By SOC Okenwa…
In every democracy around the world worth its name the people are the constitutional repository of sovereignty. Power derives its legitimacy from the electoral expression of their choice through the ballot box. Whether they decide to give power to a comedian or a showman (like what happened in Ukraine recently) is not as important as allowing them freedom to choose whomsoever they want to lead them. So in other words power at whatever level belongs to the people!
In Africa democracy is fast gaining ground as more and more Africans are becoming more aware of global democratic trends, more conscious of their rights and more loving of their freedom. Every society is meant to be governed by men and women since God, in His infinite wisdom, had established earthly order among bthe descendants of Adam and Eve.
In the history of modern nations the people’s power had triumphed over dictatorships or anti-democratic regimes no matter how ferocious. The French revolution dating back centuries, the Filipino mass revolt, the Egyptian and Tunisian ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings etc had served as reminders of how a determined people out on the streets in their thousands or millions could alter the political landscape of their respective nations.
Sub-Saharan Africa presents a poor example of regime change by a mobilized determined populace out for a change of leadership at the power zenith. From Yaounde to Malabo, N’djamena to Brazzaville crude and rude dictators abound in our dehumanized continent. For them survival on the ‘throne’ means everything.
In France, a great European country of freedom, justice and fraternity there is the current social crisis of “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests). Every weekend (Saturdays) they would converge in their thousands in Paris and other French cities asking for a more just and egalitarean society. The youthful President, Emmanuel Macron, (accused by the opposition of being arrogant and friend of the rich) is managing the unprecedented sociak upheaval with maturity and statesmanship despite the fact that, sometimes, some bandits had hidden behind the demonstrators to wreck havoc on the streets.
In Venezuela the late charismatic leader, Hugo Chavez, would be turning in his grave on seeing the mess his successor has made of the oil-rich country. President Nicolas Maduro has turned his country into an international pariah making life much more difficult for his compatriots –no thanks to economic sanctions and mismanagement of resources. Maduro has muddled up the revolutionary achievements of the great deceased leader. His glaring inability to manage Venezuela post-Chavez is a testament of his poor leadership style.
Today Venezuala presents the image of a divided country with unprecedented socio-economic political crises. Now, the people’s power is divided into two camps: pro-Maduro and pro-Guaido. The young National Assembly President, Juan Guaido, had proclaimed himself the legitimate President of the country. And many serious nations (including Donald Trump’s America) recognised him as such!
The country is fundamentally divided on partisan lines. Every now and then each contending party would call out their supporters on the streets in a show of force. Between the system and the formidable opposition in Caracas the spirit of Chavez appears dead and forgotten for good. Maduro and Guaido’s positions are irreconcilable given their political ideologies, egos and patriotism claims.
In Britain the issue of Brexit has brought out the people on the streets of London in recent times. The Queen’s subjects are arguing that the Brexit referendum of 2016 was a product of political manipulation as the implications were not explicitly explained to them. The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is leading those hammering on the need for a new referendum on Brexit. The intervening diplomatic and political events have conspired for good or bad reasons to render Brexit a most complex issue in the British politics.
The embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, had suffered three consecutive parliamentary rejection of her Brexit negotiated deals. With the upcoming European parliamentray election in May drawing nearer and Brexit postponed the world is witnessing how the Union Jack could get it right or wrong by carrying the people along. As the placards borne by the Londonian anti-Brexit demostrators read: put it to the people!
Closer home in Algeria weeks of organized pacific mass protests against the fallen President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has paid off as the old and indisposed leader had been pushed out of the presidential palace where he resided for twenty eventful years. Today the streets and their weekend occupants, in their enthusiastic millions, are still out to prove a point having not yet satisfied with the forced exit of the stroke-devastated veteran octogenarian President. This time post-Bouteflika, they are asking for more heads to roll; a complete regime change that would see the old mafian faces giving way for a new generation to pilot the affairs of the nation. The power of the people had prevailed in Algiers but more are coming in the coming days and weeks.
In Sudan the dictator of over 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, was forced by the actions on the streets to bite the power dust. The rise and fall of al-Bashir reminds one of the rise and fall of brutal dictators like the late Ugandan Idi Amin, Libyan Muammar Ghaddafi, Tunisian Ben Ali, Central African Bokassa and the Congolese Mobutu. These ignoble men shared something in common as they sought to play god and eternalize their power reigns.
Wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for bloody crimes against humanity following the kilings in Darfur al-Bashir had conveniently ignored the ICC summons travelling discreetly to those countries without ties to the ICC. The Sudanese political landscape has suddenly changed with the ouster of al-Bashir. And the military Generals holding power uneasily are still confronting massive protests for them to step aside for a new civilian government.
Following the street protests provoked by the increment in bread prices the hitherto dormant Sudanese people found their voices deciding that their destiny lay in their own hands by coming out en masse to demand for a change in the way and manner they were governed for decades. The tales from Khartoum are democratic melody to the ears!
During the corrupt incompetent presidency of Goodluck Jonathan some years ago the politics of petrol and its subsidy reared its ugly head once again. The international analysts are united in their conclusion that the black gold is more of a curse than a blessing in Nigeria where majority still live below poverty line. Then the Jonathanian presidential muddle had witnessed a mitigated mass revolt in Lagos over the minor increase in the pump price of the premium motor spirit. But the people said no to the nonsense!
While we are still being fed today with the obscene tales of subsidy and other balderdash associated with oil exploration and exploitation and taxation we are daily confronted with massive corruption in the oil sector. As Nigerians converged daily in Lagos’ Freedom Park to demonstrate against the hike in pump price of fuel the good-lucky Jonathan, in his famous or infamous executive mediocrity, had failed spectacularly to demonstrate leadership by staying aloof babbling and blabbing over the necessity of ‘killing’ the phantom fuel subsidy amounting to billions of Dollars.
GEJ conveniently ignored the fact that subsidy was a vast organized national scam enriching his then untouchable powerful Petroleum Resources Minister, the fugitive Diezani Allison-Madueke and her many lovers and Jigolos! Jonathan mismanaged the crisis but when the pressure from the street mounted he capitulated by doing the needful: slashing back the price of petrol. The power of the people prevailed in the end!
From Paris to London, Khartoum to Algiers, Caracas to Lagos, all hail the power of the people! Or better still, the people’s power!