By Kizito Umennadi C
On Wednesday January 26th, 2021 hell was let loose in the world’s epicenter of democratic values, culture and civilization, the Capitol Hill, being the legislative ground of the Unites States of America. The outgoing President Donald J. Trump who was roundly beaten in the November 3rd, 2020 general elections by his democratic party challenger Fmr Vice – President Joe Biden, went berserk and in national television rallied his support base;
the fringe groups in the Republican party consisting of ultra-white supremacists, ku Klux klansmen, conspiracy theorists, the violent Proud Boys, many violet nationalists and right – wing ideologists to incitement of insurrection against the United States of America all in a possible dream to override the will of the people and cling unto power beyond January 20, 2021 his exit date from the presidency. Is this really happening in America, the world’s best and oldest democracy or is it not rather an African or non-European country that this drama is unfolding from?
America was really pressure tested and shaken to the root of her foundations but stood her ground. I will in this piece try to unravel and navigate through this uncharted waters, giving lessons Africans and other developing democracies can learn from.
November 3rd, 2020 Presidential Election Fallout:
The US Presidential election was held on November 3, 2020. Due to the current Covid – 19 pandemic, mail-in ballot system was adopted some weeks before the election day proper to give all eligible voters ample time to cast their ballot and make their votes count.
The republicans and the Democrats are the two major political parties on the ballot paper. While majority of the Democrats opted to vote early using mail-in ballot system, majority of the Republicans prompted by Donald J. Trump discredited the legally approved method and waited till November 3rd election day to cast their votes.
Election day ballots were first counted followed by the mail-in ballots. Trump appeared to be winning initially but with counting of the mail-in ballots, Mr. Joseph .R. Biden won not only by securing 306 Electoral College votes but also won the popular vote with more than 81 million votes which represented the largest percentage of popular vote won by any challenger to an incumbent since 1932.
Expectedly, Trump was dissatisfied with the outcome, thus insisting that it was ‘rigged’ against him through ‘illegal votes’. For Lewis Obi, a newspaper columnist with Daily sun ‘Trump prepared for his defeat by stating that the only way he would lose is if the election was rigged. He was not going to accept the election result unless he won ‘it’.
The reality is that he lost. Grappling with this fact became a problem for him and his political base. President Trump took his ‘election rigging/fraud’ tales from district courts to state appeal courts, to state supreme courts and up to US supreme court. He could not show a single illegal ballots out of the over 81 million ballots cast for Joseph R. Biden.
The states in play here are; Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all red states which Biden turned blue. In a further turn of events still akin to ‘Nigeria brand and style’ of democracy, he decided to try to annul the certified result himself.
He would get the election officials to alter the figures to award him victory. Plain vote-stealing unprecedented in American politics! He must have arm-twisted many state officials. Only the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger had the courage and needed resolve to stop his ferocious attacks and publish his sensational and scandalous conversations with him.
Trump’s Aborted coup attempt
Events were moving fast. Clocks is ticking faster that ever. Yet in the words of Vincent C. Ifeme, professor of philosophy at Urban university Rome, Trump still ‘refuses to accept the glaring electoral repudiation of his failed demagogies from his own people’.
He continued to be unrepentantly true to himself and Trumpism his brand of narcissistic populist political method that suggests nationalistic answers to political, economical and social problems, refracted into such policy preferences as immigration restrictionism, trade protectionism, reluctance to enter into foreign entanglements and opposition to entitlement reforms. Greater majority of Americans has by the outcome of the election shown that they are not all idiots incapable of rational and balanced thinking.
They had to say no to past four years of ’embarrassments, lies, thuggery, bullying, deceit, divisions, fake news, alternative facts, manipulation of faith-based sentiments, conspiracy theories and ultra nativism’.
When all of Trump’s tricks has failed him in retaining the presidency by hook or crook, he began to think of outright coup d’état. His romance with dictator like Putin, Duterte, Kim Jung un and others in the same frame of mind may have been beneficial to him.
His former National security Adviser, General Flynn, a convicted and discredited Army General had advised him to impose martial law so election could be re-run in the vital states Trump lost-Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michgan and Georgia to give Trump the victory he craved.
‘The insurrection in Capitol Hill was the first step. The game plan was that the insurrectionists would take the congress men and women hostages and ‘hang Mike Pence, eliminate House speaker Nancy Pelosi’. The uproar would be such as to force Trump to declare martial law.
The plot had been there for a while. The Capitol Hill police had earlier been warned of this protest but decided to capitulate allowing the white supremacist and violent Proud Boys to march into the hallowed chambers of American democracy on the very day slated for final certification of the election results by congress.
FBI got the alarm signals but looked the other way. The vice-president Mike Pence, members of House of Representatives and senators had run for their dear lives heavily protected by some security personnel and after a stand-off that took many hours came back and concluded the bipartisan exercise creditably well.
Lessons for Nigeria and Developing countries;
Nigeria Africa and most developing countries round the world have a whole lot to learn from the trend of events happening at America at this time;
- Anchored on a firm doctrine of separation of powers, the American constitution which we copied from separated the US government into three branches; the executive, legislative and judiciary with potent processes of checks and balances that ensure that no branch of government gained supremacy over the other.
The operational force of the Rule of Law and the principle of Separation of Powers though threatened by Trump and his antics was able to stood its ground. We can argue that the US judiciary in the words of Ikechukwu Nnochiri, a legal analyst ‘ not only cautiously and promptly resolved all legal issues that arose from the election, it equally insulated itself from the political arena.’
This is not so with Nigerian courts and most developing countries. Our courts had in many instances turned itself into an electoral body, tabulating election results within its hallowed temples of justice and declaring winners to the chagrin of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Little wonder we have some state governors today being referred to as supreme court governors. The barrage of ex-parte order and contradictory injunction that most often emanate from courts of the same coordinate jurisdiction is laughable even as it ridicules us as a people. For George Egbune, Abuja based constitutional lawyer, this is simply ‘democracy by court order’
- The House of Reprehensive under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi introduced a four page article of impeachment against president Trump for allegedly inciting the mob that attacked Capitol Hill. They passed a resolution asking Mike Pence to activate the 25th Amendment and strip president Trump of his power.
Pence declined but the house went ahead to initiate impeachment process and eventually did so by 232 – 197 votes. If it were to be in Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe or any other developing country where the power of incumbency is key the story would have been different by now.
For Mr. Sani Abdul, a constitutional lawyer’ you would have either seen a heavy deployment of hooded armed security personnel that would bar the lawmakers from conducting any legislative duty. There will be also a situation where various courts would have dished out injunctions, restraining orders, order of perpetual injunction stopping the House from taking further steps on the impeachment process pending the determination and adjudication of cases before it all this in a bid to buy time and scuttle the process.
All in all, the elementary lesson here is that the rules of law must be allowed to flourish at all times. Each organ of government must operate within the ambit of law ably guided by the doctrine of the separation of powers.
iii. America security personnel was able to pick-up the Capitol Hill protesters in a record time using a working bio data. Here in Nigeria it is a world apart National identity Number is lacking. Intelligence gathering is abysmally poor. Security remains a problem and life is cheap and short.
- We may not regard America today as the policeman of the world yet America remains a very strategic Nation and game changer in the world.
- It takes only a single bad leader to mislead his people no matter how enlightened and educated they are. With Trump in the saddle the entire American nation was complete and manifestly divided, truth became relative, white supremacist extremism soared into unimaginable heights, things fell apart and the center cannot hold.
Policy wise, Trump promised to make America Great Again, went all his way to destroy NATO and the WHO. He dumped climate change, killed alliances long established and damaged American values while they cheered him as a messiah. We in developing democracy have been suffering bad leadership from Adam.
- Majority of the leaders in Washington DC across the aisles stood their ground when it mattered most and saved their democracy. This is not so in Nigeria and most developing countries. American democracy has been time tested with established institutions and structures over the years that when self-serving characters like Donald Trump came to unleash his final assault on their democracy they stood their ground and defended it.
We would have pandered to the antics of Donald Trump and do his bidding if what happened in America were to be here. Nigeria can learn a lot from the actions of Americas true greats and patriots in nation building that is true wholistic.
- Our leaders should emphasize more on Nation building, have the needed political will to strengthen the institutions of government in order to make them more effective and efficient. Our democracy system is more or less transactional, materialistic with government seen as the greatest benefactor. We need to change the character of our own democracy and thereby changing the narrative to a positive balanced one.
The recent events of incitement of insurrection engineered by President Donald J. Trump who up to this moment remains unrepentant sent shocking waves round the global world. American democracy was pressure tested and shaken to the roots of her foundation.
With strong institutions and structures developed over the years, she was able to absorb the shocks thrown at it left, right and center by the Trump presidency in the last four years and came back strong when it mattered most. Nigeria and other developing democracies have a lot to learn from this in a bid to deepen her democratic culture and values.
Kizito Umennadi Chinonso – Communications Department of Ekwulobia Diocese