Is ‘Arab Spring’ a model for ‘firing’ African political dictators?

Is ‘Arab Spring’ a model for ‘firing’ African political dictators?

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By Chris Nwedo

Dictatorship is an inevitable part of African leaders’ brand of politics. The tendencies to remain in power and in absolute control continuously until death does them apart are prevalent and hurtful. The holding on to power is the reason for irresponsible policies, corruption, favouritism, incompetence and maladministration that stagnated quality development in states and ruined prospects of true democracy. Hanging on to power beyond the official mandate is a questionable legacy the African leaders and a couple of other dictators bequeathed the political world.  Many African nations and elsewhere outside the continent have had to deal with compounding challenges of their rulers declining to leave office at the end of their terms. To cleave tenaciously on, they corrupt all the institutions of governance, bribing the parliament for extension and tinkering the constitution to accommodate the illegality. They clone the judges and decimate viable oppositions to have their ways. We have the pitiable situations of these kinds where robust opposition political parties have been annihilated or de-invigorated ‘perpetually’. Outside the continent of Africa, totalitarians such as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Bashar al-Assad of Syria to mention these few are endlessly on the news defending and receiving censorship for direct or indirect political transgressions within and outside their territories.

 In Africa countries like Uganda, Cameroun, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo and Togo are scaring presence of political rulers that transited from democrats to absolute dictators. These were former political liberators, the champions of the peoples’ rights that degraded to predators. With unreasonable long stay in power, they inadvertently developed the capacity and political appetite to swallow anyone adventurous to suggest prudence to them. These rulers have decided to carry on ruling the nations according to their whims and caprices, appointing and maintaining political mercenaries that help them subvert their nations.

Some African ‘rulers

The rulers’ continued stay in SOKAPU accuse Akume of supporting genocide, ethnic cleansing in Benue in spite of bad governance and stiffest opposition to democratic reforms defines how profoundly they had de-potentialised both the institutions and opposition groups’ pressures to step aside. Today, the perception of the recalcitrant rulers among the citizens are that they are indistinguishable with the states they have ruled far too long. They have converted their countries into enterprises and enthroning themselves as Chief Executive Officers (CEO), thus the sole ‘signatories’ to the nations’ political and socio-economic policies. They unilaterally cherry-pick alliances and discard alliances within and outside their shores subject to their political needs. Political self-preservation set the tones for all actions they take on behalf of their countries. The campaigns for changes and protests for political reforms have not been persuasive enough to cause variation in the psyches of the tyrants. However, in many African states, the citizens have been able to defy their tyrants. The Arab Spring in 2011 presents resounding cases of individual’s and groups’ determination to drive their demand for political, social and economic changes home, daring the grievous consequences of fighting their political monsters head on. The stories of how North African tyrants were displaced and disgraced summarised the significance of Arab Spring. Arab Spring presented an alternative ways of dealing with political totalitarians when it becomes too difficult to get them consent to democratic reforms and judiciousness.

Arab Spring is politically significant for people labouring unproductively to reclaim their countries from the malfeasance of bad governance and stranglehold.  The confounding spontaneous reactions may appear extreme but they ended up terminating the dictatorial governments specifically in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and sends strong and frightening warnings to many others. For me Arab spring was more of symbolic political weapon than any other instruments ever used in cautioning the tyrants against bad behaviour. No. I am not here to praise Arab Spring, and I am also not approving the device for those who are not Arabs. My recommendation is that those who are not Arabs but need effective cure for fatal maladies of sit-tight leaders should source their materials locally. They should ingeniously explore their environments for local ‘herbs’. They must search for this ‘poison’ seriously and quickly as demonstrations that the cure is really important to them. There is no objectivity in the denial that the cures are local.

A discussion with a friend among a group of Ugandans on the political situations in the country is critical here. My friend and every other Ugandan around deplored the leadership at home. They accused Yoweri Museveni of mismanagement and refusal to step aside after about four decades in power and monumental failures in productive statecraft. Museveni continuous rule is a diminishing return to democratisation and development of Uganda. For Michael, Ugandans have done everything to throw away a burdensome york called Museveni but nothing has proved successful in this regard. The paradox was that the more the cooperate fight against the enduring tyrant, the more he gravitates with enormous momentum, and now the country men have unanimously collapsed all ideas of fighting him. Michael said that the “resolve of the majority of Ugandans now is to wait until Museveni dies so that Ugandans can reclaim their country”. ‘He can never live forever’, Michael and Samson chorused in extemporaneously. At the end of the passion driven outburst, I had nothing to say in the contrary. This is because I do not consider myself as having mandate to controvert what seemed to me very subjective and profoundly local solution. More so, the impression is that it was unanimous choice among their people to stay patiently and quietly until the ultimate end of Yoweri Museveni. However, I reminded him of Dictator Gnassingbe Iyadema who died after about five decades of ruling Togo and his son, Faure Gnassingbe took over and continued the political projects of his late father, and the Togolese are the receiving end. What Museveni is doing in Uganda now is about the same things Iyadema did in Togo until he was killed by death. I also pointed out that Bashir al- Assad of Syria succeeded his father. Today Syria is turned upside down, even when Bashir successfully fended off and defeated the combined forces that wanted him to step aside in intense violence that murdered thousands of Syrians, while millions were displaced and in refugee camps scattered across the Middle East. And also Kim Jong-il was a North Korean politician who led North Korea from 1994 to 2011. When he died in 2011 his own son Kim Jong-un was crowned to succeed him. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-il was a successor of his father and at his demise in 2011 his son took over.

 In Democratic Republic of Congo, when Laurent Kabila died and he was replaced with his son and more recently in Chad, the dictator Idriss Derby who ruled the Chadians a long time in the midst of economic, social and political crisis died a violent death and was swiftly substituted with son. The understanding based on our narratives is that nothing is as dangerous as the complacency of deferring actions until death kills a dictator before immense pressures are focussed to him. My conclusion, then, was that there was no guarantee that Museveni’s death will mean a better political out-come even if it is extraordinarily not the son that became enthroned. However, the plausibility of the instances and propositions given above were not persuasive enough to make Michael and co feel that their country men were wrong in choosing patience as local ‘poison’ for political rascality in Uganda. From Michael’s submissions, it was clear to me that unlike the Arabs, no Ugandan can become so infuriated about the bad political situations as to immolate oneself for the ‘Ugandan Spring’ to commence spontaneously.

From the Ugandans’ standpoints came Nigerians local solutions to their own brands of socio-political and economic predicaments. Fortunately, Nigerians do not have long servicing dictator, what they have is a short time dictator who is ironically more venomous in terms of rapidity of devastation and unprecedented stupidity. Within six years of taking power, Buhari reversed the progress of Nigeria. He recklessly drove the country back to primordial era of government by kinsmen. He degraded all institutions of democratic governance, grounded the economy, make mockery of public policies and destabilised Nigeria in a way so unprecedented. Today no part of Nigeria is safe from terrorists, killer herdsmen kidnappers and those freelancing violence. There is an urgency in the minds of most Nigerians to implode Buhari’s government at all cost. The antagonism against his administration’s inabilities to meet Nigerians’ basic expectation are at explosion points. The administration is at the receiving end of caustic criticisms, curses, hostile reprimands and overt verbal attacks of all sorts and he is fighting back furiously using security agencies and every other instruments of the state. There were protests some which called for violent revolutions to displace the dictator and ‘END SARS’ protest is one of the overt moves targeting Buhari. Each protest terminated with endless chronicles of fatal attacks, bloodshed and deaths of many protesters in the hands of Nigerian security agencies.

 Nigerians do not consider patience with Buhari remedial but preposterous. For some, it is irrational to wait for the dictator, Buhari, to die because he may not die soon before complicating the situations more, considering the vast opportunities he has to access medical interventions even abroad. Therefore procrastination is dangerous, so, many have chosen threat of violence to ‘frighten’ the dictator. There is even statements, comments and ‘evidences’ all over the social media purporting the death of Buhari and his burial in Saudi Arabia. To make the hypothesis plausible they claimed that the man ruling Nigeria today is an impostor, one Jubril from Sudan. For this group, an active remedial step to resolving the nation’s imbroglio is to unmask the impostor in Aso Rock so that healing processes and recovery can begin. Besides this group with cacophonous ideas of real solutions are those saying that Nigeria as a nation has gone beyond redemption. Nigeria is unworkable, the incompatibilities of the heterogeneous constituents are not subject to reconciliation therefore the only viable option is dissolution of the entity so that the federating units can go their separate ways. This groups are fervently opposed to any solution that is outside balkanisation of Nigeria. For them, devolution of powers to the states in the real sense of true federalism is a ploy, and therefore unacceptable. It is therefore not controvertible that Nigerians have not yet adopted any uniform solution unlike the Ugandans.

Cameroun and Chad are so far exploring and experimenting violent conflicts their own tyrants. Dictator Paul Biya of Cameroun has been triumphant in running over all strategies to get him persuaded to step aside from power for peace and stability of the country. He preferred the protracted wars by political dissents than administer the country in a way that gives every Cameroonian an opportunity and sense of belonging. He is obviously benefitting from the endless political frictions that have seen many Cameroonians slaughtered and wild destruction that continued subtly between Francophone and Anglophone citizens. The Chadian Dictator Idriss Derby recently was swallowed up by the political crisis his desire for power stoked. Of the nations discussed above none seemed to have real hands on the handles to the problems bedevilling them. Arab Spring was efficacious because it was a catalyst for driving away many North African dictators who were riding their nations like blind horses, oppressing, suppressing and impoverishing the citizens with self-preserving policies. Arab Spring is for the Arabs. The model helped them to uproot their vicious rulers. This may not be model for others. But for the other, it was a pointer to the fact that there are opportunities to explore local panacea.