By Francis B. Nyamnjoh
This paper uses the Cameroonian institution of “njangi” and the tendency to compare politics to this institution and practice to illustrate the universality of politics as a game of interest, interdependence and domesticated agency. The paper argues that the narrow focus on the autonomous individual in liberal democracy takes attention away from the complex, nuanced and collective interest-driven reality of politics in countries that claim the status of model democracies. Scholars of African politics have tended to uncritically internalise the rhetoric of the autonomous individual and of all-powerful leaders in their studies of political institutions and processes on the continent. One of the outcomes has been a misrepresentation of politics on the continent as a game of group and individual interests in which there are neither permanent patrons nor permanent clients nor permanent winners and losers.