#Article (Archive)

A Political Opponent Is Not An Enemy

Nov 20, 2008, 3:52 AM

Politics is a game of give and take. But it is hardly seen as such in Africa. Here in Africa, winning a presidential election is seen as a means to owning a country, amassing wealth, appointing cronies to key positions and running roughshod over the opposition. Any suggestion by the opposition is at best seen as subversive, with the result they are hounded down. It is because of this political orientation that our societies are bogged down in retrogression.

When you compare the African scenario with what is now happening in America, you see a stark difference. Obama has vowed to 'work with' McCain. Both Obama and McCain no longer see themselves as political opponents but as Americans out to work together for the best interests of America and Americans. In Africa, we hardly see such level of understanding between the ruling party and the opposition.

If it had been in Africa, Senator John McCain would have been crying foul, claiming electoral fraud. And President-elect Barack Obama would have reacted likewise by punishing him and his supporters in every conceivable way. Instead of availing themselves of the well-meaning advice of the opposition, a ruling party in an African state would rather surround itself with sycophants who are only out to alleviate their own poverty. Experience has shown that it is the same sycophants who do not hesitate to jump boat when things turn sour.

Our politicians must learn to see their opponents as partners in nation building, not as enemies. They can do this by working together with their opponents for the good of our societies. They have to realise too that they are elected to work for the improvement of everybody in society; they are not in power only to work for the betterment of a section of society. If an opposition stronghold deserves some infrastructure, it should get it because it is also part and parcel of society. On the other hand, if a constituency that supports the ruling party deserves development, it should have it on merit, not on the basis of nepotism. When vital national interests are at stake, the opinions and judgements of the opposition should be sought. And the opposition should also respond in good faith by giving advice that fosters progress in every way.

It is only when African ruling parties and the opposition parties alike put national interests over and above narrow, selfish partisan interests that Africa will enjoy meaningful development.

"Politics now are nothing more than a means of rising in the world."

Samuel Johnson