For many years, Africa was condescendingly referred to as the dark continent. The condescension had a little to do with everything African. There was undoubtedly a pinch of racism in the number of times it was reprised and rephrased. There was something to do with the fact that most of the continent had not been penetrated by the light of civilization. There was the glaring fact that in terms of economic and human capital development, the continent was lagging behind. Then there were the many strange diseases whose origins were traced to the continent.
As the years went by and the colonial powers withdrew to their countries, many African countries were given clean slates and a historic opportunity to chart new courses. This endeavour has witnessed many spectacular failures.
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Nigeria, Africa`s biggest country gained its independence from Britain in 1960. It took all of seven years for an attritional civil war to erupt. Many years down the line, the fallout from the war continues to haunt the country.
In 1994, Rwanda which has made tremendous progress in recent years, was the theatre of a genocide that horrified the world. A handful of other African countries have huffed and puffed seeing years of sustained success and stability swiftly succeeded by years of sabotage and insecurity.
Many African countries have only run fitful democracies. Many have experienced governance by iron-fisted and aging despots. The despots, some of whom are still in power twist the legal frameworks of their countries to perpetuate themselves in office. For some of them, only death will loosen their iron grip on power.
In many cases, bad governance in Africa and extremely weak democratic institutions have been underpinned by military incursions into politics. This cheap excuse has grown hollower with each passing year.
In recent years, Mali has felt like a country under siege. As if it was not enough that the country is landlocked, Islamic jihadists have launched series of attacks in recent times critically compounding what was always an extremely fragile situation. Aissimi Goita, a Malian soldier, was to cite some of these factors in justifying the coup which brought him to power. There is no doubt that each extra day he spends in power can only bode ill for democracy in Mali.
In Guinea, long-time president Alpha Conde was put out of office in a military coup. Feelers say there was no other way to end an expired autocracy that had since outlived its usefulness.
Nigeria`s democracy is not perfect but at least it is going. As Africa`s largest democracy, there is no doubt that Nigeria wields enormous power on the African diplomatic scene. It must now bring that power to bear in insisting that every alternative form of government in any African country must give way to democracy. There can be no compromise.
The serpentine course of insecurity and instability knows no stations. It is for this reason that African countries must do everything possible to ensure that democracy thrives in their countries and is able to deal a fair hand to every segment of the society especially minority groups. It is only by doing these that African countries can preclude the ruinous conflicts that prove both crass and costly.
To achieve this, Nigeria must wield the enormous advantage its size and status confer by insisting that as a precondition to relate with any country, autocrats and the oppressive systems they have entrenched must give way to the people and the choices they make.
To do this, Africa must hurry because as things stand, the continent has been left behind.
Kene Obiezu wrote from Abuja.