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How to constitutionalise, democratise election party competitions

By Jojn Amoda
THESE election series deal with eight issues two of which have already been addressed. Issue No.3 is how to constitutionalise and democratise election party competition over control of government.

All these eight issues arise out of the mechanism by which ownership of the colonial estate and state was transferred by the colonial government to pro-independence parties formed by nationalist state party interest groups with the cooperation of the Colonial Government. The mechanism for change from colonial to post-colonial rule was election.

This use of election for this political purpose has defined the value of election in contrast to its role or function of elections in the liberal democracies of the West.

The colony was an estate, a property and a state. The estate was instituted through imperial acquisition to effect a replacement of the pre-colonial class in power with the colonial class in power.

Through colonisation the conquered territories and peoples were reconstituted into sectors of the metropolitan capitalist economy as illustrated by the British introduction of cocoa cultivation in the Gold Coast (present day Ghana) and of cotton in Uganda.

The colony as sector could be considered as an estate much as the Hispanic Latifundia were in the Spanish settlements in the Americas and the Caribbean. Colonial government was thus a fusion of the institutions of the ruling class of the state, as a structure of security and order and of the administration of the policy of the Metropolitan Imperial Government.

These three institutions which were differentiated for specialization in the European-American West were fused in the colony where the displaced sovereigns and their supporters had to be contained under conditions of pacification to enable the organisation of legal frameworks of rule for the development of the colony as a sector of the metropole. The administrators of the colony and the colonial economic interest groups through whom the development of the colony as British Colony was effected assumed the status of the ruling class.

This organisation of the colony was what was transferred to the First Generation Independence Parties through election diplomacy of the metropolitan governments.

As a consequence of this diplomacy, the nationalist parties to whom control of the colony and its order of power were transferred assumed power that historically was the outcome of national liberation warfare. From being state power interest groups, that is, groups interested in state power, these groups through elections were equipped with control of state institutions and government in control of the economy.

Thus through independence elections, which is the same as what we have called transitional elections, the leadership of nationalist state power interest groups assumed the place, power and authority of the colonial ruling elites and were positioned to use the combined power of the state and the authority of a totalistic government to transform themselves from a ruling elite into ruling class.

Claude Ake reminds us of the social origins of the post-colonial elite and it may help us through biographical details to substantiate the truth of what would otherwise be seen to be both conjectural and theoretical-hearsay. Very few of the leaders of the anti-colonialist state power interest groups came from the pre-colonial as instanced in the following data from colonial Nigeria.

“Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966), the Sardauna of Sokoto was the great grandson of Usman dan Fodio, the Fulani Religious leader who founded the Sokoto Empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He was the leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC).

Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), born in a small town of Tafawa Balewa in what is now Bauchi State, after receiving his elementary education at Bauchi Provincial School, went in 1928 to Katsina Higher College where in 1931 he qualified as a teacher.

“Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909- 1987), the leader of the Action Group, was the son of a farmer

“Azikwe, Nnamdi; the Leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroun (NCNC), was born on 16 November 1904 at Zungeru, in northern Nigeria. His father was an army clerk at the headquarters of Lord Lugard, responsible for the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria.

Of these four leaders of the anti-colonial pro-independence movement, only one came from the dispossessed pre-colonial ruling class; Sir Ahmadu Bello.

The three others were of colonial humble origin for whom anti-colonial politics could be said to be the ladder by which they climbed out of the powerlessness of the colonial subjects. The history of the Egyptian soldier, Mohammed Abdel-Hakim, Amer Field Marshall (1919-1967) and Idi Amin the Ugandan soldier confirm the fact of the political origins of Africa’s postcolonial elites.

“Amer was born on 11 December 1919 in Istal in the Minya province of Egypt. He like Nasser whom he was to serve for 15 years at the Cairo Military Academy was commissioned as a second-Lieutenant 1939. In 1948 he graduated from the staff Officers’ College and took part in the Palestine War of that year.

In the subsequent years both Amer and Nasser became important members in the Free Officers’ Movement whose objectives included the elimination of British Imperialism, the abolition of feudalism and capitalism and the establishment of a democratic state apparatus.


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