The mess of one-party governments

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May 4, 2018

Chris Odinaka Nwedo

Totalitarian or repressive governments are increasingly subjected to intensifying pressure as the contemporary world is rapidly globalising and bars of restrictions are becoming anachronistic and overpoweringly retrogressive. Nations no longer find it pertinent to be alone and locked-up without windows of accesses to other nations. The natural inter-dependability has become reinforced by the fact that no nation survives in isolation as none can afford effective solution to the myriad of daily challenges. Natural resources in terms of human and material cannot be sufficient for any form solitary existence. It is often the case that nations that produce need nations that consume. Consumption motivates production. Nations are esteemed subject to the values they add. Great nations are nations of great value.  It is said that “globalization is inextricably linked with interdependence since the available resources are unequally distributed across the world and for that matter, no country can claim to be fully served with regard to all the resources it needs to be totally self-sufficient. The need for countries to rely on each other for these resources creates a global interdependence. Hence, the drive of globalization creates a robust interconnection of world network through borderless operations…  Thus “technological, economic, political, and cultural exchanges between and among countries of the world have increased tremendously over time. Clearly, almost all countries, firms, and private individuals are undoubtedly affected by the powers of globalization.  Trade liberalization is the necessary condition for the recognition of the full bearings of globalization.

With the analogy above, I can conveniently argue that as no nation can successfully stand alone, no political party, individual ruler or a philosopher-king can bring about enduring social, political stability and sustainable economic development to any society in isolation of active partnership with the citizens. Inclusive leadership and ‘globalised’ processes of decision making make quality development feasible and scorch dissensions that has been putting spanners and retarding development in many countries.

In fact, productive governance or affirmative political culture is impossible in a society predisposed to exclusive politics, a society that pillories divergent political expressions and have no windows for freedom of association. This sort of society is highly susceptible to leadership system devoid of partnership with the people, ‘sole rulership’. ‘Sole rulership’ is likened to a leadership process that vigorously carries on without the assent and collaboration of the subjects. This style of leadership characterizes nations conquered in absolute terms by the one in command and who intends never to relinquish power in spite of the cost. Credible election processes are not supported nor imagined by a regime determined to remain in power and in total control. Even when such elections are organized, they are simply ritualistic tools to predispose and legalise the unmerited firm grips on power. In enclaves like these, elections summarily represent a brief pause, a moment for gear-selection or readjustment of positions for political domination and deliberate misrule. For credible election in a discriminatory political atmosphere reforms of the processes must be prioritised to predispose the system for parity and transparency.

Despotic governments are inclined to demonize democratic values and inclusive leadership, and as well criminalize those clamouring for change and liberalization of collective political fortunes. For these autocratic democrats, elections must be won at all cost to maintain the treacherous hold on power and every weapon is used to ensure that the power is not lost through the credible political processes. Sovereignty belongs to the people, it the people’s inalienable heritage. Sovereignty constitutionalises power, because it confers the prerequisite legitimacy on one who is in possession of power. Legitimacy is the mandate to exercise authority for and on behalf of the people. Power can be stolen but authority cannot, while, sovereignty is not convertible, transferable, because there is no alternative to people. Stolen power has no mandate; therefore, it is devoid of authority. It is consequential to conclude that people should actively protect their power from robbers by active and purposeful followership. Those who consider their power as treasure asset hold it tenaciously. Loss of power is an exposure to vulnerability because of the burgeoning politicians that hunt power by any means. People lose the power due to lack of understanding and improper orientation.

The prevalence of rotten of participants in political games, poor quality governance, leadership performance failures and challenging costs of contending with brute characters in political pitch are sufficient rationale to inspire the cleaner people into the leadership recruiting process.  Deepening democracy is impracticable without the people who have value for it. The demand for good governance and efficient institutions must come from the prospective beneficiaries, the people. People are the only stakeholders in positive government. They should determine the roadmap and ‘conscript’ whatever the regime for action. Properly superintended government is a steady and credible threat never to derail and is more likely to be conscious of its democratic credentials and takes the people more serious.


Democratization is often described by as ‘democratic deepening’, meaning a continuous ability of democratic institutions to improve political participation, become more open and vigorous and enhances accountability.  Deepening democracy describes those active steps taken by the governance in collaboration with the citizens to make the regime more functional and proactive to the political needs of sundry citizens. It is consolidating the processes of inclusive politics through various platforms. Political parties, free media and bills constitutionalising freedom of association are such platforms. For Diamond, Consolidating democracy ‘is the process of achieving broad (and) deep legitimation such that all significant political actors, at both elite and mass levels believe that the democratic system is better for their society than any other realistic alternative they can imagine.

According to Chris C. Ojukwu and Tope Olaifa, ‘democracy is all about inclusiveness. If there is no provision for people’s inclusion in the party, there may be little participation since one begets the other. Inclusiveness stresses how wide the circle of party decision-makers is.  In the most inclusive parties, all party members, or even all party supporters, are given the opportunity to decide on important issues, such as the choice of party leader or the selection of party candidates. Due to the fact that inclusiveness is a matter of process and formal rule, more inclusive parties will offer more opportunities for open deliberation prior to the decision stage. Democratic consolidation revolves around inclusiveness, accountability and dedication to platforms indispensable for making the processes  secure, extending the life expectancy, ‘making them immune against the threat of authoritarian regression and building dams against the eventual reverse waves.  Nwankwo contended that ‘democratization is a process of political renewal and the affirmative acceptance of the supremacy of popular will and consensual obligation over the logic of elitism and parochialism. It embraces both the shift in the disposition of individuals and classes towards the polity and the institutionalization of genuine representative political structures and organs of mass mobilization and conscientisation.

Dictatorship is increasingly an inevitable part of African leaders’ brand of politics. The tendency to remain in power and control perpetually until death has increased in prevalence. Hanging on to power beyond the official mandate is ‘questionable legacy egocentric leaders have bequeathed the world of politics.  According to Napoleon Bamfo the legacy of leaders staying beyond their official terms date from the early 1960s when many constitutions did not place legal limits on how long a leader could serve. Even those that had term limits were either amended or ignored. Serving indefinite terms was believed at the time to be a reward for men who had dedicated their lives to freeing their people from colonialism. However, the practice set a cascading and dangerous precedent as many leaders were drawn to it, and the military also used leaders’ disinclination to leave office as one of the excuses for intervening.  The immediate political result of the confusions created by the obstinate cleave to power is instability, a political freefall, violence and death. Often the predicaments are ethicized. Many nations have had to deal with the prospect of their leaders refusing to leave office due in part to their ability to muster parliamentary majorities to approve the move or successfully stifling opponents.   Scores of societies were able to control and assert the supremacy of the popular will by the squeezing the hands of the bad rulers and dethroning them in determined mass actions. Societies like these are vanguards of their fortune. However, the unchanging fear is the hijack and radicalisation of the change process by the malevolent who are thrilled by violence and obstinate destruction. The nasty folks can be quick to colour the movement red with blood and tears.

The power of sovereignty: Tunisia and Egypt classical cases

It was a credit that tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the centre of the capital Tunis to demand political, social and economic reforms. It was reported that even the police after initial resistance and clampdown found reasons to join the protest.  It will be recalled in early January 2011, Tunisian long-term dictator, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled by pressure of the peoples’ resentment against the suppressive regime. Following Ben Ali’s departure, a state of emergency was declared. A caretaker coalition government was also created, including members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally in key ministries.  However, five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned  almost immediately, and daily street protests in Tunis and other towns around Tunisia continued, demanding that the new government should have no RCD members and that the RCD itself be disbanded.  The Tunisia’s provisional government took over after Ben Ali was frightened to Saudi Arabia in the face of extensive mass unrest fuelled by a populist uprising against unemployment, corruption and poverty. The protests quickly spiralled out of control despite a bloody crackdown.  The government said at least 78 people were killed since the start of the uprising, while the United Nations put the toll at about double. President Ben Ali resigned and fled in dishonour and humiliation to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power and tight control.

For Mark Levine, Ben Ali sought refuge in the same place as the ousted Idi Amin of Uganda.  The protests were sparked by ‘a young fruit seller who set himself ablaze in the town of Sidi Bouzid in anger at local officials who had confiscated his handcart in order to demand ‘baksheesh’, a bribe. Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide resonated within the many ordinary Tunisians with dismal prospects in a country where many graduates struggle to find work, sparking an unstoppable torrent of anger.  According to LeVine , this is of great interest. ‘The Egyptian people and the Egyptian public followed the events in Tunisia with so much joy, since they can draw parallels between the Tunisian situation and their own.

The micro Tunisian agitation took a dramatic dimension, an intensive campaign of civil resistance, with spontaneous street demonstrations and violence targeted at the discernible effigies of the totalitarian government of President Ali. The events that started in December 2010 gave impetus to a new political direction, an imperative change in history and development of Tunisia. The demonstrations were precipitated principally ‘by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom and poor living conditions . The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades  and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the results of actions by police and security forces against demonstrators.  Characteristic of all the despots, during a national television broadcast on 28 December, President Ben Ali censured the revolting Tunisians for their protests calling them evil perpetrators, ‘extremists and mercenaries’ and warned of ‘firm’ punishment. Ali accused certain foreign television channels of broadcasting false allegations without verification. For Ali, these are media institutions hostile to Tunisia. His remarks were ignored and the protests continued. Ali described the protests as “the work of masked gangs that attacked government buildings at night and even civilians inside their homes in a terrorist act that cannot be overlooked. According to Ahmed Najib Chebbi, a leader of the Progressive Democratic Party, “despite official claims of police firing in self-defence ‘the demonstrations were non-violent and the youths were claiming their rights to jobs and the funeral processions [for those killed on 9 January] turned into demonstrations, and the police fired [at] the youths who were at these … processions.  Ben Ali’s comments were irresponsible as the protesters were claiming their civil rights, and there is no terrorist act and no religious slogans.


Reports said the Tunisia’s popular uprising has claimed its latest victim with the long serving the prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, announcing he was leaving politics. And there was no sign of let up in demonstrations demanding a purge of politicians linked to the country’s ousted president. It leaves the country on a knife edge with opposition supporters saying they will not stop their campaign until members of the old guard, once loyal to humiliated former president, have been removed from power and their cronies hunted down and put on trial. The revolutionary fervour that has swept Tunis left many people re-examining their complicity with the Ben Ali regime in order to get jobs and provide for their families. As the demonstrations intensified some were warning that events could spiral into a Chinese-style Cultural Revolution in which everything was destroyed. The protests and resulting regime change in Tunisia restated the reality that there was no place in modern politics for dictator style governments. In a move that could return political freedom and democracy to Tunisia, it was hard not to see the protests as sparking for unrest in Egypt. The aftermath of the Tunisian protests reiterated the power that the voice of the people can have in modern society.

 Ben Ali assumed power in 1984 while Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak ruled for about thirty-two years. Both nations have been clogged with reports of corruption and a lack of political freedom, however it was the diminishing opportunities for the young that spun the frustration up to a regime change level.  The slow economic growth in Tunisia meant that to a large extent the people there accepted the police state under Ben Ali, but as the economy dried up, so did the people’s tolerance for the system. From this small act, a groundswell of protests rose up against the police state and with the power of modern communication, media and word of mouth they have managed to topple the long outdated might of the government. The result of a successful popular revolt in Tunisia was a tonic that inspired the determined Egyptians to see future in their own agitation.  What the Tunisian protests showed was that a dictator style government can only pull the wool over the eyes of its people but not for too long. 

The protests stirred  determined political confrontations with despots  throught the Arab world; the Egyptian revolution began after the events in Tunisia and also led to the ousting of Egypt’s long time president Hosni Mubarak; furthermore, protests have also taken place in Algeria, Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, Mauritania, Pakistan and elsewhere in the wider Middle East and North Africa. 18 While according to report, ‘the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb voiced support for the demonstrators against both the Tunisian and Algerian governments in a video released on 13 January 2011. AQIM leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud offered military aid and training to the demonstrators. He also called on them to overthrow ‘the corrupt, criminal and tyrannical’ regime.  Lamis Ardoni observed that the protests ‘brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalization, thus restoring the Arab peoples’ faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.

The protests that succeeded in toppling the leadership served as a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury even though Tunisia’s ostensible change could have been contained or confiscated by the country’s ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power. The ‘Tunisian intifada’ placed the Arab world at a crossroads. Ardoni noted that ‘if the change was ultimately successful in Tunisia it could push the door wide open for freedom in Arab world. If the uprising suffered a setback we could have witnessed unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power. Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed.  Even during the uprising in Tunisia, similar protests took place in almost all Arab countries from Morocco to Iraq, as well as in other states, ranging from Gabon to Albania, Iran,  Kazakhstan and China.  Major protests  against long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi broke out on 17 February. Despite widespread use of force by Gaddafi’s government, the opposition took over control of large parts of the country. In addition,  Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria saw major protests.

The bullet effect of the Tunisian revolution was more evident in Egypt. Egyptian revolution commenced with series of demonstrations, marches, acts of  civil disobedience, labour strikes, and violent clashes between protestors, security services and supporters of the regime of  Mubarak . Protests took place in Cairo, Alexandra and other cities in Egypt. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and religious affiliation demanded the overthrow of the regime of President Mubarak. On 11 February, Mubarak resigned from office following weeks of dogged protest and pressure.  According to report, grouse of Egyptian protesters focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free and fair elections, denial of right of free expression, uncontrollable corruption, as well as economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages. Many countries in Africa including Egypt are considerably endowed with natural resources, but corruption and mismanagement remain major causes of the failure to make meaningful progress in improving the lot of the ordinary people. Public revenues are not only mismanaged or misused but expropriated to private bank accounts in foreign countries where they remain without positive effect on the economy and the lives of the impoverished.

The protests as we have seen unequivocally questioned the legitimacy of the dictatorial regimes that not only continued to impose themselves on the people but deny the people the right to fundamental physiological and psychological securities. According to Ogundiya legitimacy, the business of governance is made simple. Democracy provides the ingredients through which the moral basis of authority is justified. Therefore, the essence of democracy is to lay a solid moral foundation for the authority of the state, the incumbent political head and other state institutions. Democracy therefore, not only prescribes how political power should be acquired but also what to do with it and how it must be exercised. Many African leaders tried to ‘perpetuate their rule; the military tried to dislodge them; and as military leaders also tried to entrench their rule, they became prime targets for countercoups. As leadership succession experienced disarray, economies faltered and human rights worsened. Sadly for Africa, the shameful legacy of leaders not wanting to leave office continues even in an era of multiparty governance when open and fair contestation for office are presumed to hold sway.  Socio-political instability and woeful economic implications of the political obduracy are devastatingly awful.