Why democracy “doesn’t work” for Africa


Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says democracy has not worked as a system of government in Africa because it was “forced” on the continent.

Obasanjo stated this on Monday in Abeokuta in his speech at a high-level consultation on “Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa.”

The former president said the Western style of democracy has failed in Africa because it does not take into account the opinions of the majority of the people.

He described Western liberal democracy as a “government of a few over the entire people or population.”

“These few people are representatives of only a part of the people and not full representatives of all the people.

“Invariably, most people were excluded, consciously or unconsciously. “That is why we should have an ‘Afro democracy’ instead of a Western liberal democracy.”

Obasanjo said African countries do not have to operate a system of government in which they have no say in its definition and design.

“The weakness and failure of liberal democracy as practiced stems from its history, content, context and practice.

“Once you go from all the people to the representatives of the people, you start to encounter difficulties and problems.

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“For those who define it as majority rule, 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 it is not working for us.

“Those who brought it to us now question the suitability of their invention, its deliverability and its relevance today without reform,” he said.

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Obasanjo explained that the essence of any system of government must be the welfare and well-being of the people.

“Here we must interrogate the performance of democracy in the West – where it originated – and with us, the heirs of what our colonial powers left us.

“We are here to stop being dumb and stupid. Can we look inward and outward to see what there is in our country, culture, tradition, practice and life over the years that we can learn from?

“(Something) we can adopt and adapt with practices everywhere for a modified system of government that better serves our purpose and delivers.

“We have to think innovatively and then act with our new way of thinking.

“You are invited here to clinically examine the practice of liberal democracy, identify its shortcomings for our society, and present ideas and recommendations that can better serve our purpose,” he said.

In his remarks, former Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi said liberal democracy in Africa faces many challenges.

Fayemi said improving people’s well-being remains important as democracy faces challenges in Africa.

“The lack of development outcomes for the people must be properly addressed so that democracy can achieve them,” he said.


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