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Monday, May 27, 2024

Gabon and the tragedy of Africa’s experiment with western models of governance

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“London Bridge is down” may be the code announcing the death of a monarch. “Olympus is down” was Hollywood’s creative equivalent. However, such slogans are dirges in their purest forms. Dirges are mournful songs deployed by human weakness, when loss makes a landfall.

One can imagine “Olympus has fallen”

Being the spontaneous lamentations of Ali Bongo’s epigones, as soldiers, sacked him from power in the early hours of the morning of August, 30, 2023; ending the five decade hold of this family on power.

53 years ago, the Bongo dynasty shot and macheted themselves into power, when Omar Bongo came to power in a military coup in 1967. He converted Gabon, into what Achebe would describe as a “corrupt and lawless fiefdom”, a personal plantation. He held tightly to power till he expired on the throne in 2009. His son Ali Bongo took up the reins of power, succeeding his father.

Election manipulations and irregularities, which has characterized the rule of the Bongos in Gabon, in August 2023, ended up becoming the explosive that blew up the citadels of their Olympian impunity. And that phrase “Olympus has fallen”, could well become a fitting epitaph for such political monstrosities, the likes of which Africa should hope never to confront again.

A military coup, staged by the Gabonese military; hitherto an institution, that supinely supported and acted as a bedrock of the Bongo dynastic misgovernance of Gabon, ended that 53-year dynasty, which has been a byword for corruption and venality.

It has been a festival of coups in Africa in recent times. Yesterday it was Mali. Burkina Faso followed suit. Then came Niger. It seems like the domino theory of the 1960s, deployed as a catchphrase for the Western Cold War against Communism, is now assuming a frightening reality in Africa south of the Sahara.

The dominos are falling! For some, it is long overdue. Something was primed to give. Th chickens they say, are coming home to roost. Many African politician sowed the wind. Now they are reaping the whirlwind.

The socioeconomic hardship has been excruciating, the hope promised millions in the continent have gone up in smoke, as hopelessness ruled the waves. Africa’s bulging youth population has been strangulated by that hopelessness. Poverty has been on geometric progression. The economic indices have tanked. Social unrest have been everywhere present as insecurity of lives and property rose to unprecedented levels across many countries in the continent.

Many saw no hope in the continent and it’s leadership. The politicians themselves showed no zest in confronting the myriads of challenges facing the continent. Some of them, simply cornered the commonweal, mismanages not only the economy but also the guardrails and institutions of state, responsible for protecting the common man, all in bid to corruptly remain in office. Some disemboweled the opposition, exiled dissenting voices, and killed journalists.

Now a string of coups, couched as popular uprising against old gods of neo-imperial provenance, and the new ones made up of greedy, visionless and slothful houseboys of imperialism, sitting across African presidential palaces are in the works

For others however, especially geostrategic wonks, the coups represent a security and economic threat to the Western powers, who have forever held sway over African politics.

But the fundamental problem has been that African political leadership from the Cape to Cairo, has been a cult of eminent mediocrity, populated by compromised characters, beholden to foreign vultures and local jackals, whose genetic vocation is cannibalizing the continent of all her resources, ripping her asunder to cause rivers of wealth flow into neo-imperial, and hypercapitalist coffers, while bequeathing pain, poverty and squalor to Africans.

This is why Africans troop to the streets to cheer, as brigades of military brigands unseat consortium of civilian thieves in the running battle for power, across the continent. They are venting their frustrations at promises unfulfilled, lives broken and dreams deffered. Not that the new saviors are better or come from another universe. They are cheering to hope. Hope is all we have got, if we are not to obey Albert Camus and commit suicide. It is only in Dante’s Inferno that we can abandon hope.

Chinua Achebe, while x-raying the Nigerian predicament, arrived at leadership as the central trouble with the country. One can apply that to the continent. The trouble with Africa is leadership. But that problem to way back and have colonial and neocolonial roots.

African states and boundaries were crimes, committed by European imperialism. Africans were committed, while being omitted. No African was consulted, as butchers from competing European imperialisms, sat down in 1885 Berlin, to divide a continent among their particularized savageries.

Africans were not considered human enough to sit at the table. This, together with all the quack philosophies concocted, and all the racisms created to that effect, excused every pestilence inflicted on them. So they were not worthy of being consulted in anyway or form. Decisions were made for them, since they were deemed hangovers of human evolutionary infancy. That infantilizing brutality was one of the greatest insults that was colonialism.

Colonial fiat ravaged African reality. It rearranged a continent on terms that sowed seeds of eternal conflict. Like they yoked slaves to chain-gangs and marched them from the hinterlands to the coasts, they roped different cultures, tongues and peoples and nations, into artificial creatures called nations, and disemboweled them for perpetual plunder.

These artificial contraptions, were never designed to function for the interests of the constituents. They were created for the exploiters gain and his sport. Created for exploitation, those nations were nothing but an amorphous collection of mutually colliding interests, with an ontology, which was nothing but a metaphysic of exploitation.

Imagined communities, and political scaffolds aping colonial reality, were hurriedly imposed upon the smouldering ruins, of a people, devastated by colonial imperialism.

A people, who took hundreds of thousands of years to commandeer their reality into obeying their wishes, in consultation with their environment, saw their gods, all sources of their social legitimacy, epistemic authority and every essence of their being and world, suddenly decapitated by the decimating force of the colonialist.

Colonialism was a deluge of trauma for the colonized. It ripped their world to shreds and imposed an unknown world on them, with the force of arms. It emasculated their ontology and being, devastated their epistemology and conceptual universe, and damaged their psychology and self confidence for all times.

It was on top of the vortex of violent upheavals, that strange bedfellows, with no similarities in culture or worldview, in one fell swoop, were yoked together in mutually exclusive unions designed to subdue, and divide-and-conquer them for eternal exploitation. Just like a sociopathic Farm-Hand, would a donkey and a carmel for his sociopathic sport.

It was on these ruins, this boiling cauldron of dissensions, this brewery of unease, that democracy was supposed to find its feet.

A democracy on the heels of centuries of brutal pacification, couched in foreign robes, language and culture, was definitely going to be foreign to our reality and was going to settle on our firmament as oil settles on water. It was never going to gain roots.

Added to that was the fact that colonial imperialism was only a lip service to democracy itself. We saw what they did. We saw that their governance of us, was an unending cycle of an exploitation of us. We learnt governance as exploitation at the colonial masters feet.

The colonial art of governance came speaking foreign languages. It came with a cudgel to bludgeon us to submission. It came as “Massa” which saw us as “apes that must obey”. It came as a rapist of our land and resources. It came as a destroyer of our bodies and an incinerator of all that we have cause to cherish in our traditional reality. It came offering useless palliatives, like a religion that bid us pray for our salvation and forgive our oppressors, instead of rising to kick them off our land.

It was never anchored in our reality, or our epistemology. It spoke power as a destructive force. It created prisons to put away opponents and those who protested the injustice of being ruled by someone, whom they welcomed into their land as strangers, but who turned around to shoot at them, and impose himself on them, in the name of a Queen Victoria, whom they have never seen, or known.

That was the language of power we learnt from colonialism. And that was the concept of power our politicians have been consulting and advertising across the continent since the colonial masters dumped their colonial robes and took up neo-colonial camouflages.

To advance in the conqueror’s new world order, we affected to the language, to the religion and to the system of government. They helped us subvert it to their gain and to our discomfiture, as the post independence elections showed. Any African who grew any backbone, and decided to take his country off that exploitative trajectory, was quickly decapitated by those, who supposedly given us independence. Ask Lumumba and Sankara!

As the wind of change ushered a new dawn, at the end of the Second World War, educated Africans clamoured to shake off imperial yokes hung round Africa’s neck for the past 600 years. The colonial masters, who unsurprisingly are pastmasters at intrigue, acquiesced in public, but burrowed underground behind the limelights, attached their suckers on the newly independent colonies, manipulated the elections, inserted their house-niggers, into positions of authority, and bid them continue delivering through subterfuge, what they in their heyday, took with audacious impunity.

This is why till date, most African leaders have been neo-colonial house-niggers, beholden to the Bretton wood institutions advancing Western corporate interests. Anyone who veers of that part got sent kegs of gunpowder to remind him, that independence was given, and that whoever gave you freedom is capable of taking it away. A lot of them got the Mossadeq treatment. The voice became Esau’s, but the hand remained Jacob’s. White Masks in Black Faces, Fanon called them.

In time, we learnt their savageries, and started applying them on ourselves and to our children. This is why up to this day, African power corridors, have continued to house congresses of scoundrels. This is why her sanctuaries of political authority have been stagnant reservoirs, hosting the worst flotsams, inhabiting her moral marshes. This explains why the sources of her sociopolitical legitimacy, have become a temple of rascals, and a den of robbers, where not only the golden calf of moral imbecility is worshipped; but also a place where political simonies, merge with iniquitous liturgies and fraudulent litanies, to wreak havoc on the entire society.

Here, politicians, who are supposed to be priests in the house of politics, became thieves in the sanctuary. Their vocation and ambition, became to steal the country blind, take food off the mouths of babes, and impose their inglorious strides on their firmament, all on behalf of their greed and cowardice

This is why Chinua Achebe lamented that the trouble with Nigeria, nay Africa is simply and squarely the failure of leadership. It lies necessarily in the failure of African leadership, to rise to the responsibility of personal example.

Suffice it to note that this has not been the leadership Africans have known, or desired. This crop of leaders were descendants of colonial houseboys, who learnt governance as the art of raping and sodomizing their subjects without Vaseline. Their forebears, learnt it firsthand from the colonial masters, sired and marinated them in it, so much so that it became etched in their political genes.

This is why most African experiments at democracy has failed woefully to live up to its promises. What passes for democracy in Africa since independence, has been a conspiracy of local and foreign neocolonialisms, to keep their avaricious trough filled to the brim, while the owners of the resources are forced at gun and bayonet-points, to emasculate themselves, watch in inaction, pray to impotent gods, as they watch hunger lull their children nightly to bed, with their futures certainly embezzled and eaten on the banquet tables of their local and foreign exploiters.

This explains why Coup d’ Etats are reemerging from the dark closets of our recent history.

Yesterday, it was in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Today, it is Gabon. Where next the domino falls, is not an Oracle that our furthest sight is privy to.

Is it Cameroon, where a mummified corpse has been in office since 1982? Or Nigeria, where a drug kingpin just stole the presidency, and pretending that he was elected,making mockery of all that is good, true and beautiful?

Some contestations, may conclude that Gabon happened because the Bongo dynasty has overstayed its welcome, having been in power for a better part of 53 long years, gathering all the residues, and alluvials of an overstay. But does that explain Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger?

Others may hold a view attesting to the final demise of France-Afrique neocolonialism of an expired empire, that still pretended to clout. But will that explain Nigeria, if it is to happen? Nigeria was not a French colony or neocolony.

I will argue that what explains the military vagabonds dressing themselves in salvatorial togas, to come masquerade as saviors once more, is the failure of the democratic experiment.

For sometime since after the defeat of the Fascists, and moreso during the long decades of the Cold War, democracy was elevated to the status of a dogma in western conceptual schemes and narratives. Moreso in Africa, where at the instance of imperial and neocolonial motives and designs, democracy was parceled out as the one quick solution to all sociopolitical maladies.

But events have shown this dogma meeting some of it’s toughest test in Africa. Poorly educated students of power, constantly abused democracy like adulterers fornicating to their hearts content. On their charges, democracy became reduced to periodic elections, which theyvprimed to steal ad nauseam and remain in office in defiance of the people’s will.

In office they deployed democracy as smokescreens to eviscerate popular resistance to the primitive thievery, which was their only manifesto. The people were pauperized and paralysed for good measure, as democracy became a crutch for thieves to stand upon, and crown themselves with the conscienceless shamelessness, required to steal and apportion the commonweal and the posterity of their nations to their private estates and that of their collaborators.

This is why the African masses have been erupting in joyous celebration as one set of political thieves are overthrown in one country after another.

But the big elephant in the room has always been that the soldiers have not been better. History has shown them as jackals, who chased the wolves away, not to save the lamb, but to feed on it themselves. They have been nothing but vagabonds, who chase away the common thieves, so that they can apropirate the stolen goods for themselves. Ask Sanni Abacha of Nigeria.

That has been the tragedy of Africa’ s Experiment with western models of governance.

The democracy we got, never incarnated into our metaphysic or epistemology. It has been a foreign body invading the bloodstream of our body politic. It has made our society sick. Did not give us uhuru or development. It empowered our thieves, who in our society of yore, were banished to the peripheries of social relevance.

This present spell of democratic governance in Africa, gave our worst elements pedestals from which in dishonor and disgrace, they had no compunctions, on celebrating orgies of incompetence, political cowardice and corruption.

It has not been uhuru.

This may not be the last coup in the continent. Only time will tell.

Gwazia Ndi yard unu!!

By Onyemaechi Ogbunwezeh

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