Democracy: Substance, rhetoric and Abstractions By Charles Onunaiju

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Democracy: Substance, rhetoric and Abstractions By Charles Onunaiju

Broad human aspirations for peace, security, sustainable development, and even prosperity is absolutely no doubt, universal and pointedly connects to the enduring collective human yearnings for happiness and better life. However, the mechanisms, organizations and processes to attain them must give due diligence and context to specific circumstances, historical conditions, and other factors that shape the social outlook of a given people and also give proper effect to the conditions of their developmental stage.

Without adequate understanding of the historical process which poses the question of the existential reality and its challenges in the way, it actually exists and unfolds, gaining substantive leverage over the process and drive transformative agenda that opens the path of sustainable and inclusive development would be deprived of the refreshing tonic of historical far sight and foresight.

In the real and practical sense, democracy which is the broad spectrum of people-centered political organization and process, must find context out of its generalized concept to the specific nature of the different challenges, circumstances, and reality in which a given people find nurture their respective experiences. Without this concrete expression in a particular context, democracy in the developing nations and Africa in particular would function as mere rhetorical flourish or at best, a philosophical abstraction, irrelevant to the routine strivings of the majority of the people. A well-known anti-colonial fighter and one of Africa’s foremost thinker and theoretician Amilcar Cabral said that the mass of the people do not fight and make sacrifices in anti-colonial struggles and national construction efforts for the ideas that exist in any one’s head, no matter how lofty but rather to bring concrete material improvements in the quality of their lives.

Democracy is served best when it engages and resolves practical questions regarding the improvement in the quality of lives of the people. It is even consolidated on a firmer ground if it delivers the human security and guarantees better life which poverty and extreme material deprivations are the greatest threats.

In contemporary times, the debate about democracy, especially in the West focuses on procedures and rules, with very little about the people, which is the real substance of democracy. In the new context of re-emerging cold war thinking and outlook in the West, democracy has fallen victim again as mere ideological tool to further the purpose of hegemonic and power politics.

Democracy which should serve to attend to human’s existential needs in a specific historical context and national condition is been abstractly generalized as a set of rules to be imposed by Western powers superintended and by a self-select few who ascribed to themselves the monopoly of wisdom to define its templates and enforce complaints on others by the tumultuous and dangerous mechanism of regime change.”

It is no gain saying that while the high tempo of human aspirations is universal, the democratic temperament of procuring and processing its feasibility is local and it is in the local application of the democratic process that its results are best maximized and its effects on people made more tangible and practical.

The United States presidency intends to convene what it called “leader’s summit for Democracy in the early weeks of December, According to a statement on the summit, which will hold virtually, President Joe Biden will use the platform “to rebuild our alliances with our democratic partners and allies, rallying the world to stand up against human rights abuses…”

However, it is not difficult to understand that America would hardly see the platform of this type as mutual learning and experience sharing process which will feed into various efforts by different nations to nurture and consolidate their democratic practices against the background of their respective unique national conditions and histories. Already designed as framework for rebuilding alliances, the Washington’s organized summit on democracy will be little more than regurgitation of cold war political alliances that defined the world between “US and them”. Democracy and its implications for mutual learning and experience-sharing cannot be discriminatory but would rather integrate the experiences of all countries with different outlooks as a totality of collective human heritage and put them on offer for objective and honest interrogations. Designating some values as democratic and others as authoritarian can hardly fit into any serious definition of democratic temperament and ethos. The United States, whose democratic practices are hardly measurable to its professed democratic values nonetheless deliberately, weaponizes its ideals as foreign policy instrument to project and secure its national interest. From what the U.S preaches to the world about the sanctity of “one person, one vote,” its electoral college system, by which the votes of few electoral college delegates trumps over the majority votes of electors is nothing short of abrasive and rude affront to majoritarian electoral democracy that the American establishment unabashedly dictates to the rest of the world.

Because, America’s democracy is basically, a transactional system, in which majority of Americans have very little leverage over legislation and policy outcomes, crucial issues including such life and death issues as gun violence, are left to the antics of vicious special interest groups who mobilize and pay for huge campaign expenses and dictate policy choices according to their special interests with ordinary American watching helplessly. Despite the surge in gun violence and the usual national grief and outcry that follow each incident of deadly gun violence, politicians and government can hardly reach a consensus on modest gun control measures that can address the perennial and vicious circle of gun violence. If any democracy does not address issues that are of concerns to the majority of its people, how then does it conform to the practice of democracy and in tandem with its values and ideals?

Despite the glamour that has been politically festered on America’s democratic ideals, the substantive practice of democracy in the U.S has revealed not only inbuilt exclusion of minorities, especially of blacks, Latinos and Asians but outright hostility to them. With the economic conditions of white middle-class Americans becoming more precarious, race, its conflicts and hostilities are re-emerging as the new frontier of America’s political battles. Broad and inclusive democratic practice can narrow the gap and blunt the sharp edges of racial tensions, but since American democracy is not broadly inclusive enough, it is yet to be enriched by the beauty of the different colors of its own people.

The U.S democracy remained fundamentally challenged by inclusive social process in which the fruits of its high scientific and technological achievements can translate to broadly shared prosperity. Like the Presidential aspirant of the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders always said, the situation where the national wealth is owned by less than 1 percent of the American population is not acceptable.

From the outlines of U.S summit of democracy which Africa is expected to participate, issues most critical to the region especially building the necessary framework for sustainable and inclusive development would be conspicuously missing. No meaningful construction of democracy in Africa would be possible without talking issues of extreme poverty. The way to enable millions of Africa overcome poverty through massive investment in infrastructures like efficient transportation network featuring sea and air ports, railways and highways. Additionally, power and low carbon or clean energy are basis on which Africa social stability and democracy can thrive and survive. Unfortunately such key issues that is strategic to securing in democracy in Africa does not feature in U.S engagement with continent. China however mainstreams these core and fundamental issues to her cooperation with Africa and both in the two main mechanism of engagement with Africa, the forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) and belt and Road network of international cooperation (BRI), these critical and enabling infrastructure needs for Africa sustainable and inclusive development has been the driving force. China’s support for democracy and social stability in Africa is practical, tangible and solution-driven while Washington pays lip service to the challenge of consolidating and enhancing democracy in Africa.

Democracy beyond abstractions is a tangible measure to establish and consequently internalize and diffuse its values to the broadest section of the population. Without establishing the existential material basis for it to survive and thrive democracy would only remain a divorced from the real challenges and consensus of the broadcast section of the human community.

A democracy must resolve the great question of social equity and inclusion.

America’s democracy despite its political glamour struggles to contend with numerous substantive issues, germane to Americans and obviously need to improve itself. Despite this, the American establishment does very little at home to renovate and innovate its democratic practice but engages in worldwide political subterfuge, plying democratic rhetoric as mere weapon of foreign policy.

In the past few years leading to the centenary of the ruling Communist party of China, (CPC), the government under the patriotic alliance of the Chinese people led by the CPC, made an unremitting and arduous efforts to defeat extreme poverty, bringing to an end the scourge that has for millennia shackled under the Chinese People and sizeable portion population of humanity. The CPC staying true to its founding mission of serving the Chinese people wholeheartedly left no stone unturned to bring relief to millions of Chinese from the scourge of poverty. The final push in the conquest of extreme poverty began almost immediately after 17th National Congress of the Party at which Xi Jinping emerged at the core of the central committee of the CPC. Just in time before the centenary anniversary of the party, the mission of ending absolute poverty and giving practical and substansive meaning to democracy in which the people must be masters became a reality in China. People shaken off the pangs of poverty are almost, more likely to hold the government to account and supervise it more effectively.

Despite that China has achieved the enabling and basic framework necessary for meaningful and effective citizen’s supervision of government; the west refuses to reconcile itself to the fact that democracy in China has given scope and effect to human rights and human security.

Despite the world acknowledged feat of ending one of mankind’s scourges of absolute poverty, the Communist Party of China remains modest, offering only to share its experience with the rest of the world without the slightest arrogance of imposing its views on the rest of the world. In a speech delivered at virtual global summit of the CPC and world Political parties, the General Secretary of the CPC, President Xi Jinping said “to advance political democracy in a way that suits the national conditions of a country, we need to strengthen exchanges and mutual learning, improve mechanism for communication, be fully aware of the public opinion, put into place well-fledged institutions and enhance our governance capacity. By doing so, our capacity and efficiency to ensure people’s wellbeing will be delivered continuously.”

The problem with the Western hegemonic practice is that democracy must now bear its stamp of approval, accommodating its nuances and interests and even overlooking the substance of each particular country to chart its own path in the full knowledge of its own history, national condition and even local priority.

The global forum on democracy organized by the council of Europe, will set out of rules, it thinks best to define and characterize democracy but countries working hard to make democracy a reality of their people’s life will only have to look themselves in the mirror and engage in the mutual experience sharing and learnings that does not carry the baggage of political diktat

 

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