So far democracy has not taken hold in Africa . Many observers are trying to understand why this is so. Each of them approaches this question from his methodological approach to understanding phenomena. Sociologists try to understand the problem from a sociological perspective and proffer several social reasons why democracy has not become the mode of politics in Africa . Political scientists produce their own explanations. Economists provide us with economic explanation of why there is no democracy in Africa .

 Clearly, a very complex problem, such as why democracy has not taken root in Africa , requires many approaches to understanding it. Thus, the various disciplinary explanations are useful.

 In this paper I will provide a psychological explanation of why Africans are not yet practicing democracy. My explanation, of course, does not fully explain the phenomenon. It is just one of the necessary explanations needed to understand why there are no democratic governments in all of black-Africa (minus South Africa ?).


 The thesis of this paper is that democracy can only obtain in a society where most people are willing to fight and die for their liberty and will not exist where people are afraid to risk death on behalf of liberty.

  Liberty can only exist where human beings are willing to look death in the face and defy it rather than accept living as slaves.

 When men are willing to fight and, if necessary, die for their liberty no one can arbitrarily rule them. It is when men fear death and want to live at all costs that those human beings who are not afraid of using violence to get what they want, in this case political and economic power, can intimidate them into accepting an undemocratic government.

 Monarchies, Dictatorships, authoritarianism and totalitarian forms of governments can only obtain in polities where men are afraid of death.

 A slave is a person who is willing to live under subservient situations. If you pointed a gun at a slave and told him: do this or you are killed he would do what you asked him to do so as to live. Only men who are willing to tell the gun wielding thug to go to hell if the alternative is slavery are capable of practicing democracy.

 Democracy is for courageous men, not for fearful cowards who want freedom delivered to them on a platter of God without them fighting for it.

 Africans, as I see them, tend to kowtow to anyone threatening to kill them; they tend to desire to live so much so that they are willing to live as slaves and second class citizens. That is to say that Africans tend to be cowards and do not look death in the face and say: I do not care if I died or not but if I am going to live under only one condition, freedom.

 Africans accepted slavery in Africa, Arabia, and the Americas . They so desired to live that they permitted Arab sociopaths, white sociopaths and African sociopaths to relegate them to slavery, rather than fighting and if necessary dying as freemen. In present Sudan and Mauritania there are still African slaves for Arabs. It is incredible that there are still Africans who so wish to live that they permit Arabs to dominate them when all they have to do is pick up arms, any kind of arms, and fight their Arab slave masters and if killed that is fine for as slaves they are dead, anyway.

 In so-called independent African countries, such as Nigeria, people are so afraid of dying that if you fired shots into their midst and killed a few of them the rest of them would run away, and like rats go hide in underground burrows (or run to North America, and from its relative safety make empty noises about democracy forgetting that democracy is fought for and is never given to people; those in power seldom voluntarily relinquish power; power is always fought for and the more powerful, those willing to die fighting for it generally have more power than those afraid to die for power).

 In Nigeria the people are so afraid to die that a few thugs have literally hijacked the government and divide the national treasury among them and could care less for the people's welfare. The thugs at Abuja ( Nigeria 's capital) appear to have total contempt for the people and do not even bother to think of their economic welfare; they ignore the people's needs and share Nigeria 's oil wealth among themselves. Nigerians live like rats while a few hooligans in government live in luxury.

 The brigands in power are able to get away with this absurd situation because Nigerians are afraid to fight and die for freedom; Nigerians are mere talkers, they talk big about democracy but are not willing to fight and if need be die for it.

 My thesis is that as long as Africans are not willing to fight for what they believe is right, in this case, democracy, they will not have democratic governments. They can talk all they want to, talk is cheap, and will not have democratic governments. Democracy is not for fearful cowards; it is for fearless men.


 All human beings: Africans, Asians and Europeans are prone to fear. No one race has exclusive tendency to fear. In fact, to be a human being is to be fearful.

 It is fear that enables human beings to survive as separated selves housed in bodies. If a person does not have fear he would not survive on planet earth.

 Fear enables people to react to threats to their lives and do what they have to do to survive. If they did not have fear they would not take the actions that would protect their lives and would die.

 There are children who are born with deficient pain response mechanism (anhedonia) and therefore do not anticipate pain with fear. Such children do not feel pain even when they put their hands in fire. They therefore do not anticipate what could harm them. Not knowing pain and fear they live dangerously and sustain physical injuries. They usually die from wounds they obtained and seldom live into adulthood.

 Simply stated, people need fear and pain response to be able to do what makes them survive on earth. Without their propensity to pain and fear people would not take the appropriate measures to protect them and would die. Pain and fear are necessary for human survival as separated selves housed in bodies.

 Human fear response patterns have been well studied. (See Isaac Marks studies on fear, for example.) Briefly, fear response works this way: a stimulus that is perceived to hurt people occurs and human beings (as well as other animals) respond in an involuntary pattern. They flee or fight that which they perceived to be threatening their lives. If they run that is fear response, if they stay and fight that is anger response. Either flight or fight response is meant to make sure that the animal organism survives.

 Apparently, evolution built into people a quick response to fear arousing stimuli. An animal perceives threat and his body releases adrenalin and other hormones and these quicken most of his physiological processes. His heart beats fast, his lungs work rapidly dragging in more oxygen into his body; his body releases stored sugar. Blood carries the oxygen and sugar to muscles thus energizing them to fight or run from the perceived attack on the animal. The animal's muscles feels tort hence more able to fight or run. Its nervous system works faster, sending information to the brain; the brain retrieves information from its memory bank; information as to what the animal should do, run or fight back. If the threat is assessed to be superior to the animal it is told to flee from it; if, on the other hand, the animal has a history of defeating such threat it is told to stay and fight back. These decisions are made in split seconds.

 The threatened animal either runs or fights back. Either measure is meant to protect his life. These physiological responses generate a lot of energy in the body and the individual feels hot and have to reduce his somatic heat via rapid exhalation and through his skin (when in fear or anger the animal's skin feels hot for it is releasing heat from the body).

 All human beings know what fear response is so we do not need to belabor the description of fear here. If you have not felt fear in your life you are probably dead. If you are alive you have felt threatened by environmental factors that arouse fear in human beings, fled from them or fought them.

 Like everything in life some persons physiological make up are quicker to fear response than others. Those who are shy, Jerome Kagan and his colleagues at Harvard University have demonstrated, tend to have quicker arousal system hence feel more fearful than other persons. Nature built into these people faster fear response mechanism. As Hans Eysenck suggested, these people are over aroused by environmental stimuli and to reduce their excited soma tend to avoid further arousal. Shyness is avoidance of that which is perceived to arouse fear in one. The shy child anticipates what would arouse fear in him, in this case, social rejection, and avoid it. He keeps to himself to avoid other people's rejection. He also avoids other things that could generate excessive somatic arousal in him.

 The normal child, in general, tends to have normal fear arousal level. He appropriately (flight or fight) responds to environmental fear arousing stimuli and when the threat is over returns to feeling less fearful (unlike the fearful child who feels fearful much longer after the threat to his life is over). Most human beings are normal in their fear response pattern.

 As these things always work out, some persons tend to have slower fear response pattern. These people tend to have less anxiety (anxiety is fear when the cause of it is not readily known). These people's bodies are less prone to fear response; they are more like trees than sensitive animals. These people, in fact, tend to feel so dead that they seek out that which would, as it were, arouse their bodies and make them seem alive. They seek excitement and thrills. It is out of these less fearful persons that antisocial persons tend to come from. Criminals are closer to insensitive rocks than to sensitive flesh and blood human beings in the sense that their bodies are less prone to fear, anxiety and pain; they therefore tend not to have empathy for their fellow human beings. These people do not feel other people's pain. In fact they do not feel remorseful or guilty upon hurting other people. In extreme cases, these people enjoy hurting other people (as sadistic personalities). Society's jails are filled up with sadistic, antisocial, sociopath and psychopathic personalities.

 All human beings who have survived into adulthood do feel fear, for it takes fear to survive; those who do not feel fear at all tend to die in youth. Fear response has ranges, with some feeling more fearful than others.

 The less fearful tend to gravitate to criminal activities and or to the military, business or politics. Antisocial persons fill the ranks of politics. These less fearful human beings manipulate fear in the more fearful human beings and in doing so rule them.

 The less fearful criminal understands that people are afraid to die so he threatens to kill them and out of fear of death they do as he tells them to do. In this manner criminal white men enslaved Africans; criminal Arabs enslaved fearful Africans; criminal Africans enslaved their fearful fellow Africans.

 All over the world the less fearful breed of human beings rule the more fearful human beings. This is the way it was in the past, is in the present and probably will be in the future (until human nature changes). The Kings of Europe, for example, were nothing but thugs; they were the leaders of criminal gangs who used force to intimidate the masses of Europe into seeing them as their lords. The European was intimidated into seeing the blood thirsty criminals they called their kings and princes, dukes, earls, counts, marquis and other aristocrats as their leaders.

 Simply stated, the less fearful elements of society generally govern the more fearful elements of society.

 Europeans are like human beings every where; they are prone to fear. But certain events in their society have made them learn to struggle to overcome their fears. The constant wars that characterized European history led them to defy fear of death.

 Sadly, Africans have not undergone certain historical processes that tend to dispose men to defy fear. However, one must emphasize that fear is not an African thing; fear is a human phenomenon. Whereas it is discernable that Africans tend to give in to fear more easily than, say, Europeans it does not follow that they are more fearful than Europeans, or other races. One is not stereotyping Africans as a fearful persons, one is merely stating that the factors that tend to reinforce fear in people are pronounced in Africa than elsewhere. These factors include mass ignorance, fear of natural forces, superstitious religions that see gods everywhere when, in fact, such gods do not even exist, certainly not as we construe them to be. Preliterate cultures tend to have tendencies that encourage people to live fearful lives.

 The European has gone through historical processes that reduced his fears. These include Greek rationalism, acceptance of pure reason as a mode of solving problems rather than relying on the auspices of non-existent gods, philosophy, Italian renaissance, protestant reformation, French enlightenment, English industrialization, urbanization, education for the masses, scientific culture and a culture that is increasingly secular and does not give credence to religious superstitions.

 Clearly, in time Africa would have undergone these liberating forces and thus reduces its people's fearfulness. In the meantime, it is self evident that Africans tend to give in to fear more than they should.

 No human being can ever completely overcome fear, if he did he would die, but human beings can feel their fear and still do what they want to do despite that fear.


 Perform this little experiment. Select a Nigerian who talks big about politics and threaten his life. Point a gun at him and the chances are that he would panic and pee in his pants and beg you to allow him to live and tell you that he would do whatever you ask him to do. That is, he is a coward. Cowards may live a hundred years but live miserable lives.

 If you are threatened and you remember to be calm and not give in to fear, you would be fully alive. At any moment a human being defies fear of death and does what he believes is right he is fully alive and is peaceful and happy.

 Africans, as I see them, tend to be fearful persons (of course there are exceptions); they tend to do as told to do. (Many factors contribute to their fearfulness including where they are evolutionally; they have not undergone the forces that tend to reduce fear in human beings; traditional societies tend to be paralyzed by fear, more so than modern, urban, scientific societies.)

 People, who are not hesitant employing force in controlling people, be they Arabs, Europeans or Africans, find it easy to intimidate Africans into doing what asked to do.

 As Africans remain a fearful people, I do not see them having democratic governments!

 If we desire democracy in Africa we must figure out a way to teach the run of the mill African to look death in the face and defy it. .

 We ought to train all young Africa male in military arts and expose them to danger and select courageous ones as military officers and ultimately as politicians.

 I believe that those who have not served in the military and exposed their lives to danger are seldom worthy politicians.

 University professors, for example, are the worst candidates for political office. These rule over an intimidated captive audience of students, persons who please them, seeking good grades from them. Teachers are used to lording it over weak young people and are therefore seldom capable of leadership. True leadership requires jostling for power and control with ones equals.


 I am writing this essay (today is April 12, 2007) in response to the election that is supposedly going to take place in Nigeria come April 14, and April 21, 2007.

 It does not require astute capacity for political observation to realize that the coming election would be rigged. What else is new in Nigeria ?

 A clique of Nigerian thugs who call themselves Nigerian rulers generally rig Nigerian elections and in so doing perpetuate themselves in political offices.

 These criminals are in office to steal from the national treasury. We do not need to fool ourselves by employing euphemism in describing Nigerian politicians. Nigerian politicians are criminals in politics. These people are antisocial personalities and use force and other means to intimidate whoever challenges their rule. They have private armies of unemployed young persons who work as their thugs. The psychopathic thugs are used to harass and or kill their master's opponents.

 The Nigerian population is intimidated into doing as the ruling thugs ask them to do. The thugs do not take chances with elections. They generally stuff ballot boxes with desired votes and count those on election night. In certain cases, they predetermine the results to be allotted to each of the thieving parties that masquerade as political parties (they do not perform the functions of political parties, such as articulate the aspirations of the people, work to realize those aspirations and seek government as an instrument for governing on behalf of those they represent etc).

 The whole election thing in Nigeria is a charade, a charade put on for the gullible to consume. The thugs ruling Nigeria use their so-called elections to impress their Western masters that they practice democracy.

 Let us not amuse ourselves with talk of democracy in Nigeria . There is no democracy in Nigeria . What obtains in Nigeria is thiefocracy.

 The real question facing us is why there is no democracy in Nigeria . As pointed out at the beginning of this essay, there are many economic (poor people do not know their rights, democracy tends to thrive in middle class milieu), sociological (the illiterate tend to fear the educated and powerful), political (men desire power and are willing to intimidate other people so as to exercise power over them) etc why there is no democracy in Nigeria.

 I chose to focus on the psychological variable of fear as a factor in the lack of democracy in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa . Of course I am aware that my perspective is reductive and does not completely explain the situation. But this is what I have chosen to do at this time.

 In my view, there can be no democracy in Nigeria ; indeed, in all of Africa as long as the people are fearful cowards. I therefore do not waste my time talking about democracy in Africa . Instead, I focus on how we can make Africans less fearful and more courageous.


 As one observes human beings who are fearful, it crosses ones mind that it would be nice if human beings were not fearful. If people were not fearful, were willing to fight and die for their freedom, no body would oppress them. People are oppressed and abused primarily because of their fearfulness and desire to live at all costs. There would be no slaves and second class citizens if human beings were totally fearless. There would have been no monarchies, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, dictatorships etc if people were not prone to fear. If human beings were fearless they would be free beings and would only tolerate democratic governments. (Would they have governments if they were totally fearless? Government, ip so facto, requires some control of the people, would a totally fearless people accept governmental control?)

 In the real world people are born with a propensity to fear. Peoples inherited bodies, genes, which dispose them to be fearful animals.

 People were programmed by their genes to desire to live forever in their separated, bodily states.

 As fearful animals, people will always try to live at all costs and fear what could destroy their lives. The desire to live at all costs and the fear of death means that people will always be prone to oppression and abuse by those who do not mind spilling blood.

 If you do not mind killing people, kill some of them, the rest of them would do as you asked them to do.

 Thus every where human beings live the less prone to sentimentalism, the brutal elements in society who kill without losing sleep from their criminal actions rule the sentimental types who are afraid of harm, jail and death.

 The reality of man is fear. To wish for a situation where people are not prone to fear is idealism. In idealism folks use their thinking to constructs ideals of what exists.

 What exists in the real world is not perfect, and imaginative human beings construct ideal versions of them: ideal selves, ideal social institutions and ideal everything. In our minds, devoid of the limitations of space, time and matter we can construe perfection. But in the world of space, time and matter the environment makes all things imperfect Ideals are escape from our painful, limited and imperfect reality.

 The pursuit of ideals is like the wish to have castles in the sky. Castles require foundations in the soil. Those who build castles in the sky, idealists (neurotics and psychotics) are escapists from the imperfect world we live. Idealism is negation of reality, which is impossible. Idealism is foolishness. Indeed, extreme idealism is insanity.

 What is sane is to accept the imperfect world we see as it is and live with it as it is. The function of science is to understand things as they are and design technologies to adapt to them as they are. Science does not indulge in idealism, in wishes for a magical alternative to our harsh world.


 The reality of man, biological and psychological science shows us, is that he is fearful and that he wishes to live forever and that as a result those two wishes that those who are willing to inflict harm and or kill people will always rule the people.

 Democracy is that form of government where a sufficient number of people accept their fear and still do what they feel conduces to freedom.

 There is no such thing as absolute freedom for to live in society is to be circumscribed by society's laws. In society people must give up certain animal proclivities. Nature's license is not the same as the circumscribed freedom of civilized living.

 As Thomas Hobbes pointed out, the license of the state of nature gave people insecurity and ultimately made life nasty, brutish and short.

 The security obtained from living in organized society is obtained by curbing people's natural freedom to do as they liked.

 The individual living in society does not have the right to steal from other persons or kill other persons, and if he does so the other members of society protect themselves from him by arresting, trying, jailing or killing him

 It is impossible to have a perfect society. We are not going to have totally fearless people or totally free society.

 Democracy is the middle ground; democracy is a society ruled by the laws the people made for themselves. Democracy is not perfect but it is the best that human seem able to do at this time.

 At present, Africans seem too fearful and easily intimidated by thugs; as a result they seem unable to have democratic polities. The real issue is how to reduce Africans fearfulness so as to prepare them for democracy.


Aristotle. (1921) The Politics, in the Works of Aristotle, Trans. W.D. Ross et al ( Oxford : Clarendon Press.

Eysenck, Hans. (1967) The Biological Basis of Personality.

Fromm, Erich. (1941) Escape from Freedom.

Hamilton, Madison and Jay. (1788) The Federalist Papers.

Hobbes, Thomas. (1660) Leviathan

Kegan, Jerome. (1997) The Growth of the Child. Harvester Press.

Locke, John. (2006) Two Treatises of Government.

Mill, John Stuart (1859) On Liberty .

Marks, Isaac. (1978) Living With Fear.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. (1527) The Prince.

Montesquieu, Charles. (1949) The Spirit of the Laws. Trans. Thomas Nugent. New York : Macmillan.

Paine, Thomas. (1776) Common Sense.

Plato. (360 BCE) The Republic.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. (1762) Social Contract.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

April 12, 2007


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Re: Fearfulness and Lack of Democracy in Africa
Oghre posted on 04-13-2007, 15:30:29 PM

ole boy I totally agree with most things you say here apart from the fact say you no get idea say "democracy means different things to different people"

And about fear, mate I gree with you so tay I want me and you to set good example and come out of our cyber hideout and be the first one on the ground overcoming the fear factor.

Here is what I propose, I am currently on holiday in abuja and will like you to meet me at Eagle Square. I suggest me and you walk towards Aso Rock and go protest the raw deal wey Nigerians dey get for the last 4 decades of Government. Damn the soldier at the gate, damn the olopa, damn the custom and mopol wey dey between us and OBJ, if they shoot us lets continue on and let someone else carry on from where we fall.

Tom, Tom... you no think say that will kick up a storm and act as launchpad for future daredevil bravado actions.

Someone has to start the thing right? Let me and you make history, tell you kids say their Daddy may not come back because he wan die for the country he loves so much. The country wey give up Bakassi, the one wey join Islamic club OIC, the one wey illiterates na generals and senators, the one wey make people like Tom and Ben run away to obodo Oyibo.

Tom, Tom... wo I dey wait for you o. I am ready for this great sacrifice. You never know maybe 1000 virgins dey wait us for heaven if we convert to islam before we approach Aso rock.

Re: Fearfulness and Lack of Democracy in Africa
Jah Guda posted on 04-13-2007, 16:25:00 PM
Osuji, you are spot on. I have on several occasions made the point: if we want freedom in Nigeria we have to be ready to go as far as sacrificing our lives for our country to be free and truly democratic; we have to be brave. If we do not want freedom or are unwilling to risk our lives for the sake of freedom, then we can remain as we are. Democracy does not just mean freedom to vote and chose a leader; accountability is at the heart of Democracy. What’s the point of choosing a leader if he/she goes on and does as they please without being accountable to the people? An absolute waste of time.
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