Peter Wuteh Vakunta seems convinced that with his book ‘Defeating dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World’, George B. N. Ayittey has written ‘a blueprint for oppositional militancy, a veritable modus operandi for undoing dictators in the contemporary world’. He thinks it is a must read for every student of African politics.
All too often, opposition parties that set out to liberate their countries from tyranny wind up selling out, fighting among themselves and sowing seeds of discord. Some opposition leaders are themselves closet dictators, exhibiting the same dictatorial tendencies they so loudly denounce in the dictators they are eager to replace. Ayittey sounds a note of admonition to Africa’s opposition political parties: ‘No single individual or group by itself can effect political change. It takes a united opposition or alliance of democratic forces’.
The prime objective of any bona fide opposition group or groups should be to get rid of the dictatorial regime. Once this task has been accomplished, the opposition can then establish a level political playing field. All other issues such as who the new president should be, what the new flag or national currency should look like are distractions; they are irrelevant and secondary. These issues are divisive and nothing delights a despotic leader more than a divided opposition. The opposition has to be conscious of the fact that the dictator may infiltrate their ranks by planting moles among them with the intention of destroying the opposition. Such moles, Ayittey suggests, ‘need to be tracked down and squashed’. A smart strategy would be to identify the props of the despotic regime and sever them methodically, one at a time.
Last but not least, to defeat a tyrant in an election, a coalition of opposition parties must field only one presidential candidate. Once a coalition of opposition forces has been cobbled together, the second imperative should be to lay down the rules of combat. The first rule is to know the enemy – the type of dictator (civilian or military), how he operates, his strengths and weaknesses. Then, it is incumbent on the oppositional coalition to devise effective counter-strategies and modalities for defeating the despotic leader. Most importantly, the language of the opposition must be devoid of zealotry, incensed ideology, ethnocentrism and elitism.
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