“Who is the judge?
The judge is God.
Why is he God?
Because he decides who wins or loses. Not my opponeent.
Who is your opponent?
He does not exist.
Why does he not exist?
Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth I speak!”
– “The Great Debaters”, one of the coolest movies ever made.
Ten years ago, towards the end of 2001, I was on stage in full school uniform about to embark on one of the defining moments of my life. It was the Finals of The Nairobi Inter-Schools Debate Competition and my school was up against some feisty chicks from State House Girls School in a 3-on-3 Westminster-style face-off.
The motion was read out to the entire hall: “Western Democracy Has Failed in Africa” My team was selected to propose the motion and I was the third man therefore I was the one doing the closing arguments.
The nerves. The lights. The millions of eyes fixed on you. The quick shuffle of cue cards. That final deep breath. Then the moment of truth.
It’s been a while since that memorable debate but I still feel just as passionately about the issue then as I do now.
One of the problems we have always had as a continent is our uninhibited belief that what the West sets as the benchmark must be the one and only universal way of doing things, therefore if the West says that democracy is the best form of government, we embrace democracy even though in actuality, what we practice is plain oligarchy and dictatorship.
I strongly believe that our leadership problems will only be solved through violent confrontation with the agents of oppression. The reason is that the agents of oppression sustain their reign of terror through violence and thus the only language they will understand is violence and indeed only violence can wrest power from them. So, in the spirit of Vladimir Lenin, we must call for an alliance of the military, the workers, and the peasants in this march to freedom land.
By arguing that Western democracy is failing in Africa, that doesn’t mean I am against democracy or its ideals. I am however against a type of government that has resulted to unrestrained squandmania, the elevation of some to the position of owners, and the reduction of the greater majority into a class of slaves. I am also against the fouling of our communal air by the corruption bloated politicians such that foul smell has become the perfume of all of us.
Perhaps the idea of a type of government where the electorate empowers the elected, while the elected listen to the opinion of the electorate was probably what the proponents of Democracy had in mind. Unfortunately, it has become an unrealizable feat in Africa. Furthermore, I would argue that instead of forcing democracy to succeed, Africans within their diverse societies have the capacity, flexibility and rationality to study their own societies and consequently evolve their own workable systems of government.
PS: In case you were wondering, State House Girls didn’t know what hit them. My debate team totally kicked ass and although I didn’t scoop the Best Speaker Award, the Winners’ Trophy wasn’t too bad of a consolation.