By Angela Atabo
The Electoral Forum, a multidisciplinary strategic think-tank on governance and accountability, has tasked African leaders to ensure accountability in governance toward strengthening democracy on the continent.
The Chairman of the forum, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, said this at the Expert Convening on Democracy in West Africa, with the theme “Rethinking Liberal Democracy in the Face of Citizen’s Discontent and an Emergent Military Wave in West Africa.
Olukoshi said it was time for the region to reflect on the state of the democratisation in West Africa, particularly against the backdrop of recent setbacks that the sub region had experienced.
“This is not just in the form of military coup d’état, but also more generally, in the context of the apparent failure of the elected government to deliver on the promise, both of genuine democratisation and development of progress for our country and our people.
“The democratic ideal is part and parcel of the consciousness of every nation and people in this world. The issue is not that people don’t like democracy ;there is no body or society that prefers to live under a non-democratic system as compared to a democratic system.
“ We understand democracy to be a process that involves participation, that involves checks and balances on power, that involves a broad representation, or the concerns and aspirations of the people.
“It is not to say that we must copy ,but we must invent our own systems. We have spent too much time trying to copy others rather than thinking through our own history,” he said.
Olukoshi said that Nigeria had systems of governance that were based on checks and balances and participation before the advent of colonialism.
“Some people came and you know, imposed their own model, which is in fact a grafting of other people’s experience into our historical context and we have paid quite a fairly high price for that copycat approach to governance.
“So first of all, we need to free ourselves from the inherited wisdom about what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.
Prof. Adele Jinadu , a political scientist and member of the forum ,said that the root cause of declining democracy in Africa was lack of accountability by political parties and leaders.
“Political parties have been anti-democratic and they are the major threat to democracy in Africa today.
“One major way-forward is to keep on raising consciousness among our peoples about their responsibilities. We need to go beyond talking about our democracy in terms of the rights of the citizens.
“We should move forward and start talking about democracy in terms of the obligation and the duty of the citizen to the state.
“We feel that once you raise the consciousness of the people, then they will be more aware of their responsibility to hold the political class accountable,” he said.
Prof. Antonia Simbine, the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), said the major challenge with democracy in Africa was the discontent with governance arising from the plight of the people recession and the world economy.
“People are not satisfied. They need more from their governments in terms of service delivery, improvements in living standards and their peace and security.
“I think a lot of governments are not responding to these needs, it’s not that they don’t want to do things better. They are actually also constrained by the difficulty of the world economic situation.
“So it will take a better, more nuanced approach, strategy to deploy the little that is available in order to either get more resources or reach many more people,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),reports that the programme was organised by the Electoral Forum with support from the MacArthur Foundation with the aim of assessing the state of democracy in West Africa.
This was against the background of the military coup experienced by the West African in recent times with Niger, Mali and Bukina Faso quitting the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).(NAN)
Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa