By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
Politics in Africa has always been and still is a uniquely brutish winner takes all contact sport; It is not unique because it is a hit or be hit macabre duel, ….politics everywhere is after all cast in that sorry mould …. its uniqueness comes in its below the belt kind of hit, disregard for rules or facts or principles ; just one huge and unbecoming contest not over power of ideas, but ideas of power. And where rules exist, they are so tenuous they are impalpable and the impalpabilities render them uniquely vulnerable to flagrant flouting; lawlessness intrinsic to African political culture remains the greatest bane to continental progress.
Hardly is the term “post factual ” politics more the case in any part of the world than in Africa ; Hardly that is, ….until now … when like a horse , Trump rode post factual politics big league to the White House : starting by playing his opponents like a fiddle, then ending beating them like a drum; Trumpery shot his ‘inventor’ ( Trump) into the political stratosphere as rocket fuel does the astronaut.
The trump phenomenon is the earliest sign yet of an africanization of the western electoral process; ….a process in which African political leaders have become well honed at hawking untruths in ornate wraps competing amongst themselves which untruths sell best and in what electoral constituency. Poor hungry african voter like his poor angry rust belt or brexit equivalent too beleaguered ( and ignorant) to be bothered about fact checking, laps up the sweet nothings from these political aspirants, poverty or group identity exploited to the hilt, electoral victory the only bargain.
African intelligentsia and friends had always hoped the continent’s practice of politics will shed its toga of a bruising and mendacious sabre rattling in favor of a westernizing model with its relatively sanitized fact based open contests until Trump suddenly popped up on a high wire extravaganza betraying the somber reality that Africans hold no monopoly over meretricious political incursions. In one short election cycle, Trump reversed everything of a tested model deploying to stunning advantage African style political demagoguery, tribe/ race baiting, poverty/ anger tap and vapid messianic platitudes, milking the protopathic sensibilities of a people or group as a farmer would the laden udder.
That is unsettling enough!!! More unsettling even is the new inclination by some ( including many who for good reasons were then opposed to his despicable style ) to want to elevate trump to the level of a Ceasar, along with a foreseeable short step from branding his tactics the tactics . What a doom prospect.
Should the west evolve in a trumpian direction in its electioneering culture , it might not only be a race to the bottom , it may come to spell the beginning of the end of western civilization . Why would a potential aspirant intent on high office want to trek the harder road of fact based contests, constrained by need for mutual decencies and polished discourse when by merely locating himself inside a post factual bubble simulating the Trumpian foot dance of disregarding the facts exploiting either the poverty ( Africa) and or anger ( American/Brexiter ) of voters , a softer ride to victory is not only possible, trump has shown it to be probable .
In Africa the trumpian model has earned the process nothing other than unending hostilities, cycle after cycles between groups pitched one against another by reckless campaign rhetorics and post truth realities. Is that kind of Africanization of western politics in the preservatory interest of the west ? !! What is now obvious more piquantly so than before is the ubiquitous role of the poor/ marginalized in shaping electoral outcomes . This is so because the poor/disgruntled will always be the weakest link in any democracy chain and where they happen to constitute the larger electoral bloc inside the particular democracy the process can only get to be as sanitized as the poor/ disgruntled renders it.
Just as ominous is the new reality that in the west just as it always has been in Africa, electoral ideals can be hijacked from unexpected quarters, the poor/deprived too ready to look past whatever the glaring ugliness of the candidate is, the messianic promise of rescue the only bet! Tied into the trump victory is yet another frightening prospect ! Until now, people in the west had always been able to stay ahead of the rest of the world in any knowledge based contests ; the littlest American easily able to outcompete arriving giants from outside and so job security for him was always assured.
Immigrant outliers all along patiently took positions in the queue, but constantly tooling and retooling themselves to jack up individual market appeal and market value; now many are so qualified the table has turned. Immigrants, still playing inside the rules they were faced with , came from the rear to the front of the queue outcompeting the winners of yesterday in those very knowledge based contests. but only to the chagrined resentment of winners of yesterday the new losers hoping to finagle old but tested rules, toss knowledge out the ring, to be replaced by mix of nativist and color driven contests, their savior, no longer competitive knowledge/skill sets but raw trumpian emoting and trumpian braggadocio .
When a civilization that once walked its way into preeminence through dint of hard work amongst its rank and file, all other peoples outcompeted fairly and squarely , suddenly now has to rely on banal impulses of race and group identity for quotidian survival, the only foreseeable way ahead for such a civilization is ‘down’ Trumpery is a looming threat to western civilization even worse, an incremental if unintended drift towards an Africanized model many of us long to jettison.