By Youma Nana
Western model of political organisations and how its rituals return peaceful outcomes
I belong to a school of thought which believes that African societies should define their own political model. I am very comforted that discussions especially with many in the young intellectual elite lead to a consensus that the time has come for a departure from received wisdom about Western political institutions being the norm across the continent. Comforting as those conversations end up being for the ability of Africans to take intellectual ownership of their own societies, for now, the Western model of competing political organisations squaring up for power through the ballot box (and unfortunately the bullet at times), is for now the norm.
Yet, there seems at times that those who are enamoured with Western model of political organisations, are totally oblivious to its nuances and how its inner workings ensure that the many rituals of political activity return peaceful outcomes.
Here, I will try to encourage beleaguered oppositions across the continent, who in their frustration to have been denied power, end up acting as bad losers and persist in this counter-productive attitude, which paralyses the very democracy that they claim to want to uphold.
In November 2008, Barack Obama became the President of the USA, and his democratic party reigned supreme in the USA’s political arena. The democrats controlled a majority in both chambers of the Congress. Obama’s rock star status across the World, and his promises of change should have meant that the Republicans were sent into political oblivion.
Yes, some people in the USA made petty gestures to show their resentment for his election, but on the whole, the Republican party picked itself up and within two years, as a result of the ill-thought out and ideologically driven Obama Care bill some argue, and also the Obama’s effect starting to wear off, the Republicans were able to inflict severe pain to the Democrats, in a spectacular reversal of political fortunes. This has since led them to waging a lot of power and paralysing at times the Obama’s administration whose legacy will have to be written with this Republican recovery born in mind.
Who could have imagined that the buoyant Nicolas Sarkozy would be a one term only president in France? Certainly not those who observed his steady and carefully crafted rise and rise to the inevitable moment when in 2007, he was sworn in at the Elysee Palace. He was replacing his nemesis Jacques Chirac, his once mentor who had stood in the way of Sarkozy’s ambitions in every way he possibly could to punish him for having betrayed him in the 90s when he himself became President in an election which should have seen him suffer a severe defeat.
Yet, in May 2012, Francois Hollande who had never held a ministerial portfolio in France and had been much criticised as leader of the Socialist party, especially after Lionel Jospin’s humiliating defeat in 2002, would oust the formidable Sarkozy. And who would believe that three years later, despite facing criminal charges for embezzlement, Sarkozy would be back at the helm of the Les Republicains (French Conservative party), and very likely to square it up with Hollande again in 2017? Is it a miracle?
Instead of claiming that the pinnacle of his political career had been rigged by the Westminster united, the three main parties, and the mainstream British press, on the morning after the lost Scottish referendum, Alex Salmond delivered an inspiring speech in which he reiterated the goal that Scotland would be an independent nation one day. The Scottish Nationals quickly proceeded to install Nicola Sturgeon who had been working under Salmond’s wings for years, as their new leader. She conducted an amazingly powerful anti-austerity and anti-Establishment (as if she did not represent the Establishment herself) campaign at the subsequent general election. This certainly paid off as, in the morning of the May 8, 2015, to add insult to the many defeats that labour had faced in England, it had to face its near wipe out in Scotland. The SNP entered Westminster as conquerors, and they are steadily bringing back the question of another referendum on the political agenda, whilst continuing to fight for more power to be devolved to Scotland from Westminster. The Scottish lion had certainly roared back from its defeat six months before.
I hope that this article will have been thought provoking for some of the political elite in opposition parties in Africa, whose frustrations are sometimes aired in very counter-productive ways, which are starting to alienate the electorate and play right in the hands of those they are seeking to unseat. This is especially aimed at the Ivorian opposition, which I am familiar with, and that I must declare having been a part of, until I decided to divorce myself from political partisanship. There are many more events happening in the near future, and how you behave on day one of the proclamation of your adversary’s victory, will stay in the public’s imagination, and could help or hinder your chances to seize power in the future. The future only belongs to those who live in the present. Emotions have to be expressed in politics, as politics is everywhere and affects us all in very profound ways. Letting emotions guide you when devising political strategies is, however, not a proven strategy for recovery from defeat. If we are still going to operate according to Western models of political organisations, let us understand their ramifications and get inspired by those moments of recovery, as they are probably the best ones to experience after a bruising defeat.