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Why democracy has failed to improve Africans’ living conditions, by Obasanjo


Founder, Benthrust Foundation, Jonathan Oppenheimer (left); former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Ambassador Godknows Igali, and Chief Executive, Benthrust Foundation, Dr. Greg Mills, at the presentation of Democracy Works co-authored by Mills, Obasanjo, Jeffrey Herbst and Tendai Biti in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo has offered insights into why African democracies have failed to improve living conditions of people on the continent.Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of a book titled: Democracy Works, he attributed the situation to population growth in most countries, which has increased five per cent, except Niger with population growth of 10 per cent.

Obasanjo, who co-authored the book, declared that by 2030, Nigeria’s population will hit 415 million, and would become world’s third largest country, yet employment and entrepreneurship are still lacking.“Population is an asset, but if Africans could develop its economy and give the people what they need. If we do not, we will be in serious trouble on the continent. These issues must be addressed.

“Governance must be based on modern ideology of poverty alleviation, as democracy entails participation and economic life of countries,” he stated.Speaking further, President Obasanjo maintained that democratic governance varies from country to country, and in contents and context, citing America, which adopts Electoral College system.

In Nigeria, he said a presidential candidate must score majority votes, and 25 per cent votes cast in 2/3 of states of the federation, adding that elections must reflect the people’s will.Responding, a Co-Author, Dr. Grey Mills, commended Africans, especially Nigerians for contributing towards democratisation of South Africa and other democratic countries on the continent.

Mills, therefore, added that Africa has gone through transition starting from 1950-1960, 1980-1990, but that today the picture is different, as the continent boosts of free countries.“We conducted over 300 interviews before writing the book, which is one of the best sellers in the world, and as a result, there is increase in democratic countries in Africa today.“Some countries have consolidated and improved on their governance, based on empirical evidence, while others have coups and counter-coups, but majority of African countries need democracy,” he added.

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Olusegun Obasanjo
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