Saturday 10 February 2018


On the 9th of February, 2018, Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD) held a forum with theme 'Three decades of democratic transition in Africa' in Abuja. The event was chaired by Prof. Attaghiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The discussants were Profs. Ibrahim Abdallah, Jibrin Ibrahim and Boubacar N'Diaye. Ms. Jeannette Enoh was the only female panelist. I was invited in my capacity as Senior Fellow, CDD and distinct voice in civil society. My intervention made allusion to the fact that though democracy may not be the best form of government, it is preferable to any form of authoritarian rule. I would rather have African countries learn from their mistakes in imperfect democratic settings than in any military or fascist regime...

The trajectory of multi-party democracy in the last 30 years was traced, and the forum concluded that African countries fall into three strands viz;

*Countries working towards true democracy.
*Hybrid democracies - these are countries practicing a hybrid of democracy and authoritarianism. These countries follow the tenets of democracy, but are authoritarian in practice.
*The authoritarian states which are now conducting elections as a means of legitimising themselves in Africa.

Besides, the integrity of elections was identified as as a key factor in the stability and sustainability of democracy in Africa. We need to put democracy in perspective. What are the continental goals of democracy? After three decades, the following are noted:

*The silent majority remain unheard.
*Institutions remain weak and are not delivering democratic goods.
*Democracy is NOT equivalent to good governance.
*There's contradiction between democracy and capitalism.
*Certain peculiarities of the neo-liberal state cannot be brushed aside.
*Inclusive governance is a sine qua non for effective democracy. However, there are two major types of problem with inclusivity viz;
-Citizens who refuse to participate in the democratic process &
-Citizens who are prevented from participating in the democratic process.
*Frustration with the level of regression of democratic values should not in any way tempt us to consider the dangerous and nonviable option of military/authoritarian rule.
*There should be more reliance on taxation than dependence on the Extractive Industry for revenue generation.
*Prebendalism (money politics) needs to be curbed by strong institutions.
*Procedural democracy is not enough. It needs to transcend into substantive democracy that delivers the much needed democratic goods to the populace.

The consensus was that there is a clear nexus between procedural and substantive democracy to the extent that the former leads to the latter - with visible benefits for the average citizen... 

Related Links

*Review of 'Tyrant': Shakespeare on Power by Stephen Greeblatt        

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