0 Editor's Note: "Africans: Vote with minds, not hearts"
Close
Editor’s Note: “Africans: Vote with minds, not hearts”

Analysis

Editor’s Note: “Africans: Vote with minds, not hearts”

With over 20 African countries scheduled to go to the polls this year,  while heavyweights South Africa and Nigeria will also expectedly  launch campaigns for 2019 presidential elections, most Africans can already feel the elections fever. And our Editor’s early take is, Africans should vote “with minds, not hearts”.  

With 55 countries making up Africa, there always seems to be an election taking place somewhere, or in the works, or someone trying to postpone one or dealing with the aftermath. In one way, we can claim that Africa is basking in an orgy of democracy.

Yet, after the brief public jubilation, or disappointment depending on whether your party or the personality you favour has won or lost, dissatisfaction begins to set in once again. For most people, whatever hopes of a better life were raised during the campaigning, the drab reality of trying to make ends meet returns with a vengeance.

While the political elite, of all colours, claw and clamber over each other to get their hands on the spoils of office or move up the greasy pole of political power, the condition of the ordinary people remains the same – a lifelong struggle to survive with some form of dignity and with superhuman effort and sacrifice, try to give their children the hope of a better life.

While the income disparity between the super-rich and the rest has never been greater the world over, the gap between the haves and the have-nots in Africa is becoming obscene.

Yet, when we look around the rest of the world, we know that this sorry state can be fixed. There will always be the rich, the middle class and the poor in all societies but it is the level of poverty in Africa that cannot be tolerated after 70 years of independence.

All politicians claim that once in office, they will work to uplift the lot of the people but, apart from a small handful, the promises and pledges are forgotten as soon as one is inducted into the ‘ruling class’ and the focus changes from one of service to the people to one of self-preservation and aggrandisement.

While the income disparity between the super-rich and the rest has never been greater the world over, the gap between the haves and the have-nots in Africa is becoming obscene.

This should not happen in a democracy. But it does with predictable regularity. Whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the leaders who emerge or is it the fault of the voters who put them there in the first place?

If it is true that a people gets the government it deserves, then one has to ask what are the people voting for when they cast their ballots? Do they really understand the issues involved? Can they have confidence that the people they vote for will deliver what they promise based on a solid track record?

How many actually understand what the democratic process, and their role in it, is all about? How many are aware of the power they hold to change the status quo in their favour? How many are convinced that they, and not the politicians, are the most important element of the process?

How many can remember that the definition of democracy is ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’? How many are aware that governments are answerable and accountable to the people, not the other way round?

Who is in control? Are the people in control of their decisions or are they being emotionally manipulated by appeals to ethnic loyalties, confused by bombast and swayed by mutual mudslinging from rival politicians? Do they know that they are not spectators at a football match, cheering for one side or the other, when it comes to elections, but very much the key players?

History shows us that the rights of the people, their emancipation and their progress has never been given by those who hold the reins of power – it has always been taken.

Politics is the art of the possible, we are told, and politicians by nature will do whatever it takes to get their hands on power. Some are well-meaning and driven by a genuine desire to work for the betterment of the people; too many alas, are in it as lucrative career choice.

The onus on separating the one from the other eventually falls on the people who must make those decisions. If the people are asleep or allow themselves to be hoodwinked by false promises or emotionally blackmailed, they will be trampled upon by those who understand the dynamics of power.

History shows us that the rights of the people, their emancipation and their progress has never been given by those who hold the reins of power – it has always been taken.

Democracy is the best device we have for people to take control of their own destinies without violence but for democracy to really work, the people must understand their power. They must vote with their minds, not with their hearts. They must become smart voters.

The rewards of voting smart, as examples from other places show us, are enormous. Then and only then, will people really get the governments they deserve, a government dedicated to the service of the people. NA

Related Posts