While we celebrate the election of Mrs. Sirleaf as the first elected woman president in Africa, I am reminded of the admonition once issued by an African scholar that we should not pop up the champagne-at least not yet-in celebration of the birth of liberal democracy in Africa. Why? Because there were so many reactionary forces out there ready and willing to sabotage its renaissance in Africa. Indeed, if liberal democracy is to succeed in the continent we must, to paraphrase Adebayo Adedeji, plant the seed of democracy (i.e. transition to democracy), and when it begins to grow water it constantly so that it would continue to germinate until it would become as strong as an iroko tree (i.e. democratic consolidation).
The above anecdote and cautionary opinion on this matter is borne out of our (Agbese and Udogu, 2005) theory of privilege. In brief, we argued that those in a position of privilege are less likely to give up their position of advantage in a polity-any polity-without a fight or adjusting their positions in order to retain their position of dominance (as was the case when Generals suddenly became "born again democrats"). And that the theory applied in all societies, organizations, institutions, races, etc. Moreover, those in a position of privilege are often determined to use all kinds of permutations to retain their position of privilege-even if it meant the demonization of those perceived to be a threat to their position of privilege. Max Weber's theory of social closure approximates this theory.
The preceding assumptions are informed by the fact that in Africa there are powerful forces that might militate against this splendid political opening-and some of these forces have their roots in the African cultures.
The pressures on her as President to succeed are going to be enormous in a stable democracy, let alone in a so-called "failed" state. It goes without saying that it will take men and women of good will to make her successful so that we can finally say: I heard "a hen crow."
Not withstanding the above suppositions, the increased level of education for women in Africa and elsewhere, and their active participation through hard work in very aspect of society in a way that has never been seen before, have prompted me to be bold enough to proclaim to my students and perhaps to the world (through this medium) that the 21st century is the women's century. And, it is soothing to note that some African leaders have already begun to read the handwriting on the wall.