Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has urged African nations to reconsider the adoption of ‘Western liberal democracy,’ arguing that the system has not proven effective for the continent.
Speaking at a two-day high-level consultation on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa’ in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Obasanjo emphasized that liberal democracy fails to consider Africa’s unique history, culture, and traditions.
As the convener of the gathering, Obasanjo expressed his reservations about the Western style of democracy, contending that it neglects the perspectives of the majority of the people.
He criticized the current system as a government of a few individuals ruling over the entire population, with those few representatives only reflecting the views of some, not all, of the people.
Obasanjo argued that African countries should not adhere to a system of government in which they play no role in its definition and design. He pointed out the weaknesses and failures of liberal democracy, attributing them to its historical origins, content, and context.
Highlighting the essence of any system of government as the welfare and well-being of all citizens, Obasanjo called for a reevaluation of democracy’s performance in the West and emphasized the need for African nations to critically examine their own cultural, traditional, and practical aspects.
He urged leaders to think beyond conventional norms, consider local experiences, and propose alternative systems of government that better serve the continent’s needs.
Obasanjo invited participants to engage in a thorough examination of the practice of liberal democracy, identify its shortcomings in African societies, and present ideas and recommendations for a more effective system.
He stressed the importance of collective introspection among leaders in academia and politics to bring forth transformative change, acknowledging that the majority of the people are often excluded from the decision-making process in the current democratic model.
“The weakness and failure of liberal democracy as it is practised, stem from its history, content and context and its practice,” Obasanjo said.
“Once you move from all the people to a representative of the people, you start to encounter troubles and problems. For those who define it as the rule of the majority, should the minority be ignored, neglected and excluded?
“In short, we have a system of government in which we have no hands to define and design and we continue with it, even when we know that it is not working for us.
“Those who brought it to us are now questioning the rightness of their invention, its deliverability and its relevance today without reform.
“The essence of any system of government is the welfare and well-being of the people: all the people.
“Here, we must interrogate the performance of democracy in the West where it originated from and with us the inheritors of what we are left with by our colonial powers.
“We are here to stop being foolish and stupid. Can we look inward and outward to see what in our country, culture, tradition, practice and living over the years that we can learn from, adopt and adapt with practices everywhere for a changed system of government that will serve our purpose better and deliver?
“We have to think out of the box and after, act with our new thinking. You are invited here to examine clinically the practice of liberal democracy, identify its shortcomings for our society and bring forth ideas and recommendations that can serve our purpose better, knowing human beings for what we are and going by our experiences and the experiences of others.
“We are here to think as leaders of thought in academia and leaders of thought with some experience in politics. Invariably, the majority of the people are wittingly or unwittingly kept out,” he said.