That Africa’s failed regimes continue to harvest popularity maintaining an unparagoned hegemony that eclipses any voices of reason and dissent, is an interesting paradox that inherently underlines the continent’s body politick irrespective of geopolitical borders.
How the very same elements that have presided over cataclysmic economic declines over the past post-colonial decades continue to romp to victory every election speaks volumes of how deep their control of state institutions runs.
But power is a flirtatious illusion reinforced by how much control one has on the flow of money, state security and to a greater extent the propaganda machinery.
Beyond the notion of upholding sovereign constitutions and defending territorial integrities, African military establishments have been found wanting, propping up unpopular regimes and sustaining the longevity of those in power.
This explains the downfall of among others, Al Bashir in Sudan, Robert Gabriel Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the Ivorian Koudou Laurent Gbagbo.
The military remains very much a central aspect of power entrenchment to such a point that statesmen are prepared to increase defense budgets more than that of health, at whatever cost.
Yet the more dictators rely on the armed forces and security apparatus to sustain their rule, the more vulnerable they become to being ousted by these very same players (Wintrobe, 1998).
From the onset, the will of the people alone is consigned to the (not entirely) fringe, often manipulated through doctored narratives bordering on fear of recolonisation and alienation, a deceptive trap that creates a false sense of insecurity which is taken advantage of and exploited.
As such the elite become the guardians of the said popular will, stalwarts of sovereignty and servants of the mass safeguarding gains of the revolution from perceived opposition malcontents.
Beatriz Magaloni and Jeremy Wallace argue that in order to sustain their rule, dictators must at the same time discourage vicious power struggles within their ruling coalitions, the entry of outside rivals, and the formation of subversive coalitions.
The writers posit that a common way in which dictators deter these threats is by manufacturing an image of invincibility, for example, dictators mobilise crowds to participate in ritualistic ceremonies, have walls and streets painted with the official party’s emblem, obtain huge turnout at the polls and win with crushing margins, etc.
Dictators manufacture this image of strength to signal to potential elite opponents that they are indestructible and that there is no point in conspiring a palace coup or plotting a rebellion, (Magaloni). In such a state of constant manipulation and political dishonesty, the rule of law serves the function of leashing potential rebels from exploding the social order into an invasive civic disobedience.
It becomes the law of the rulers.
On the ground, the very same mass is kept in check and a distance away from the national cake, a distance littered by landmines of restrictive regulation and bureaucracy, sanitized by the respect of the supremacy of a purported rule of law.
The very deliberately super-imposed belief that the law is sacrosanct, serves to deter potential “political delinquents” from realizing and acting on the illegalities of the same, especially when it restricts, oppresses and perpetuates class tyranny.
This is more or less the reality that has befallen those who yesterday were liberated from the colonial albatross and ushered into a post-colonial neo-liberal dispensation by revolutionary super-stars turned- foxes-in-the-henhouse.
An incessant barrage of propaganda has instilled a severe cognitive dissonance that continues to be a factor in the failure by well-meaning opposition apparatchiks to wrestle power and forge a new path and narrative.
That failure is further compounded by internal weaknesses within the ranks of many of the so called alternative governments in waiting reducing them into impotent reactionary barking rabid dogs.
The opposition has not failed simply because it cannot articulate socio-economic ills better, it has failed because it has no power over the flow of money, information and those with guns.
This is the nature of contemporary politics.
Democracy has been abused via redundancy in states where alternative views are held with contempt, no wonder the so called Democratic Republic of Congo remains a complete opposite of what its high sounding name implies on the surface.
It has never been about a government of the people by the people for the people. The project has been one of class struggle in which those below the social strata wrestled for control of the resources to in turn oppress the same class from which they hailed as workers.
African liberation struggles were given life by the rhetoric of social justice shielding backroom political maneuverings geared towards replacing the old forms of oppression with new forms of the same.
The continued replication of and reliance on colonial laws testifies to this.
The leadership shift created an elite of formerly disadvantaged individuals and threw crumps of political liberties to the mass, hence the snail-paced progress in the pursuit of economic emancipation.
Yet with the right spin doctors and targeted propaganda messages, such a reality has failed to grow roots within the psych of the oppressed mass, reinforcing the cognitive dissonance the opposition continues to battle.
It is this ignorance that creates blind loyalty and sycophancy from which established unpopular regimes feed.
It is this post-colonial mental slavery that ought to be unfettered for a people to transition from the politics of discipleship into that of core issues of bread and butter.