There is nothing more embarrassing than telling foreigners that Africans modeled our constitution to theirs despite obvious cultural differences. We must stop adopting foreign constitutions, they are neither made for Africans nor are their framers more civilized than you. There are historical cultures and philosophies built into Western and Eastern political ways of life that are incongruous to Africa’s: it takes a village to raise a child.
When they claim that their legal system is built on Judeo Christian philosophy, believe it. The reason for the constitutional assembly of representatives from all walks of life is to harmonize cultures and natural law that have kept civilized African Empires together and prosperous. So much so that cultures from far and wide are heard and harmonized.
We blame the constitution for everything including our own deliberate acts. We then blame it on those whose constitution we adopted. If the British system was not working in our favor, we tried American, French or Russian with their “experts” as advisors. We then claim some colonial master favored one ethnic group over the other. There are times and rooms to point out the fault of everyone when appropriate. But we must shoulder our responsibility, not cover it or hide under it.
We never accept that under any system, we were outplayed with the cooperation of our people within that were ready to hand over to those they think could be easily maneuvered. When it backfired, we blamed the constitution. We have to face reality at some point and take responsibility for our selfish actions. No, it is not the fault of the British or American system.
No matter whose constitution is adopted, some Africans will put their parochial interest first with or without a constitution. There are countries functioning well without constitutions. People of goodwill must guide their Rights, freedom of expression and liberty jealousy. Nevertheless, leaders with dictatorial tendencies have overridden their country’s constitution. Soldiers have overthrown constitutional authorities and governed by force.
Our constitutional scholars have not deem it fit to look inward for what can be harnessed from our culture and morals. There is nothing wrong with British, Russian or American trained Africans as long as we realize these are fallible beings with their own biases, some of whom would not hesitate to unleash idiosyncrasies on those they disagree with. Asking them solely, without those ingrained in cultural heritage to facilitate our constitution, laws and customs is a recipe for failure.
On colonialists’ training bikes, it is true that most of the African countries have grown in terms of absolute numbers in every field but relatively, they are well below anything reasonable people can celebrate. Indeed, most African countries fell into abject poverty never seen in the history of the Continent. Yet, Africa is still flowing with talents and natural resources that prodigal leaders cannot put together or manage out of selfish interests.
Take Freedom of expression for example. It can be in direct conflict with major religious beliefs. Tolerance and decency guides expect us to respect prophets held sacred by other religions. Though extremist groups go out of their ways to provoke and test the limits; it is constituted Authorities that should punish acts provoking public disorders, not individuals administrating jungle justice in a civilized community. It has been argued that extremists are better controlled if they demonstrate their freedom openly than hidden underground.
It is an insult to the intelligence of Africans when apologists claim most African countries are about 60 years old and have to learn from the constitution of their foreign mentors. They based the warped logic from the time slave traders were forced to give up political Independence. So before then, Africa was a toddler and came of age after colonialists “civilized” them and demarcated Africa into a constitution foreigners practiced for years. https://mass.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/6031c3a2-ada9-42b4-8045-52006e2a2b07/the-berlin-conference-of-1884-1885/
After all, Queen of Sheba and later Mansa Kankan Musa had dazzled them as stories spread throughout the world attracting bees to the honey pots, riches of Africa till today. Though there is consensus among most African scholars worldwide that the first noted cabinet system was in the Oyo Empire. Lord Macauley addressed the British Parliament in February1835 on how to reorient and miseducate India because he had never seen people more cultured and proud. They applied the same logic in the subjugation of Africa in order to make them constitutional copycats.
Though we based our legal system on British common law, framers also established Native Law and Custom at the local level. Others included religious laws in their regions. The fact remains that old wine may not be comfortable in a new bottle. Our constitutional committees are usually selected because of their experience and vast knowledge in many areas. Even when final approval is not by referendum but by dictators or military leaders.
The Constitutional model is not different to making our religious beliefs match theirs under the assumption that we all worship one God. We all agree that God is everywhere including Africa. Yet, Holy Lands exist everywhere but Africa! Nevertheless, miracles happen everywhere, including our own land. Even worse, we worship those who enslaved, abused, and told us to call them Saints. If there are Saints, we sure have them in Africa as the home of Original Man before humans moved to other continents and started their new religions.
On the other hand, some have argued that without a neutral or foreign constitution and legal system, dominant ethnic groups in a country might enforce their will and religious laws on others. There are Sharia laws and the Ten Commandments advocated by religious bodies which may not be enforced amicably in a secular state. Other religious bodies are always demanding that their code of conduct be recognized in secular states and religious schools that are founded by others outside their religious beliefs.
Consequently, our foreign Reserve is being drained legally by miseducation. Even disreputable ,schools abroad have joined the gold rush by shopping for students in Africa. Meanwhile, we have top notch schools all over Africa that are underfunded in order to fatten fly by night “jekuredi” schools in Europe and America. Harvard, Oxford, McGill, Toronto e.t.c have established expensive short postgraduate diploma courses in three, six or nine months to increase cash cow funding.
Farouk Martins Aresa @oomoaress