by Abimbola Adelakun
But then, given Obasanjo’s antecedents and his role in engendering the culture of do-or-die elections in Nigeria, precisely what qualifies him to be a lead election monitor to Zimbabwe? Is the choice of Obasanjo the AU’s way of preempting their politics to us?
There are two positions Africans usually take in discourses: moralist and Africanist. The former stance is taken by those who insist on universal codes of ethical behaviour; the latter by overly defensive Africans who reduce issues to relativity and “What about..?”
Take for instance, the visit of the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, to Nigeria. While moralists pointed out that al-Bashir has ICC warrants hanging on his head and should not be allowed here, Africanists countered by asking what he had done different from those pursuing him. They wanted him left alone based on an anti-western sentiment that lionises any African leader seen as giving the West a middle finger. A Nigerian newspaper supported the decision to host al-Bashir. It intoned, “We support the Federal Government’s principled stance of placing an African Union resolution over and above the dictates of the International Criminal Court, other Western agencies and their local stooges.” Not once in the editorial/Africanist rant did it spare a thought for al-Bashir’s victims.
Al-Bashir is an Arab supremacist whose hands drip with the blood of Black Africans of now independent South Sudan and, those of Darfur against whom he organised genocides. The newspaper, like other Africanist institutions, was willing to elide the deaths of millions who ended up in psychopathic Bashir’s cauldron.
You can track the Africanist position in the arguments of supporters of the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. To this set of Africans, Mugabe is a symbol of anti-western imperialism and neo-colonialism; poor Mugabe believes them. When you read some Zimbabwean newspapers (or the infantile racist tweets of Mugabe’s political party, the Zanu PF), you are amused by how “anti-imperialism” and anti-colonialism” have become buzzwords for Africans who will not accept responsibility for their complicity in how Africans underdeveloped Africa.
Many times, when those expressions and similar post-colonial registers are thrown around, they are fanned by despots like Mugabe to take advantage of cult followers who just do not want to see through the smokescreen. Such a posturing by Mugabe, however, is a load of fatuous nonsense; behind everyone’s back, he patronises Western technology, products and even culture. The main thing “African” about Mugabe is his gargantuan hypocrisy. Come to think of it, if people like al-Bashir and Mugabe get free passes from Africanists because they antagonise Western sentiments, then why do they criticise Sani Abacha who also spat in the face of the West?
Last Wednesday, an election took place in Zimbabwe and, the 89-year-old Mugabe contested the seventh term! It is curious the farce of Mugabe’s attempt at democracy that makes him go so far as to stage elections. For a man who controls the machinery of a supposed democracy including the press, why does he waste everyone’s time on an electoral contest? A pathetic African dictator who is as corrupt as he is repressive, Mugabe deliberately ridicules the principles and precept of democracy when he allows an election he knows he will win, not based on his popularity but because he holds the knife, the yam, the cooking utensils and the list of all who will eat or not. The odds are already skewed in Mugabe’s favour and he consistently rejects any move for electoral reforms.
Worse, his major contender in that Wednesday’s charade was Morgan Tsvangirai –an unexciting candidate. The difference between Mugabe and Tsvangirai is like Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. A victory for either of them is a loss for Zimbabwe, Africa and Black people in general. Sometimes, to criticise Africans for their voting choices becomes unfair because of the No-More-Person Syndrome that afflicts the continent. People desire change but there never seems to be a worthwhile candidate. It raises the question, once again, whether as a people we are able to lead our own selves.
Enter Olusegun Obasanjo, the AU observer mission’s head who declared the election as “free, honest and credible” and that the structural flaws in the elections were “honest mistakes.” Some other reports quote Obasanjo as saying the election was “fairly fair.” (Precisely, what does that forked tongue expression mean?!) His assessment so easily papers over the inherent flaws of the election, most of which were evident. How can any election in which Mugabe is a seventh-term contender be credible? Is this expression an act of resignation to a helpless situation, or a quickness to patch things up so as to prevent any sort of uprising by disgruntled opponents like it happened last elections? Obasanjo even added that he had never seen a perfect electoral process. Again, we go back to relativism. Was perfection ever the issue in this election, or about getting the basics right?
The Obasanjo-led AU team’s position is antithetical to that of the observers from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia who declared the election “deeply flawed.” Either adjudication –the AU or Oyinbo observers — is steeped in ideological bias. Even a donkey knows the West does not like Mugabe and for them, the election could only have been flawless if he lost. Either position is extreme.
But then, given Obasanjo’s antecedents and his role in engendering the culture of do-or-die elections in Nigeria, precisely what qualifies him to be a lead election monitor to Zimbabwe? Is the choice of Obasanjo the AU’s way of preempting their politics to us? That they wanted someone who will not be incommoded by any conscience attack but only say what they wanted to hear? This is one of the sad things about the AU; it is willing to lower standards and allow defective elections pass. It did that with the DRC elections two years ago.
Obasanjo visited Mugabe after the “elections” were concluded; a not-so-subtle legitimisation of his own role in Mugabe’s victory. His image, sitting with Mugabe in the latter’s palace strikingly reminds me of the iconic moment in George Orwell’s Animal Farm when “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Looking from Obasanjo to Mugabe in that photograph, I also saw the same Orwellian transmutation. Obasanjo and Mugabe are the same; both are sit-tight and oppressive dictators. While one was however unseated by his countrymen, Mugabe, on the other hand, can perhaps be removed by death only.
Read this article in the Punch newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.