By Bobson Gbinije
DESPOTISM has a promethean and phoenix-like characteristic. Its vulpine temperaments make it draconic and long lasting. The only antidote to it is democracy and quintessential liberty and a democratic structure in which the citizenry are assertive and vigilant about and of their rights and liberties.
The liberty and consummate rights of men are exponentially elucidated in ‘the American Declaration of Independence’ that “we hold these truths to be self evident- that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” .
Despotism has continued to spread its tyrannosaurus octopoidal tentacles in the 21st century because of the deliberate misapplication of the nuts and bolts of democracy, cowardice of the electorate, edacious amendment of the constitution to suit the despots’ gluttonous quest for power, manipulation of the so-called educated, religious institutions, tribal pettifoggers, dunderheaded noodles, traditional rulers, cultural stalwarts, economic dapplegangers, lily-livered conscience mortgaging Unionists and political psychopaths etc.
The skullduggery manipulation of Democratic Institutions like the Police, Judiciary, Legislature, Electoral Bodies, etc by the powers that be has led to the prevalence of Machiavellian travesty masquerading as democracy in Africa and nay in our world. The essayist Henrik Ibsen posited in his book An Enemy of the People thus: “The most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom in our midst is the compact majority. Yes, the damned compact liberal majority”. If not so, the prolific and fertile growth in the past and present of African despots like Idi Amin Dada, Sanni Abacha, Jean Bokassa, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Gnassingbe Eyadama, Pierre Nkuru Ziza, Yoweri Musevini, Ngueso, Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Kabila, etc wouldn’t have been a reality in Africa.
The attractive streak of our democratic rights, liberty and freedom will continue to be a notional spurious and excellent histrionics unless we stand up for our democratic rights and liberties in Africa. In his historic speech delivered in 1790, John Philpot Curran on ‘The Protection of our Rights’ said: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to men is eternal vigilance, which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt”. This is buttressed by the statesman Benjamin Franklin in his ‘Historical Review of Pennsylvania’ that: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.
We have little or no ‘Democracy Building and Concretization Institutions’ in place in Africa. The democracy watchman and their watchtowers are just not there. Some members of Labour Unions, the Press, the Electorate, etc are suffering from Laodicean lethargy, sordid excessive appetite, sunken in uncontrolled orgies in the land of the Lotos-Eaters and drowned in the caves of polyphemus to know the need for patriotic commitment to the tenets of democracy.
The very, very few Africans who put and lost their lives and suffered martyrdom from their fight for the entrenchment of freedom and liberty have been consigned to the dungeon of history. The likes of Gani Fawehemi, Fela Anikulakpo, Steve Biko, Herbert McCauley, Isaac Adaka Boro, Victor Atiri, Raymond Pemu and others too numerous to mention have been forgotten by the march of autocracy.
Hence, the patriot Lydia Maria in an Appeal on Behalf of that Class of Americans called Africans’ said “They (slaves) have stabbed themselves for freedom-jumped into the waves for freedom – fought like very tigers for freedom! But they have been hung and burned and shot and their tyrants have been their historians”. That is what Africans are suffering till today. What a shame!
If not, why were our legal institutions in Delta State and nay Nigeria unable to call former public office holders to order? Why are we still quiet about the gross malfeasance and malversation of past governors for plunging their various states into debts running to several billions? Why are most indicted people Governors, legislators, Commissioners and Ministers in Nigeria and ditto most African countries gone scot free? We are the greatest predators and worst enemies of our democracy, rights, freedom and liberty.
We need to consolidate the foundational equipoise of our democracy in Africa by building democratic institutions not persons or individuals. We most re-acculturate and re-orientate our minds and psyche through grassroots education and practice of democracy. It must be inculcated from play group, kindergarten, primary, secondary schools through tertiary institutions. The churches, mosques, family units must be involved to ensure the entrenchment of democracy not only grass root levels but from root hair base to tree top heights. The syllabuses of our schools and curriculum must be rewritten to involve true democracy.
Our emphasis should be on knowledge of our rights, liberty and freedoms and we must develop the courage to rise up for our rights and liberties. Our leaders and our tyrants must realise in the words of Thomas Jefferson that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is in its natural manure”. We must be prepared to make sacrifices for the preservation of Democracy, liberty and our rights. Hence, the essayist Thomas Paine (1737-1809) observed in his book First Principles of Government that: “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from destruction”. Substantiated by General Douglas Macarthur (1880-1964) that: “The inescapable price of liberty is an ability to preserve it from destruction” and buttressed by William Summer (1840-1910) in his book The Forgotten Man that: “There is ……. no liberty but liberty under law. Law does not restrict liberty, it is the only real liberty there is”.
Finally, despots all over Africa and nay in our world will continue to take the democratic rights and liberties of the electorate and the citizenry for granted unless we are Ulyssian, Jeffersonian, Lincolnian and Mandelian in our propensities to assert and claim our rights. The toga of cowardice and lily-livered conscience mortgaging proclivities must be discarded hook, line and sinker from our political living space and we must put on the audacious streak of martyrdom and the fearlessness of patriotic sacrifices for our democratic rights, freedom and liberties. It is only then that we can rid Africa and nay our world of primitive despots and tyrannosaurus monsters.
•Mr. Gbinije, a social critic, wrote from Warri, Delta State.