LESSONS FROM 2016 ELECTIONS IN AFRICA

Lawan Hamidu, Abuja

Former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan (middle) with other election observers.

December 9th, 2016 is the sixth time since March 2015, when an incumbent president of an African country would loose an election and conceded defeat, a complete departure from the western views regarding Africans as amateurs in the practice of democracy.

Contrary to this jaundiced and naive concept, the elections held since March 2015 in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Central African Republic, Comoros, Ghana and the Gambia have proved the peddlers of these views wrong.

Though the presidential election in the Gambia is yet to be concluded in the light of the latest challenge by incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, hopes are high for a swift, peaceful and conclusive resolution following the intervention in the impasse by the Presidents of Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leon.

For a fact, democracy was believed to have emanated from Western Countries. However, long before the concepts of democracy were adopted in the West, many empires, kingdoms and caliphates existed in Africa.

These include the Sokoto Caliphate, Kanem-Borno Empire, the Benin Kingdom, Oodua Kingdom, Ashanti Empire and Mali Empire, to mention but a few. These ancient caliphates, empires and kingdoms had an organised systems of administration with which they ruled themselves, long before European countries colonised Africa.

Evidently, in each of the African countries where elections have held, the build up to the elections were rife with tensions and dooms-day prediction of break-ups but citizens of the respective countries shamed the prophets of doom by coming out of the elections unruffled.

Africans salute the nationalism, patriotism and give due credit to former Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Boni Yayi of Benin republic and Dramani Mahama of Ghana, among others, who proved to the whole world that the unity of their respective countries supersedes their individual political ambitions.

Moreover, in the last six elections across Africa, citizens of each of the countries have clearly demonstrated an uncanny commitment to the tenets of democracy. Elections and security agencies also maintained a neutrality that helped to pave the way for acceptable and credible elections, devoid of any litigation.

The level of political awareness and desire for democratic participation among Africans is equally noteworthy and at an all time high.

With each election that has passed, Africans have shown a dedication to choose their leaders and reserve the right to change any government that they believe is not performing optimally, through the power of their vote at the ballot box, rather than by riots and political gimmicks, witnessed in the so-called advanced democracies.

Of more significance is the huge responsibilities that goes with the elected officials on how to fulfil their electoral promises in line with the aspirations of their citizens who gave them the mandate.

Obviously, the tasks are enormous. The citizens are desirous of progressive change. This would mean absolutely nothing unless it translates to better living conditions and ultimately national development.

It is instructive however, that the lessons derived from those elections have put politicians and elected officials throughout Africa on their toes and continues to serve as a reminder that the governance of African nations will no longer be business as usual.

Accountability and transparency in governance are now demanded as the cornerstone of each elected or appointed political office holders. Africa’s empowered citizens and strengthened electorate demand no less of their officials.

The future elections on the continent of Africa will undoubtedly, build on the 2016 successes, with new and younger faces as leaders of today and indeed, tomorrow.

A resounding testament that the era of “sit-tight leadership” in Africa is over for good.