CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK
Before the advent of European colonialism, most of the countries of Africa were under the harsh and oppressive rule of despots and feudal lords, backed by the awe-inspiring dictates of the Oracles. Under these forms of government, the liberty of the individual was nil or at a considerable discount. Where the community did not rise above the clan or tribe, public affairs were conducted by a chieftain actively advised by a council of elders, and backed also by the pronouncements of the Oracles. Besides, the African communities of the pre-European era had very rudimentary problems of a public character to deal with. They were: inter-tribal wars, the failure of rain to fall in its due season, and recurrent epidemic.
The solution to any of these problems was invariably sought from the oracle, whose decree and injunction were always accepted without demur, and most solemnly followed. In other words, once the despot, the feudal lord, or the oracle had spoken, there could be no two opinions on the part of the people. Today, however, our problems are not only multifarious and incapable of submission to the oracle, but even the voice of the oracle no longer carries conviction with most Africans. In the absence of the despot, the feudal lord, and the oracle, or even in spite of them, every citizen should be presumed free to exercise his inalienable rights and freedoms. In such circumstances, the one-party system should not be allowed to thrive, and the multi-party system should be given the fullest possible scope, compatible with political stability.
THIRD: It has been pointed out that under the multi-party democratic systems which we have previously considered, ‘the winners take all’, in that they alone control the reins of government. It is contended that this is un-African and productive of bitterness. Whereas, under the one-party system, both the winners and the losers, that is the majority and minority elements, are catered for under the same auspices, in the disposal of government offices and patronage, thereby bringing satisfaction to all the contestants. This argument overlooks the vital point that if people fail to agree as to ends or to the means of attaining the ends, they cannot work harmoniously and fruitfully together. Indeed, they will tend, wittingly or unwittingly, to stand in one another’s way and totally frustrate their best endeavours.
On the other hand, those who believe in the same ends and agree as to the methods of attaining them are certain to work harmoniously together and produce results which will benefit the public at large. The hallmark of the multi- party system is majority rule. It is appreciated that this system demands justice, fair play, and tolerance on the part of the majority, in order that the members and supporters of the majority and minority parties may be given equal scope to participate in deliberating on public issues, and in order that all the citizens may benefit equally or equitably from Government measures. But it must be admitted also that the attributes of justice, fair play, and tolerance are indispensable to peace and stability under any system, and that the possession of these, together with unstained respect for constituted authority as well as the spirit of sportsmanship on the part of the minority party or parties, is a sine qua non of democratic practice.
Furthermore, this contention lays a sordid emphasis on the distribution of the spoils of office, which is today the bane of African political leadership, rather than on devoted service to the people. But until African political leaders realize that they are in office to serve their people selflessly and not to foster their selfish ends, they will forever complain that ‘the winners take all’, and the African States will know no political stability or economic prosperity.
FOURTH: It has been argued that the division created among the people by the operation of a multi-party system, tends to slow down governmental actions, and hence the rate of progress. Whilst the members of the majority party are striving with might and main to accelerate the rate of progress, those of the minority are doing their very worst to discredit them, and to pull everything down- . all in the name of democracy. Whereas, if all shades of political opinion belong to the same party, they will march in undivided formation towards the same goal. The most effective answer to this contention is what we have said under the third argument above. In addition, there is no evidence thus far that those states in which the one-party system is in operation have made any significant progress because of their adoption of such a system. Besides, it is on record that outstanding multi-party democracies, like the U.S.A. and the Common Market countries, have not fared worse. in material progress, than the equally outstanding one-party ‘democracies’ like the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia.
FIFTH: It has been contended that socialism and the multi-party system do not mix, and that in any untrammelled conflict between the two, it is the multi-party capitalist system that wins. It is argued further that because of the competition which goes on amongst various political parties, the multi-party system is essentially the capitalist political system. We have six observations to make in answer to these contentions. Firstly, experience in all theatres of human activity has shown that it is much safer to allow your opponent to come into the open and deal with him, if you can, according to the rules of democracy, than to drive him underground from where he may spring a deadly surprise on you. The multi- party system brings all opponents and their views into the open where they can be dealt with in greater certainty and assuredness.
Secondly, contest is indispensable to growth and to sturdier evolution. All the creatures in the world today are what they are because they have successfully met the incessant contests to which nature and their environments have challenged them. Fear of opposition, or resentment to criticism, is eloquent evidence of a sense of inadequacy and insufficiency on the part of those who constitute the government of the day.
CONTINUES NEXT WEEK
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