Why the Electorate in Africa Will Always be Disappointed by Their Governments

By Simon Bere

The African Electorate and the Perpetuity of their Unmet Expectations from their Governments

Ideally, every government, must be responsible for the welfare of its citizens because the political parties that form governments are voted into power on the general unwritten understanding that they will resolve the country’s socio-economic problems and improve the welfare and quality of life of its citizens. I am not sure whether this contract would be binding in the courts of any country but the politicians are elected into government to solve problems being faced by the electorate, in the process improving the quality of life of the same electorate. In many African countries at least, the majority of citizens almost  get more and more despondent every day after elections because they do not see or think that any positive results coming out of their governments in terms the pre-election promises of economic performance, solving their economic problems and improving their welfare and quality of life.

The result is that in many African cases, the majority is always despondent about their governments and are always wishing for, and even dreaming for a better government, one that will deliver the results they expect such as improving social services, creating jobs and easing their suffering. In other words the masses are always looking for, and waiting for, the messiah government. We need to go deeper into catastrophic phenomenon. Rarely indeed does this messiah government ever come and the expectations of the electorate of a higher quality of life and wellbeing delivered by their government is are rarely fulfilled. The vicious cycle of unmet expectations and unfulfilled promises repeats itself over and over again but the electorate who suffer more from the consequences never see through this philosophical hoax of a life. There is something fundamentally wrong philosophically here.

What the Masses Must Know: The Global Strategy for Getting Political Power

I am not sure if this applies to all African countries alone or to the rest of the world. The common broad strategy of political wings of all governments is to get into power by promising the citizens a good or better life defined by provision of goods and services, creating jobs, defending the country and the citizens from foreign aggression among other things. Especially in Africa, when the politicians win the elections and form a government, the populace is either despondent because it is not their candidate or the party that won or they are ecstatic because it is their candidate and their party than won the elections. However, for the majority from both sides of the winner-loser political divide, it ends there.

A few months after the elections, the masses or the majority starts becoming despondent because they begin to feel that none, if any of the promises are materialising, and things are, in some cases actually getting worse. The majority of masses from the ruling party retreats into their cocoons, not wanting to voice out their disappointments while those from the opposition start grumbling and criticising the government for failure to fulfil the promises as well as for failure to run the economy and in cases such as many African countries, failure to turn around the economy. In many cases, the government then gets angry, or at least surprised that they are being criticised for failure and defend themselves in many ways including shifting goal posts and reminding the electorate that nothing happens overnight and that they inherited a very bad situation from the previous government or cabinet. 

Before I move on, let me clear. I am not blaming governments for failing to deliver election promises especially those obviously beyond its control and capacity, neither am I condoning governments for obvious negligence in delivering their mandate is areas where there are expected to perform and they have the capacity to perform. I am advocating for the citizens, especially African citizens, to rethink the government’s role in their personal success, happiness, achievement and wellbeing so that they avoid unnecessary stress and disappointment and they become more productive and take greater charge of their lives.

Citizens must appreciate how politics work. Politics is about power and politicians firmly believe that it is rare if not impossible, for any political party to win elections by telling the truth of what they can do and what they cannot do when they get into power.

The Universal Political Blue Print to Political Power

Politicians know that the majority of people want quick massive results and they, the politicians, believe that failing to promise these huge rapid results costs a politician a victory. The politicians also know, especially in Africa, that the majority look up to government as the ultimate provider with infinite power and strategic, technical, operational, material and resource capacity and capability to solve their problems and “take them to the land of Canaan”.  The majority therefore vote the politicians into power and then wait for amazing things to happen to them and for them through government. 

They then get disappointed when what they expect of, and from, their governments do not happen and the promises do not get fulfilled. The major source of the disappointment is not the governments and their performance but the tendency of electorate to overestimate the role and power of government in their personal success, happiness, achievement and spiritual, emotional, cognitive, material, financial and physical wellbeing. Here is what the citizens need to know.

The script for all political campaigns, by all political parties in the world, is the same; what differs are the details. The script is based on four main pillars. If you are the opposition, accuse or blame the government for causing all sorts of problems for the people and if you can’t find causes, create them. Pay a blind eye to any progress and good things that the government of the governing party might have done or are doing. Tell the electorate that the actual situation is worse than it is and returning the existing political party to power is the worst mistake the electorate can make in their life time; it is like digging one’s grave.

If you are the governing party, make the electorate believe all the good things that have happened or happening economy-wise is a direct result of government effort and all that is not going on is a result of people trying to sabotage the government and to inflict pain. Instil fear in the electorate by painting the opposition with the blackest paint you can and castigate all their promises as wild dreams and a deception to the electorate.

Whatever your political adversary says, no matter how great, no matter how logical and no matter how progressive, put a negative spin on it. If you the opposition party, convincingly tell the electorate that you are the only person or political party who can solve all the mess that the government is has made and is making. Convince them with total certainty that only you and your political party can turn the country’s direction from the mother of all gloom, doom and death the current government is taking the country and the electorate.

If you are the governing party, make the electorate believe that their current situation is actually better than what they think. Show them some tangible past successes and inflate the successes as insanely as is possible with some conjured-up ones and convince them that  voting for any other party will be making things worse and the electorate will live to regret. Remind them, in a very subtle way that the devil that you know is better than one that you do not know.

The beauty of politics in Africa is that you can, if you have the financial and material means, persuade the electorate by providing them with some goodies. However this promise of heaven on earth and an easy and fast road to economic recovery and prosperity is not a preserve of the ruling parties alone. All political parties were promising the same but in different shares and formats. This is the reality of politics. It is about promises even those promises one does not have any idea how one is to fulfil them. Promising

The result is always the same. Political parties never win elections on the basis of any logical and practical parameters related to their ability to deliver practical economic results, but based on their power of persuasion and the inverse capacity of electorate for critical reasoning. For most political parties, the rhetoric is the only means of persuasion they have and the political party or the candidate that has the best political rhetoric and the best means of spreading that rhetoric wins the game. The best rhetoric is the rhetoric that appeals to the largest section of the electorate. But beyond elections which are won by rhetoric is real work of follow through in delivering on the essence of the rhetoric and this requires an entirely different set of capacity and capabilities. Jobs cannot be created by more rhetoric. When capacity and capability lacks, a government is tempted to conjure up new rhetoric to defend itself from the constant demand and reminding by the electorate that it has to deliver on its promises.

Piercing Through the Philosophical Hoax

While the electorate expects governments to fulfil their preelection promises, governments rarely, if at all, have the direct capacity to fulfil most of their election promises. The best governments can do is, in some cases create the environment in which other economic stakeholders can thrive and in the process fulfil some of the promises they make to the electorate. The only place where government can create jobs is in government and government institutions and state owned enterprises, most of which rarely have any capacity to provide jobs for all the unemployed citizens at any given time. It is indeed a great mystery how the electorate almost everywhere seemingly believe line, hooker and sinker that a government can fulfil a promise of creating jobs for the masses so much as to be disappointed when the jobs do not come. The fact that this cycle repeats over and over again oine election after another never seems to make the electorate rethink its expectations. There are some things for sure;

What gets governments into power (political might or capability and electorate manipulateability) is not necessarily what determines how well the governments will perform at the economic front. Political power is does not equal economic management prowess.

Governments are not made up of economic magicians who can produce economic performance magic by themselves, neither is any government a repository of the besr economic solutions in any country.

The actual performance of a government is a result of the performance of the individuals, teams and organisations not in the governments alone, but in the whole economy.

No government can possibility meet the needs of specific individuals within any economy unless it is forced to do so my moral pressure and circumstances such as when a disaster has struck.

Governments typically promise results not with any concrete solution for delivering them in place, but in the hope that they will find a solution somehow after they get into power. Once they get into power, they get overwhelmed with what they meet there and struggle to then find the effective solutions to deliver on their promises.

The non-government does not, and cannot unilaterally, produce most of the economic results the electorate expects. The electorate have a major role to contribute effort to the results they expect from government. This is what the electorate must know.

The economic state and performance of any economy is not just a reflection of government’s performance, it is a reflection of the totality of the performance of the whole society in that economy.

Can the electorate avoid or diminish disappointments with their governments by being more practical about what they can expect from their governments regardless of how rosy the governments’ promises are during electioneering?

Can the electorate take more responsibility for their personal economic and material welfare through direct personal action instead of through expecting government to deliver manna to them on their door steps?

Instead of blaming government ad infinitum, for their personal plight, can the electorate not contribute solutions to economic problems while at the same time produce and implement their own personal strategies to improve their own financial and material wellbeing? Can the electorate not take full charge of their own futures instead of depending on the government to deliver a future for them?

On the governments’ part is a new political paradigm not possible? Will a paradigm of facts-driven, truth-anchored politics and of promises that are backed by credible goal achievement strategies and a high probability of attaining them scuttle the probability of political parties to attain power? How about under promising the electorate during political campaigns or promising only that the contesting political parties have the highest probability of fulfilling?

Can governments not fully embrace and accept the reality that they have no direct real capacity to create jobs for the electorate and craft more appropriate promises in the area as well in other areas of the socioeconosphere so that they do not create false hopes and still-born promises among the electorate?

Can the governments not open enough space to the non-government players so that they lead in crafting strategies in the areas in which they operate? Can governments not claim capability and capacity in areas where they cannot possibly ever have that capacity and give other players to do what they do best in the spirit of mutual support?