West Africa’s variegation of societies poses great potentials for conflict and instability. It has been argued that a lot of conflicts in the sub region have resulted from divide-and-rule policies and prac-
tices of the colonialists and increased neo-colonial actions. But since no society exists in isolation, nations would surely attempt to impact the affairs of others, sometimes unwittingly, at other times as matters of deliberate state policy: West African nations thus ought to chart their own courses. Probably, this is better achieved as a collective, providing the raison d’être for studying and understanding political bifurcations.
Bifurcations connote previous stability in systems and characterise complex systems such as the social and political terrains in West Africa with many ethnic, linguistic, political and religious groups. Though the outcomes of these conflicting positions and relations might not be easily determined, adroit management of the transition can lead to more stable systems. West African political and civil leaders are in the best positions to fashion out policies to work with their diversities.
As Professor Okello Oculi argues in this edition (Conversation), beneath all the veneer of religious, ethnic and political colorations to every conflict in this sub region lies the core issues of poverty and access to resources; and the politician that proves most capable of giving people the basics of life shall receive votes from the electorate. Leopold Senghor’s 20-year leadership of Senegal in spite of being from minority ethnic and religious groups serves as a classic illustration of Oculi’s point.
It would appear evident then that increased political activity is required of West Africans to galvanise people-centred governance. But that itself demands high political maturity to seek the basic needs of all citizens of every nation. The ECOWAS Parliament, as a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus for representatives of the peoples of West Africa in order to promote integration, must play a pivotal role in achieving this. Members of the Parliament are placed at vantage positions to pick good practices of nations like Ghana and Niger as models for other nations.
On their own, political leaders ought to develop the goodwill by looking beyond primitive accumulation of capital to leaving legacies of people-centred development. Crimes of corruption and nepotism should not be left unpunished, for impunity only allows such bad practices to linger and fester. Formation of coalitions by political parties as was the case in Niger is also an encouraging emerging trend. Formation of coalitions entails consensus building and broadening of political landscape, two important ingredients that will ensure stability in the polity. Sure, West African nations can achieve stability in spite of the bifurcations.
-Odoh Diego Okenyodo