Why democracy is not leading to devt in Africa, by NIIA scholar, Otubanjo
Research Professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos State, Prof. Femi Otubanjo, has lamented that democracy in Africa has not helped to attain goals of development on the continent.
Speaking, yesterday, on the theme, ‘Democracy and Development in a changing world,’ at a seminar to unveil the renovated NIIA conference chamber funded by the Republic of Korea, Otubanjo said given the experience of the last 60 years, the chances that democracy will lead to development in most African countries will remain very slim.
“Democracy has not helped Africa to attain the goals of development because elected governments have, generally, transformed into oligarchies and autocracies. This transformation breeds corruption, stagnation and waste of resources and opportunities.
“The people are excluded from the conception, process and outcomes of development. The so-called representatives disconnect from the people as soon as they are elected. If the people do not have a say in how they are governed, the trajectory of poverty and underdevelopment cannot be altered,” he said.
Noting that poverty will continue to breed alienation, instability, insecurity and terrorism, the international affairs analyst said democracy in Africa has excluded people from core democracy participation.
He said: “Yes, they vote but only because they are mobilised to give legitimacy to their oppressors. Voting has become a mechanistic way of assisting political oligarchs to transfer power among themselves.
“For democracy to be a midwife of positive development, there must be genuine grassroots participation. What is usually called grassroots participation in our climes is the arrogant, condescending attempt at the mobilisation of people for specific purposes such as rallies. This is what is described as artificial grassroots.
“It goes without saying that we need mass education genuine economic empowerment, unrelenting enlightenment and accountable leaders to get the kind of elections that elect representatives, who will make democracy work for our development.”
“The message here is that if we don’t get our democracy right, we would not get our development right. Since there is no guarantee that other forms of government will serve us better, our common goal in a ruthless and volatile international system must be to seek democracy in its best form.”
Speaking on South Korea’s experience, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Kim Young Chae, said the democracy was consolidated after the Candlelight Revolution between 2016 and 2017, which protested against government’s inability, nepotism and corruption.
He said: “The mass protests proceeded peacefully and the president was impeached and ousted. Consolidating on democracy in Korea, there is now free and fair election, peaceful transfer of power. Political leaders are held accountable and citizens are guaranteed freedom and human rights.”
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, said the current administration is determined to attract foreign direct investment and provide enabling environment for investors in the country.
According to him, bilateral talks between President Muhammadu Buhari and President of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Yoon Suk Yeol, at the sidelines of Buhari’s recent visit to Seoul for the first World Bio Summit, alludes to the close and friendly ties between both countries and the desire for increased cooperation. This is in addition to the signing of a Memoranda of Understanding between Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and Daewoo for revitalisation of the Kaduna Refinery.
He said: “There is no better time for global solidarity and collaboration between both countries than now, especially as the world witnesses global challenges that have shaken the foundation of countries. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, and its consequent political and economic outcomes have only exacerbated the debilitating impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic on countries.
“Nigeria-South Korea relations have undergone significant improvement since 1980 in the areas of trade and economic relations, security and alliance formations, diplomatic and political collaborations, and socio-cultural interconnections.
“However, both countries still need to explore closer political, diplomatic and economic ties, as a result of the significant mutual economic interests they share. There exist opportunities for a deepening of ties, and increased trade relations between both countries as Nigeria welcomes Korean businesses and investments.
“Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Nigeria and the Republic of Korea in February 1980, Nigeria has been one of the most important friends of Korea on the African continent. Nigeria is also a key trading partner of Korea, having displaced South Africa as the Republic of Korea’s largest trading partner in Africa. Trade volume between both countries reached over $1.5 billion as at June 2022, in spite of the pandemic and limited trading opportunities.”