Democracy represents freedom; it represents choice, and it represents oneness. Over time, one definition somehow stuck – “Democracy is government of the people, made by the people and for the people”. For some countries across the world, the beginning of democracy was a breath of fresh air. It meant breaking the people loose from the reign of totalitarian governments. To others, it meant an end to the subjection of the military government. It meant civilians could rule civilians. Democracy has made sure countries successfully moved from military rule, colonial control, apartheid, and authoritarianism to more dynamic, and decentralized societies.
In Africa, Democracy majorly stood for independence, justice, autonomy, and a whole lot of peace. For countless years, in democratic African nations, people have voted and chosen their leaders. For the better part of it, amidst the possible corruption and malpractices in the electoral processes, they have come as a people to vote for change and vote for progress. Statistics show that the development of the educational system, under a democratic government, actually enhances the progress of any country. It enhances political freedom, liberalization and much more. Democracy certainly has done a whole lot of good.
However, a second look into democracy would bring some flaws to light. The thing about democracy is that it does not necessarily, and in most cases, select the best person for the job. It simply gives the crown to the person who happens to be the general favourite at that time. In the real sense, knowing the right person for the job is highly subjective and extremely arguable. Basically, democracy just makes the job of selection easier and much peaceful. Then again, on what basis do people vote in their candidates? Is it because of the sweet promises the person has made or is it because of the person’s track record?
Forgive me when I say that in the African terrain, there are a million and one reasons people vote and most are not tied to the objective of the country or state. We vote because we want the individual from our country or state to win or simply because we don’t want somebody from a certain tribe to rule over us. America’s recently concluded election left so many people in shock. Who votes in a racist, amongst others, over a really good politician? The answers? Well, there are those who want him in because he is just like them. There are also those who would not have a woman rule over them, and those who just like crazy, maybe.
Although Africa is yet to vote in an “ex-stripper” for a first lady, its inherent flaws have made democracy much less effective and slightly worrisome. Illiteracy, ignorance, tribalism, nepotism, class prejudice, and selfishness; has made democracy too biased. The electorate who distributes little sums of money or food to lure voters in, has a better chance of winning than the one with a laid down blueprint for changing the nation. The politician who has a stake in my industry is more likely to get my vote because he would ‘probably’ introduce policies that would favour me.
Again, while every country using a democratic system would be susceptible to this bias, the problem is far greater in Africa because not much can be done to change our already restricted mentalities. Besides, we can’t blame the hungry man for voting for his stomach first. Somehow, in the midst of all these, Africa has had a good number of great presidents and still does. As long as a fatal mistake isn’t made like ‘some other nations’, we can only hope for the best and wait for the time when the people can make better decisions and for better reasons as well.