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Institutions, ‘strong men’ must be guided by laws

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By Innocent Anaba

Participants at the AELEX 2019 Lecture in Lagos have stressed that the continent needs strong men and strong institutions to perform their duties within the ambit of the law.


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Former Director of Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Kenya, Professor Patrick Lumumba, one the participants, said that Africa cannot afford the luxury of the democracy of the West because it is theirs, “as we have ours.”

Professor Lumumba who was the guest speaker, noted that the typical African leader during the post-colonial era, was strong because he had the backing of the British Empire or the French.

He said: “The colonial masters did whatever they had in mind to do, not minding if it had a negative effect on those they colonised. As a result of this, our founding fathers inherited alien institutions, not harmonised with the peculiarity of the people and as a result, led to the existence of strong men.

“Our founding fathers understood that Nigeria was a country comprising of different countries, this was our reality and our democracy should accommodate this fact,” he said.

He also said: “The danger with strong men is that they forget themselves, they eventually become rouge. They start well, have a clear vision, clarity of purpose, which is why a strong institution is important to checkmate them when they go rouge. There may be tendencies of dictatorship but the strong man is what we need.”

He further said that the strong man that has become too strong will likely prevent the establishment of strong institutions because they will check his excesses, adding: “Even the ones with strong institutions have made them weak or subordinate.”

He also said that African society has not defined democracy to suit its own way. According to him, there is no one-size-fits-all meaning of democracy for the African continent.

Other discussants at the event shared their views on the theme of the programme.  One of the discussants, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, noted that her concern was the fact that only very few strong men in Africa were subject to the rule of law; that a great number of them are not. Like the current President of Cameroun.

Former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms in the Presidency, Dr. Joe Abah on the other hand, was of the opinion that “we should not continue referring to the colonial masters as the reason for our failures in the continent,” stressing that they are not the cause of corruption or looting of treasury. He stated that South-East Asia was also colonised by the British and they have since moved on. He also believes the Federal Character System was causing more harm than good.

Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey, former CEO of  Lagos State Security Trust Fund,  agreed with Professor Lulumba that we need strong men and strong institutions to enable them perform their duties within the ambits of the law. “But we still have serious issues to deal with. Crisis of trust on the men and the institutions because some institutions have also gone rouge as a result of how powerful they are; crisis of the fact that democracy as we have it today since 1999, has not delivered its dividends to the people as expected.”

On the Federal Character System, Justice Mariam argued it has its good side even though it may lead to having incompetent persons as head, noting: “We cannot do anything on that at the moment until we have that section of the law in our constitution amended.”

Since 2005, AELEX has been organising a lecture as part of its commitment to raise the awareness of Africans, dissecting the various challenges the country and continent face in governance, in leadership, in politics, and other pertinent areas while proffering solutions to these challenges.


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