Africa's old guard is being swept by change

Feb 20, 2018|Afolabi Adekaiyaoja

A prize-winning farmer was once asked why he had very good plants on his soil. He responded that he often gave his secrets and prize-winning seeds to his neighbouring farmers. He went on to reveal that because of cross-pollination and other forms of interaction, he needed his neighbours' farms to do well so that they wouldn't reduce the quality of his own. 

A lot has been mentioned about the cascading effect that change has on the African continent. From the domino effect attributed to coup d'etats, to the clamour for independence, Africa more than any other continent has shown that despite our various nationalities and tribes, we are still one large family that beats to the same drum. Recently, however, that drum seems to have changed its beat, and the question now is whether Nigeria will change her tune to the new rhythm sooner than later.


Estranged Brothers

South Africa is in many ways, a view into what Nigeria could have been - both the good and the bad. Both are home to diverse populations. South Africa has 11 official languages, while Nigeria is home to over 389 different tribes. Nelson Mandela's inaugural speech proclaiming a rainbow nation could have applied to Nigeria as well. The same way questions arise about how South Africa would have developed had apartheid not happened, Nigerians often question the unity of their country, some Nigerians going as far to identifying more with their tribes than their passports. There is a lot of focus, both in South Africa and on the continent, on how much of a role White South Africans play in their development. Conversely, Nigerians have also started reflecting on poor foreign investment in our industries.

But one of the most prominent differences concerns leadership. Both President Buhari and Obasanjo have at one time been cited as Nigeria's 'Madiba', but while both have some similarities in circumstance - the age at election and imprisonment respectively, both pale in comparison to the late South African leader. 


Power pass Power

Now, South Africa has for the second time, recalled a sitting president. This is not new, after all, Nigeria removed an incumbent president in 2015. Granted, the sitting president was also no longer party leader, and Nigeria uses the American system where the president is informally head of the party. But South Africa's situation has shown the supremacy of institutions over the power of an office, and the individual that sits in it. Again, there is no excusing the different paces of development - the ANC has won every election since 1994, while the PDP was historically beaten in the 2015 election. And that should show how independent-minded the Nigerian electorate is, but a look beneath the surface will see the strengthening of opposition parties and ideas. South Africa's parliament is populated by thirteen parties compared to two in the Nigerian Senate. The question then remains whether a time come when a divergence of ideas and opinions are welcomed in Nigeria's politics, and will Nigerians have the ability to diversify the route to political power?


East meets West

Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa, after Nigeria. She is also home to many diverse tribes. While South Africa might be the economic capital of the continent, Ethiopia is her political capital. And in one of the less covered news stories after Zuma's resignation, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalagn resigned from office. The major reason for his resignation were protests, and these were triggered by the believed sidelining of two major tribes in the country - the Oromo and Amhara, by the Tigrayans. If this sounds familiar, it's because Buhari has been often accused of nepotism and tribalism since his election in 2015. A lot has been made of his political appointments being skewed to the North, with the Presidency responding to the accusations but being similarly exposed for making mistakes with the now erroneous data. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, and the world, and the way this issue is being handled will no doubt interest investors around the world. But Nigeria knows all too much about this. Even if we forget about the 2019 elections, we know all too well what happens when a tribe feels neglected and elects to leave the federation. Will we learn from a conflict that started over half a century ago, but feels so familiar?


Too many questions have been asked of Africa, and by extension, her people. A continent that is arguably the youngest in the world, with a diverse approach to sourcing influence and wealth, is showing that the people have traditionally answered these questions may not know the answer. A new wave of Africans is rising to answer these questions. This may not be the technological marvel that is Wakanda, but a growing connection between not only Africa's youth, but those previously discarded in the decision-making process, is making the case for a change of the guard. The question is, is the seeming wind of change blowing away or towards us? 


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