Africa has no business adopting a system that it played no part in designing, Nigeria’s former leader has said
Western democracy has failed to function as a system of government in Africa because it was imposed by colonial powers, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Monday.
He made the remarks at a conference on “rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa” held at the Olusegun Obasanjo presidential library in the Ogun State capital, Abeokuta.
The former president defined Western liberal democracy as a “government of a few people over all the people or population” that neglects the views of the majority. This governance system was designed without taking African history and multicultural complexities into account, he added.
“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 that it is not working for us,” Obasanjo said, proposing an “Afro-centered democracy” tailored to the needs of the continent.
“We must interrogate performance of democracy in the West – where it originated from – and with us the inheritors of what we are left with by our colonial powers,” he insisted.
Nigeria transitioned from military rule in 1999, marking the start of the country’s longest uninterrupted democratic government since its independence from Britain in 1960.
Obasanjo first served as the military head of state of Africa’s most populous nation from 1976–1979 before becoming president of the civilian administration from 1999–2007.
The present Nigerian government, in response, has blamed the ex-leader for the country’s current system, claiming he had a direct role in its adoption.
“Obasanjo ought to know that he brought this thing into Nigeria. He was the one who made us adopt it in 1979,” Bayo Onanuga, a Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, told The Punch newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.
“He [Obasanjo] must have seen it as expensive and unsuitable when he governed us for eight years and even wanted an extension for another four years,” Onanuga added.
Obasanjo’s criticism comes as the continent is plagued by political instability, fueled by military coups in response to the alleged failures of democratic leaders to perform. In the last three years, eight coups have occurred in West and Central Africa, the most recent in the former French colonies of Niger and Gabon.
President Tinubu, who currently chairs the 15-nation West African regional bloc ECOWAS, has vowed to strengthen the group’s commitment to democracy, which he has described as the best form of governance.