy, traveling across the continent and delivering speeches on the need for a governance model tailored to African contexts,leadership reports.

On Wednesday, he continued his campaign at an event in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Obasanjo argued that the key to addressing the numerous challenges facing democracy in Africa lies in re-examining the colonial-era models of governance inherited by African nations. He believes that the Western-style democracy adopted by most African countries post-independence has failed to address the unique socio-cultural and economic realities of the continent.

Obasanjo urged African leaders to come together and create a contextual democracy that reflects Africa’s rich cultural heritage, addresses contemporary challenges, and emphasizes good leadership, strong institutions, and a stable middle class. He contended that the one-size-fits-all approach to democracy, modeled largely after Western liberal traditions, is inadequate for addressing the specific challenges of African societies.

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Expressing concern over the growing discontent with democracy on the continent, Obasanjo proposed that a model tailored to Africa’s predominant political systems would better serve the objectives of its people.

This raises important questions about the nature of African-centric democracy. Is it characterized by strong leaders and weak institutions, as seen in many African nations? Or is it a model that truly empowers the people, fostering accountability, transparency, and good governance?

Examining Obasanjo’s definition of African democracy prompts a reflection on Nigeria’s political landscape. Since 1999, which Nigerian politician, including Obasanjo himself, has genuinely acted in the people’s interest? When the military relinquished power in 1999, Obasanjo had a prime opportunity to set Nigeria on a prosperous path. He established agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but often used them to target political opponents, missing the chance to create lasting positive change due to self-serving decisions.

It’s bold but necessary to assert that less than 5 percent of Nigerian politicians act for altruistic reasons. Most are driven by self-interest, with the notion of serving the people often reduced to mere rhetoric for garnering votes.

What exactly is this Afro-centric democracy Obasanjo envisions? Is it about leaders who cling to power indefinitely, as exemplified by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (43-year rule), Paul Biya of Cameroon (40-year rule), Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo (38-year rule), Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (36-year rule), and Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea (29-year rule)? Are these the models of Afro-centric democracy?

The truth is, if not for the two-term constitutional limit, many African leaders would prefer to stay in power indefinitely. The allure and perks of office often make them desire lifelong presidencies, finding eight years insufficient.

So far, we lack good examples of the Afro-democracy Obasanjo advocates.

However, I agree with Obasanjo that we shouldn’t blindly adopt Western-style democracy. Our cultures are different, and this should inform our governance style.

Obasanjo also noted the resurgence of military coups in Africa, which is true. Yet, military rule hasn’t proven to be better than civilian governance in Africa.

Ultimately, Africans desire simple yet fundamental needs from their government: security, a strong economy, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. They want the power to choose their leaders at all levels and expect these leaders to respect constitutional term limits and the rule of law, leaving behind strong institutions rather than strong leaders.

Obasanjo’s call for an African-based democracy is valid, but it requires concrete proposals and a clear roadmap. It can’t be just another rhetoric paying lip service to good governance while perpetuating nepotism, corruption, and disregard for the rule of law.

If Obasanjo and other African leaders are serious about establishing a truly African-centric democracy, they must confront hard truths and make tough decisions. They must prioritize the people’s interests over personal or political gains, fostering an environment that promotes transparency, accountability, and the protection of fundamental human rights. Only then can the dream of an African-based democracy that genuinely serves the people be realized.


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