I know liberal Africans and I know conservative Africans. I know Africans who lean towards capitalism and those who are convinced solialists or even communists. I know those that are committed naturalists and environmentalists. I know those who are naturally republican in nature and those whose inclination goes towards centralisation of power, akin to monarchy. In short I know Africans of different philosophical and ideological convictions.
And yet, for some reason, when we want to form political parties, we form them not along ideological lines, but based on factors like Ethnie, Region, Religion, class, wealth, vengeance, opportunism, greed, materialism and temporary matrices towards the satisfaction of power-lust.
Needless to say, this impedes an effective meeting of positive like-minds in political affairs and makes it difficult for similar thinking patterns to congregate, refine each other, transform, evolve and grow, and gather that momentum which births concrete deeds, processes and systems out of mere ideas. And yet this alone is how tradition and civilization evolve.
So, my question is: Why are African political parties founded mainly not on objective universal ideas, but on earthy group similarities? Was political Democracy, as an idea, invented solely for internally homogeneous groups where there is enough of that mutual trust and those shared common interests which act as a playing field on which people can then divide and converge into ideas-based camps, knowing that their basic – and base – needs are uniform and covered by all sides equally.
Whenever a too divergent (apparent) heterogeneity comes into play, however, with different ethnies or nations – especially when it was not consensual – there you suddenly see a congealing into a more primal group identity first, as a home and as a shield against the others, to fight for, ensure and protect the covering of the basic – and base – needs.
Before I continue maligning Africa, let me look over to America – another multicultural melting pot – where at every US election, one hears of the Asian vote, the Jewish vote, the Black vote, the Latin Vote, the Italian vote, the White vote, and so on. Well, that also does not sound very much like ideas-based politics to me, but more like the same old herd-adherence, constantly lurking beneath the surface of high philosophical jargon, and clandestinely (sometimes openly) simply jealously guarding the native group interests.
I thus hesitate to blame the lack of ideas-based politics in Africa on any notion of primitiveness. I rather think that the human being, by nature, first seeks for safety and a sense of belonging in that which is most obviously and easily his outer and ethnic homogeneous group. This provides a certain outer protection. It often represents also how he or she is default-seen by the rest of the world too. Thus it provides a rallying point around which a sense of vulnerability and victimhood can also be mutually nursed and addressed and transformed into strength.
Without a sense or the reality of safety on this basic level, humans hesitate to commit fully to the bonding that takes place on more sublime levels of abstraction. Religion is usually the first of these abstract levels and often the strongest. The next is the uniting consciousness that comes from shared socio-economic conditions like poverty or oppression or ostracization. Finally, there comes the realm of ideas where all those nice sounding -isms dance to the Wailers. But on all these levels, even in religion, one sees how pressures can push people back into tribe adherence, interpretations and loyalties whenenver their is uncertainty or conflict.
The question is thus: At what stage of bonding are African countries, in the process of their socio-political engineering, currently situated? And since the primary element of unison is still the tribe and not the country, what efforts are being made to further, to improve and to entrench friendship, understanding, a sense of familiarity, and an intertwining of the cultures, and amongst the ethnic nations? Because this is the crux of the matter. Only when, for example, the constituent tribes of Nigeria build up adequate depths and dynamics of reciprocal trust and generational bonding, will the stage be set for that sublimation into ideas-based politics, on the foundations of a shared trust that the basic needs are uniform and will also be always uniformly covered and addressed by all. The same with Africa in general.
There is today need more than ever to promote friendship amongst the cultures, to build working relationships between homogeneous or historically close ethnic groups, and then to expand these in circles. There is the urgent need to openly address the difficulty in finding a neutral theater of resolution for the situation where one etnnic or religious group dominates the power structure of a country and uses (or seems to use) this Advantage to ruthlessly oppress or conquer the other ethnic or religious groups, whose options for reply are often very limited. The current situation in Nigeria under the Buhari government is a classic example. There is need to engineer the dynamics of true Fairness in Africa and clarify the nature of authentic sovereignty for African peoples, one that furthers rather than impedes development in all spheres. There is need for a new theater and type of African dialogue and conflict-resolution.
Because, as things stand now, one can safely say that it is not the African “tribes” but the modern African nations that are primitive, unintelligent and underdeveloped – because they offer no possibility for their actual constituent Units (the ethnic nationalities) to express, defend or cross-engineer their sovereignity, nor to thematise their vulnarability once they are not in power, nor to protect themselves. The basis of today’s colonially born modern African country is unwieldy, unindigenous, uncondusive for progrewss, and primitive. That is why it throws up non-ideological parties and has to be constantly defended internally by a brute Military force that has its origins in a colonial police machinery that was originally designed just for that same very purpose of breaking, disempowering, containing and controlling the ACTUAL African units of cohesion and concerted action: the tribes. Better known as the indigenous ethnic nationalities.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.