By Olufunke Cole
The just concluded electoral charade in Uganda where the veteran president, Yoweri Museveni secured the sixth term in office has eloquently confirmed the words of Steve Biko, the Apartheid freedom fighter, in his vivid description of Africa’s sociopolitical anthropology and their home-grown type of democratic leadership which is absolutely a focal point and true reflection of our political lifestyle and depreciation. In spite of metaphorical inclination of most of African countries to democracy, that we have assumed appreciable level of liberty is still a mirage. This brings to the fore that Africans have failed abysmally to conquer fear which has been their greatest enemy in order to take their destiny in their own hands. The Apartheid freedom fighter asserted, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. It may be safely deduced that freedom is usually near when the heart becomes receptive to its rules. Uganda needs a change from a tyrannical system whose assumption of political pattern does not in anyway follow the rule of law especially in accordance with its operational modus operand.
Any wonder why African leaders have decisively embraced the Machiavellian method of politics? Well, our refusal to embrace love even in our diversity makes it unrealistic to comprehend the methodology of democratic values. Although, I may not be pleased with the sufficient details to adduce the reasons why Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka, Bobi Wine, couldn’t defeat that, “paymaster” because the reasons sound untenable to an avid reader and observant of political upheavals. How do you justify the lust for power that Africans have generally accepted as a way of politics? It becomes irrepressible to affirm that despite the fact that we learnt politics from our former colonial masters, we have refused to master the art of politiking. Of course and inestimably, we have adorned the use of force in our political expedition in this part of the world as if we have automatically become alien to civilisation.
African leaders have an unenviable penchant for clinching to power even when it dawns on them that they have become unpopular. Truth be told, it has become a clog in the wheel of development in the African continent. Let’s take a peep into the case of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast, who couldn’t exit the stage when the ovation became the loudest. It was until he was forced out of power with its attendant humiliation that he came to realise that power is transient. I keep asking myself if these African leaders had it in their intention ab initio to transit from the seats to the graves. Anyway, the sit-tight agenda has become a norm in Africa. we have other African leaders who have followed suit, talk of Mobutu Sese Seko of of former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Paul Biya of Cameroon and the rest. It has undoubtedly become the a norm for virtually most of them to hang on to power in order to consolidate all state powers to themselves to the point where they become despots and dictators who don’t brook any opposition.
Inveterate lying, political intrigues, intimidation and brinksmanship have dominated our electoral process. If we are to considerably evaluate the impoverished political pattern, that of Uganda towed, (the temporal Internet blackout and subsequent and perpetual House arrest of opposition), one would not be forced to indicate that election in Africa cannot be placed on estimated value. In actual fact, we are fast losing out on political dichotomy and engagements. Whatever the case it is, we are still as primitive as what is presented in the book, The State in Africa, by Jean-Francois Bayart.
Our political progenitors do not indicate that of class where views of the populace are respected and adhered. It has been marred/characterised with violence, uprising, fraudulence, incompetence, rigging and manipulation.
Is it any wonder Yoweri Museveni has secured the the presidential seat for the 6th time? The agony or irony of it is that he has emerged a force to be reckoned with which makes it easy for him to ride rough-shod on the people, just as his first son upholds the title of the chief commander of the Armed Forces. In fairness to democracy, we are still in the bottom rung of the ladder because getting our priorities right remains a mirage.
Whether the political antecedents of Bobi Wine was enough to sustain a democratically elected candidate in a democratic office may not be an analysis that I would like to delve in, but for the fact that Uganda needs to break the jinx of preserving a “Methuselah” for life. Like in the words of Bobi Wine, Museveni’s failures have been typically displayed on the poverty level of majority of the citizens, “We are the generation that was created by Museveni’s failures – Poverty. There is no chance for a good education, growing up in the ghettos with no opportunities..” Africa needs to revisit the handbook that was handed over to them on the features of politics and democracy, and, until, this is done, we may continue to parade dictators as leaders whose belly becomes their centre of gravity.
-Olufunke Cole is a Doctoral student, Department of History, University of Lagos