By Mwalimu George Ngwane
The collapse of the Berlin wall in Germany and before it the Apartheid wall in South Africa and the Iron Curtain in Russia must have shaken the foundation of the neo-liberal wall in Obama’s America today.
The flurry of appointments by President Barack Obama across party ideological divide would have to inspire powercrats in Africa to rethink the rationale of unchecked party bigotry that has given birth to powercracy, leadership tenacity syndrome and state atrophy in our continent.
For many years, America has stood out as a veritable paragon of neo-liberal Western democracy fathering two party polarities (Democratic and Republican) before Ross Perot popularized the Reform party brand name.
Power contestations and appointments in America were premised on an iron-cast party divide to the extent of submerging other political identities like the Catholic versus Protestant dichotomy and the Black versus White race relations.
Barack Obama’s vision for a United States of America makes bold the assertion that a nation can only forge ahead if its leadership focuses on professional competence not party dogma.
Obama’s vision is arguably an extended metaphor of Martin Luther King Jr’s “content of character not colour of the skin” epithet and the tenets of the constitution of America. Simply put, Obama is interested in a “coalition government” or what political scientists are quick to describe within Africa’s democratic entitlement as “power-sharing governments” or “governments of National Unity”.
But how does Obama’s coalition experiment relate to the democratic and development conundrums in Africa?
First, power-sharing governments in Africa are constructed more out of political expediency than professional expertise; they are construed as response mechanisms to electoral misconduct and conflict management rather than recipes for sustainable democracy and visionary leadership; they are steeped in condescending patronage with the tell-tale tincture of elite compensation rather than a nationalistic bonding with the democratic dividends of collective development.
In the years of yore, Africa’s pre-colonial governance architecture was founded on a palaver theory, an under the tree paradigm and a consensual democratic framework that laid emphasis on party-blind loyalty not blind party loyalty.
With multiparty liberalization reemerging in most of Africa in the late 80’s, a warped interpretation of party ideological warfare became prominent.
Since then most political parties have become conduits for civil service career mobility, bias resource allocation, ethnic chauvinism, and the primitive accumulation of public wealth.
The rigid yet fragile walls of party caucuses have refused to accommodate the latent wealth of innovative inventions and competence capacity except with an attendant reciprocated party kow-towing. In the end, even without clear-cut party programs, free but fraudulent elections are being bandied as benchmarks of the dynamics of democracy at the expense of long-term development agendas that arise from broad-based discussions and party-proof political leverages.
Second, while the walls of developed countries, of Latin America and of Asia are now dovetailing into continental integrationist webs, the brick colonial walls in Africa are being consolidated by the barbed wires of national sovereignties and the steel gates of parochial citizenship.
The 12th summit of the African Union that just ended (4th February 2009) in Addis Ababa has once again opened the floodgates of skepticism and despair as to whether the goal of a United States of Africa would ever be attained with the calibre of African powercrats presently invading our leadership space.
Less than twenty of the fifty-three Heads of State attended the summit. The discourse on the need for a fast-track and multi-layered United States of Africa was concluded as usual on the compromise resolution of changing the name “African Union Commission” to “African Union Authority” and the name “Commissioners” to American-styled “Secretaries of states”. This does not meet with the aspirations of the African people and the tentative road map of the African Union Government which was supposed to be established between 2006-2009. Thanks to the combined revolutionary dogged persistence of Muammar Gadaffi and Abdoulaye Wade the African Union summit at least rekindled some hope among us.
The “gradualist” Heads of State who are paradoxically radical in constitutional tinkering and electoral misdemeanor in their respective countries spent most of our resources casting aspersions on the revolutionary proponent of a United States of Africa –Muammar Gadaffi; they spent precious time conjuring their perceived suspicion of Gadaffi’s hidden agenda; indeed they engaged in an epic overkill of Eurocentric neo-colonial anti-Gadaffi diatribe. Fifty years ago, the same spurious invectives were cast at Kwame Nkrumah until he was finally overthrown. The only thing we seem to have learned from history is that we have learnt nothing at all.
Is the United States of Africa project synonymous to Nkrumah or Gadaffi? Why do our African Heads of State glue themselves to national sovereignty only when a United Africa idea comes up when indeed most of Africa has surrendered their sovereignties to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to the point that each time the Western economy sneezes, African economies catch a cold? Why do our “national” Heads of State rope themselves into colonial bondages even to the point of nationalizing our Independence heritage to Asian countries whose economic growth was at parity or lower than ours at the dawn of our Independence but refuse to yield to the idea of an economic market in Africa built on a common citizenship?
A golden opportunity to fully discuss the theme of the 12th summit of the African Union ( Infrastructure Development in Africa) which itself is part of the package for the free movement of people, services and goods was sacrificed on the altar of personality rivalry and the bankruptcy of a collective political will. And the IMF prophets of doom and their lackeys now predict that Africa’s economic growth shall plummet from 6% to less than 4% in the coming years.
Because of these national and transnational walls without borders, an orgy of intra-state and inter-state conflicts is once more gaining currency in Africa and our follower democracies are rapidly being transformed into fertile anocracies.
At a time when Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are fast bridging the digital divide in the world, Indigenous Competence Theories (ICT) must be allowed to bridge the mentality divide in Africa.
For, as long as incompetence and inertia are shielded under pious party pontifications, as long as party triumphalism is identified only with colourful party uniforms, the culture of ululation and the ruling versus opposition party tirade, as long as we continue to insulate these colonial boundaries from becoming pan African bridges, the macro walls of our military-civilian states risk being broken down by the thunder of marshal music or the lightening of people power. And the grotesque picture of Africa being the wound in the flesh of humanity shall remain; war without end.