Professor Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka reflects on the nature of global capitalist democracy and Africa's quest for leadership. He returns to two previous discussion on democracy and the Amy Goodman-John Perkins exchanges previously reported in this forum.


Much has been said about the pathology of African countries and the inept and totally corrupt leadership many of our rulers provide. Indeed it is true that what the majority of African rulers do is just that - rule. They do not lead.  Rather than fight for the welfare of their citizens, they compete with each other as to who can best deny them their rights, rather than ensure the integrity and stability of their countries, they are more interested in emptying their country's coffers into Swiss banks. They are narcissists totally besotted with how much powers of the state shine on them rather than on the concept and practice of democracy.

I think our discussion on democracy can be further enriched by re-reading the Goodman-Perkin exchangess. Better still, read the book. Based on the practice of the ancient Greeks where Western democracy originated, democracy was never for all of the people; majority of the people were disenfranchised as slaves, or non high ranking free women and men. This ol' time democracy has only morphed into capitalist democracy in our own times.  Apart from reminding us not to forget the qualifier 'capitalist' when we discuss democracy, the greater implication of John Perkins' book (and a few others in like vein) is that the contemporary version of democracy is no longer limited to one nation-state in a fixed geographical locale; it is global, and it has been for quite a long while in the making. Perkins calls it building, 'the largest empire in history,' and he is not talking of any African nation, or any so-called third world country for that matter.


Although Perkins' confessions are based on his activities in Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Panama, it is not too far fetched to see how African countries factor into the whole equation. Just to mention one, my favorite example - Mobutu Seseko and Zaire of blessed memory. Unlike Lumumba (or Omar Torrijos of Panama, to take an example form the book), Mobutu sacrificed his country for his wealth and life. He did not even try to pretend any form of democracy in his country; he was feeding into the global capitalist democracy. He was amply rewarded for his selfless contribution with full protection and personal wealth, until the people, backed by the true underlying democratic concept, rebelled; or perhaps, until he had outlived his usefulness. See what is happening in that region today. 


Ultimately, our African rulers should be held accountable for their actions and inactions. They should realize that in seeking the highest office of the nation, they are committing themselves to sacrifice their own personal ambitions for the collective will, aspirations, and welfare of their people and country.  It is this collective love of the people and the land - patriotism (and I will add 'matriotism') - passionately believed in, and followed through relentlessly by each individual leaders (not rulers) that can truly liberate us from whatever / whomever forces oppress us on that continent. Without this fundamental, democracy is hogwash, it will be a distant dream played out in the global cesspool of greed and selfishness.


After all, in spite of his conscience that had been nagging him for decades, it was only his acute sense of patriotism, fired by the September 11, 2001 tragedy that finally persuaded Perkins to come out and "confess."