Ideologies and beliefs influencing African politics

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Ideologies and beliefs influencing African politic

By Omowumi Odesomi

Politics anywhere in the world is an interesting game of numbers with laid-down principles that require the active participation of all involved for the overall objective of good governance.

But in Africa, there seem to be variations in acceptable norms of politics as practised everywhere else, which makes it unique in its ways.

This article brings to you some of the intrigues and attributes that give a clearer understanding of what African politics entails.

Africa is a diverse continent of 54 countries with different political inclinations. As much as the actions and practises of politics on the continent differ from one country to the next as a result of the peculiarities of each country as well as the personalities and individuals involved, the culture of politics on the continent still bears some notable similarities.

This is so as the political culture on the continent reflects the collective history the people share and hold on to and the thoughts of what they want the future to look like; hence, in understanding African politics, we must take into consideration some common ideologies that have shaped the beliefs and sentiments that govern behavioural patterns of politics on the continent.

Leadership Style

Politics in Africa is played under “personalised leadership,” which sees highly placed individuals running the affairs of political parties or groups based on their terms and personal qualities.

Such individuals fall under different categories, as some exert their powers as they so desire, running such political party affairs like individual investments, hence the popular saying “he who pays the piper dictates the tune,” which points to the popular ‘godfatherism ‘ concept.

This godfatherism concept runs across many countries and political terrains, from Nigeria to Kenya and even the smaller nations, so much so that it has come to be recognised as a major element that helps grow the tenets of politics.

Just like every other problem facing the practise of politics in Africa, godfatherism hinders development because rather than focus on the fulfilment of development plans for the people, candidates and eventual winners are bound by the excuses of loyalty that make them engage in repayment of previous acts of kindness with appointments into government positions and acts of benevolence as a way of compensating for as many they were involved in.

There are also some leaders whose style of leadership is revered, as the individuals act like cover for as many who fall under their party. Such leaders behave like father figures, with the main purpose of guiding and leading the younger ones to light and development.

The continent also has its politics played under the leadership of motivational leaders whose major focus is driving the followers towards the attainment of change and whose key determinants remain efficiency and due process.

All in all, these leadership styles in politics differ from one country to another on the continent depending on the peculiarities of each nation at a given point in time.

Monetized Politics

Unlike in other climes, politics in Africa is hugely dependent on spending huge sums of money. That is not to say other countries do not spend money; the difference here is that the culture of African politics depends on using money to get the needed results.

As such, it has endeared only those with the wherewithal and resources to participate in politics, so that the few who do not have such remain at the mercy of others.

Little wonder then that African politics is dominated mostly by those above middle age, with just a few youths and young adults who depend largely on the elderly and assumed ‘investors,” without whom political activities can’t be funded.

While the experiences and wealth of the elderly matter and are well needed for effectiveness in politics, it has been a major bane for the continent because it has often led to wrong choices of leaders, abuse of power, and corruption, which inhibit development.

Style of opposition

Africa is unique in so many ways, politics included. To be an efficient player in politics on the continent, one must be prepared for unpalatable moments, especially if in the opposing camp.

One would want to believe that opposition is healthy for the growth of any nation and would serve as a means of checks and balances for serving parties or groups, but to some extent in Africa, it goes beyond that.

This is so because opposition groups are seen and tagged as threats to political stability, such that any party or group in the opposition is often prepared for the worst and sometimes described as the enemy of the state.

This is not to say that the voices of the opposition are not heard or are generally neglected; rather, their criticisms are seen as coming from a place of hatred or pain.

However, the good thing is that no matter how much effort is being made to stifle opposition, they still exist in their numbers and have remained a critical component in the African political terrain.

Politics of Ethnicity and Religion

As a people, Africans are very religious and ethnically minded, and as such, almost every activity is done with religious sensitivity, also bearing in mind the tribe of those concerned. For politics on the continent, except in some cases, tribes and religions play important roles and are often used as weapons by the political gladiators.

Take, for instance, the just-concluded general elections in Nigeria. The most common slogans and catchphrases among the political players that were passed on to their followers were centred around tribe and religion.

These elements give a form of solidarity to major political players and enhance political participation and dominance as they desire.

In terms of acceptability, it is not the best but has come to be accepted due to the values and importance attached to the two elements. But, to say the least, these elements undermine the election and appointment of productive leaders as core values such as ability, experience, and agenda are relegated to favouring who comes from where and the religion practised.

When we juxtapose all of these features in African politics with happenings in other parts of the world, it becomes obvious that as much as Africa has embraced democracy and is doing all necessary things, including active politicking, to deliver on the mandate of that democracy, it has also created a path for itself.

The question then is if the path created has provoked any change to the governance structure on the continent, but because it is a two-edged sword that has brought both positives and negatives, we can only hope and wish that politics on the continent will continue to be played with the overall objective of development in the minds of the political gladiators.


































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