Sunday, November 18, 2012

Obasanjo Appointment Perceived as Setback for ECOWAS

Former Nigerian President Obasanjo
The West African organization ECOWAS appointed former Nigerian President Obasanjo to assess elections in the peaceful democracy of Ghana. The Economic Community of West African States, made up of 16 countries was prompted by the desire to assist regional economic initiatives. In 2005, ECOWAS expanded its reach beyond the economic front. Missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone had inspired members of ECOWAS to place a regional check upon the democratization ventures within neighbouring states. This translated to ECOWAS’s short list of initiatives which includes the desire to improve health care, human rights, law, and politics. Now ECOWAS is considered a powerful influence within the region, though many still question the qualifications of ECOWAS. Despite its idealist sentiment for some, ECOWAS’s mission to spread fair and fair elections is hindered by the appointment of President Obasanjo.

Former President Obasanjo of Nigeria, known for rigging Nigeria’s 2003 elections, is now in charge of overseeing the legitimacy of Ghana’s 2012 elections. Under President Obasanjo’s rule Nigeria was under the influence of the military elite who were upright and centre in the decision making process. The military elite used its privileges from the oil rich soils of their country to thicken their pockets while manipulating the general public. Politicians under President Obasanjo enjoyed many kickbacks in their growing economy, yet President Obasanjo is now the advisor for anti-corruption campaigns in Africa. However much President Obasanjo alludes to a transparent and free Africa, his example set in Nigeria should disqualify him from his current election observer position.

President Obasanjo’s time in Sierra Leone only reinforces the need for a partisan observer. President Obasanjo was invited to Sierra Leone in 2007 where he endorsed President Koroma. Many watching the political dynamics in Sierra Leone were not surprised by President Obasanjo’s endorsement of Koroma, who is a vital business partner to the former president. If ECOWAS wants to stay true to its statement of intent, then a total reformation of the appointment process is needed.

ECOWAS has a lasting potential within Africa. But powerful nations like Nigeria should not be allowed to command centre stage, simply because of economic success, as has been the history. The path to erasing corrupt leadership and policies must begin within ECOWAS before it is translated in the national level. With the assistance of ECOWAS, West Africa has the potential to get rid of the cyclical corrupt pattern so familiar with post-colonial Africans.

Ms. Mansharn Toor, Foundation for Democratic Advancement Researcher and Blogger

The views in any of the FDA blog posts do not necessarily represent views of the FDA. The FDA supports free and broad speech. The purposes of the FDA blog posts are to encourage discussion about timely and significant democracy related issues, and educate.

Questions for Readers:

What was behind ECOWAS' decision to appoint Obasanjo? How can democracy in general rid itself of its Achilles heel, the influence of special and minority interests?

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