For every good democratic system, there is a legacy model driven by a transparent process that leaves the economy and livelihood of the country at a level that is unquestionable. As compared to other African countries, the social, economic and political problems of Benin are of a different and light magnitude dimension. As a country, Benin has set the bar high and cousin states like Zimbabwe, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, just to name but a few, have a lot to learn.
The elections came and they are gone. The King of Cotton, Patrice Talon, ran against a former investment banker, Lionel Zinsou, and the Chicken King, Sebastien Ajavon. After the casting and counting of votes, the King of Cotton defeated both the investment banker and the Chicken King and he is the undisputed President of Benin.
The irony of the Benin election is that it is Talon’s first public office race and his previous connections to politics included financing the election campaign of the outgoing President Thomas Boni Yayi. Talon used his political connections to build his business empire as he acquired 10 cotton ginneries that were state owned, and this has given him monopoly in the country’s main industry.
It is not in everyday’s work that we read about political leaders conceding defeat in a presidential runoff and calling to congratulate an opponent. Unlike the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and or Burkina Faso neither guns, nor riots or even teargas was associated with the power transition. This calls for an award. Unfortunately the world doesn’t publicize or celebrate such acts.
Elections in Burkina Faso, Uganda and mainly Zimbabwe are always a-flee-and-fear bloodbath associated encounter rather than a free-and-fair exercise. The later state is led by a nonagenarian who has transformed the former bread basket of Africa to a begging basket. This is a direct contrast to the open and transparent Benin system. Many African nations like Zimbabwe are now surviving on a demonic and corrupt legacy which has relegated the people to second class citizens. Literally and figuratively there are far too many pot holes to patch and the only plausible solution is to start all over again.
As the largest cotton producer in Africa, the South Western nation of Benin has been a target of foreign investors. This is despite suffering badly in commodity exportation due to the decrease in demand and prices. Benin borders Nigeria whose terrorist problems have not helped the economy. On record one-third of the nation’s youths have jobs and the same proportion live below the poverty line, but the agricultural sector is growing rapidly. Benin is one of the healthiest African democracies with an active civil society that stands above the rest. Underdeveloped as it is, Benin has France as the main European trading partner with a few multinationals operating within; but China has of late been their single biggest investor.
In religious terms, Benin has travelled the narrow road, not used by many. This is the first African nation to effect a successful transition from a dictatorship to a pluralistic political system. After being born with multiple governments and military coups, the 2016 Elections are notable for cementing democracy in Benin, and Africa as a whole. In the 1989 run-off there was a downfall of Mathieu Kérékou, who had led Benin since 1972 though a military coup; Kérékou’s downfall was an early presage of an unparalleled doctrinaire dogmatic changes which before long will trail all over the continent.
The unprecedented Kérékou’s defeat in the 1991 presidential ballot by Nicephore Soglo was amongst the first of many African trial-by-error elections. It was one of the first electoral defeats of an African incumbent head of state. Since then, Kérékou in a return match whitewashed Soglo; BoniYayi won in 2006; and now Talon has secured the presidential seat in 2016.
Anyways there is lot to learn from Benin over the years. Election after election there is always something good to write home about. Pity the good things don’t make it to the front-page world news, which is infested with either, stories about war, or the Czech fugitive drug lord Radovan Krejcir.
God Bless Africa! Long Live Africa!
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