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It was Goebbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany and one of Hitler’s closest associates that were reputed to have said, ‘Tell a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth‘. This was what became of the United States of America when Donald Trump emerged as the president. He and his supporters believed in all his fancies and lies, including claims that the election was rigged against him. America hitherto had been a model and embodiment of modern democracy which it parades to the world like an ostrich. It has been undeniably so in its circles of elections and transmission of power until Donald Trump emerged as the president and an ultimate undertaker.
One thing that can never be taken away from the American systems is the emblem of strong democratic institutions not controlled by any individual no matter how highly placed. No doubt, the office of the president of the US wields enormous power and because of respect for the rule of law, there have been checks and balances and not much abuse had been noticed over the years.
All this has changed with President Trump who has desecrated that exalted office of arguably the most powerful president in the world. Trump will remain a big factor in the US politics in the foreseeable future because he represents a huge chunk of the ultra-conservative supremacist right-wing elements who believed wrongly that America belongs to them. History has documented America as a country of immigrants and the truth of this claim is incontrovertible.
Trump’s emergence as the Republican candidate and ultimately the president in the 2016 election was like a protest against the establishment. Trump is a successful businessman but as the president of the US, he was a misfit and a gate-crasher, unable to understand the balance between personal estate and the bureaucracies of the state. This was the reason why he brought in family members and cronies to run the affairs of the state which became unmitigated disaster not only for himself, but for the United States of America for which will never be the same again both at home and in the comity of nations where its sphere of influence has diminished.
Some critics now lampoon American democracy and its capitalist mode of production and dismissing it as one and the same thing. America practices democracy with capitalist mode of production; just for the records, democracy and means of production are not coterminous. Democracy as representative government remains the best form of government in modern history. It is preferable to any other form of government that confers power on individuals or class because of circumstances of birth or other privileges.
What just played out in the United States elections with all the antics of Trump to subvert the will of the American people is the supremacy of institutions over individual strongman. With all the pressures and cajoling, the institutions remained firm while individuals displayed uncommon integrity and principle over partisanship.
If the situation that occurred in America with Trump’s intransigence and refusal to concede victory and the amount of pressures exerted on everyone he thought owed him a duty of affiliation were to have occurred in any African country, Nigeria inclusive, every institution and government officials would have kowtowed the president’s whims and intuition like a zombie. Troops and tanks would have been rolled out and dead bodies would have littered the streets with secessionists’ threats everywhere you go. The reason is because the line between the president and the constitution or the state in our clime is blurred and loyalty to the president is taken to be loyalty to the state and the constitution.
Again, the major problem with us is that appointments to government offices and institutions are based in the main on tribal or ethnic considerations and religious affiliations where the person appointed does not have to merit the position by competence.
Not even the paranoia of Trump the rabble-rouser could make the secret police and other law enforcement agencies to start harassing opposition for electoral fraud that were not founded. This is the supremacy of institutions and integrity over the tyranny of a dictator. The police and army are not conditioned to deliver electoral victories to the president and his party because that is not their oath of office. Loyalty remains to the sovereign state and the rule of law and the constitution. This makes a whole world of difference between America and other democracies. Russia practices democracy, ditto Turkey, China, and Uganda in Africa. For these countries, even though they are democracies, they have repressive dictators who would not brook opposition. They employ the coercive agencies of the state to target oppositions and critics. Where it is convenient, they crack the skull of citizens and administer poison on opposition, the Russian style. We did not see that in the United States which is now more divided than anything else in the past. The invasion of the Capitol Hill by Trump’s supporters was quickly arrested and roundly condemned by even members of Trump’s own party, the Republicans. Except perhaps for Trump, the people know that desecrating the symbol of democracy in a country is not the legitimate way to fight alleged electoral fraud. William Barr, his attorney general resigned; there were other key officials of the White House that also resigned. Not even the vice president, Mike Pence, could jettison principle and integrity over loyalty to the president.
Trump’s presidency has diminished American sphere of influence globally which has changed the balance of power. America also has ceased to be Father Christmas and the US aid has reduced to countries and organisations. For African countries, there is so much to learn from the current global crises where our leaders rather than build capacity feel that we can always run to donor countries and agencies in times of trouble. We complain that Britain and the United States of America did not sell equipment or give us other assistance in our fight against insurgency and insecurity. We depend on foreign countries for credible intelligence for bandits and criminals operating in our homeland. We even want foreign countries to come and deal with our political problems at home and call on International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate abuses by our leaders. Can you imagine this, for a sovereign country with self-esteem?
When our leaders are sick, they run to UK, US and India etc; we refuse to build our own healthcare system. We are now running to embrace other slave drivers like China and Russia who are more suave and harbour more sinister kind of politico-economic dominion over poor underdeveloped countries to come and re-colonize us by begging for loans and hand-outs. We want other people to do everything else for us while we sit down consuming everything exotic and foreign. When are we going to begin to develop our industries and do things for ourselves, when?
Donald Trump epitomises the decline of global leadership of the 21st Century and lust for power. He is a bully and a bad loser with DNA of arrogance driven by revenge and mercantile spirit using the Bible as a shield. Notwithstanding his ‘America First’ mantra, Trump became a huge liability to the American system and perverse in every way imaginable. It will take many years of hard work to heal the racial wounds and fault lines of the whites against people of colour; African Americans, Hispanics, the Latinos, because of the supremacists’ bigotry of one man, Donald Trump.
The lesson from the American election is that there is no perfect system as every political form of government is susceptible to abuse and perversion and no institution is sacrosanct. What makes the difference is strong institutions and human capital where there must be continuous capacity building; training men with integrity and character.
With all our resources, natural and human, we are still not able to provide the basic needs of our people even in security of lives and property. We keep giving excuses and allowing incompetent people who are fatigued to run our government. We can begin to build our own system first by jettisoning the toxic embrace of ethnic irredentism and religious bigotry. We should stop being Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and Efik but pan Nigerian nationals. We should get the best from every part of the country to drive our institutions.
The way forward is for our youths to rise up and vigorously engage the government and political class like they did during the EndSARS campaign. Taking to crimes and criminality is not an option. The world and the future belong to the youths and they can be sure of the support of the Nigerian people at every twist and turn. Every system that is working anywhere in the world is driven by the zest of the youths. There was no political leader in our first republic that was above 50 years old, I guess. The first military putsch in Nigeria was led by young men in their late 20s; Chukwuma Nzeogwu was 27 years old. Murtala Mohammed as head of state was about 37 years; Olusegun Obasanjo was a General and head of state at the age of 39 years and Muhammadu Buhari was a Major General and minister about the same age. Now you have geriatric old men who are spent force and you expect them to drive the 21st century economy. That is a huge joke; they have not much left.
America has left a message for the world that its system of democracy has not failed but remains a system to beat because it is triumph of institutions over individual’s will.
- Kebonkwu Esq writes from Abuja, Nigeria.