It is very tempting to just give up on African politics, the politicians and all they stand for. It is very tempting to just say, I will not vote again, I will not care who is my member of parliament, senator, governor or even president for they always disappoint and we all feel used and tricked by them. When it comes to election time, they use the sweetest words, to gain my vote. They will talk give me stories of prosperity, stories of success, stories of hope, stories of a new age, stories of a bright future, stories that will make me believe, that my country, my continent, is destined for greater heights and that we shall no more hear of stories of poverty, death and destruction. As an African voter, we strongly believe in that stories that they give us, we buy into the grand picture that they paint for us while asking for our votes, and we can hardly wait to vote for ‘our man’ or ‘our son’. We get so engrossed into it, such that we are willing to even fight for them, not because we are evil, not because we hate each other so much, but because we are drank with the sweet wine that they give us to drink, that gets into our heads so much that we do despicable things to one another. Then voting day comes, and whoever wins, whether by corrupt means, whether by genuine means, however it is that they win, THEY WIN. The African voter waits then for the promises given, visions shown to be a reality. We wait and wait and wait…NOTHING!
The wine that the African voter has been drinking, is over, and the drunkenness subsides, the hangover begins, the headaches begin, the sensitivity to light begins, everything becomes so noisy, and reality sets in. It comes in slowly at first, a memory here a memory there, the things we did while drunk begin to haunt us. The neighbours we fought, the property we destroyed, but worst of all, THE LEADER WE CHOSE! His true colours begin to show, and we realize that all he wanted was to get into power, he was willing to tell us all we wanted to hear just to get our vote. So we are left bitter, angry, hopeless, visionless, with no one to shepherd us to the promised land. We spend the next years complaining, arguing bitterly, calling the politician names, all the while he gets himself and his cronies rich. For he knows that he will sell to us the same wine that he sold us in the next elections. He knows that the African voter will be so thirsty, will be so willing to do anything to get a sip of the sweet wine, including voting the non-performing politician back in, for another term.
This vicious cycle is repeated over and over and over again. The African Voter gets so frustrated and it is then I say that to hell with politics, to hell with politicians and to hell with the elections. At this point, just before giving up, I remember a quote by Kenya’s retired president Daniel Arap Moi, “siasa mbaya maisha mbaya” (translated, bad politics means bad life). This statement means exactly that! At any one time when the politics in any particular country is not for the benefit of the its citizenry, the country does not develop and its people suffer greatly. I do not need to give the many examples of the many wrongs that the world’s dictators have done to so many.
This article is meant to give reasons why the African Voter should not give up on politics and I will give 2 main reasons:
I) AFRICA IS CHANGING, THE PACE MAY BE SLOW BUT ITS CHANGING:
There are times when I could name all the African presidents and that was mainly because they were the same people who led their country’s independence movements, and took over from the colonialist masters and held on to the reigns of power. Either that or they were as a result of coups and were mainly military leaders. Now almost all African countries can look forward to some form of election period. In some countries the democratic process is far from fair, but its a change from the life presidents that we were used to. Like I said, the change is slow but its there. When I look back at those who struggled to fight those dictators, to fight for multi-party systems, to fight for greater freedoms, to fight for more say in their countries affairs, and think of the pain, suffering, sacrifice that those leaders gave, so that I can enjoy the freedoms that I do now, I am convinced that if I continue to vote, I will get right one day. I will get that one politician who means what he says and actually cares for the people he or she represents.
II) THE AFRICAN VOTER LOSES MORE BY NOT VOTING THAN BY VOTING:
The english said that it ignorance is bliss, and that what you do not know cannot hurt you, but I say the one who came up with these words should have had his tongue cut out long before he/she uttered those words. Imagine a world where the African Voter refused to cast that precious vote, and decides to let the politician get away with all he/she wants, the oppression, the suffering, the poverty that the African Voter is experiencing would be far much greater than when he goes in and votes. This is true because thought the politician will always seek to make his or her pockets richer, at least he tries to do something withing his community, constituency etc not because he cares, but so that he can mix that up with the wine he will serve us next election. Therefore the African Voter gets something, atleast something, out of voting. Not taking part in the election process leaves the life of the African Voter in the hands of the politician who will now know that he can get away with not building schools, not building better infrastructure, not giving even one thought to the people he or she represents.
I believe that the growth that Africa is experiencing now, is very much related to the greater freedoms Africans have as a result of a changing political system. It is not perfect, the system needs major overhauls in some parts and new parts to replace the old parts, but it is changing. Its better than it was 20, 30 years ago. Africa is no longer fighting in the streets for better lives, but is involved in debates for better policies and ideas. We are still so far from perfection, got so many ups and downs ahead of us, but let us not forget ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY!