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A corrupt White House

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White House. PHOTO: GettyImages

Is institutional corruption in the highest echelons of the U.S. government going to be state-sanctioned and be given free passage and a safe harbor?  We do not view life from rose-tinted glasses, neither are we Pollyannaish about the state of politics today. We assume that garden variety political trade-offs, subterfuge and opacity are par for the course, even though a fair chunk of such dealings may be of questionable legality.  However, never in the annals of modern U.S. history has corruption been the underpinning and fabric of government.   From the onset of Trump’s presidential term, almost everything he touched seemed tainted with traces of ‘the swamp’, if not mired in unequivocal corruption.

These increasingly egregious aberrations are myriad and often multilayered.  They are well documented for domestic and global consumption and will be viewed as the ultimate betrayal of a vulnerable world embroiled in unprecedented volatility. The world’s democracies are at different levels in nation building and at varying stages in striving for the concomitant goals of stronger democratic values and institutions.  Hitherto, we were supremely confident that as a community of nations, we were all fellow voyagers, sailing in the same direction of universal progress and development, carrying aloft the dreams and aspirations common to all mankind, with the U.S. as our North Star.   Our world history of institutional human oppression and its ensuing misery, albeit unique in character, always depicted man’s inhumanity to man and serves as a silent sentinel of the depravity we are capable of as a species.  Age-old narratives and modern memories played a key role in the irredeemable, sacrosanct blood and sacrifice expended over epochs and continents, towards the realization of democratic ideals.  These noble concepts at their core enshrine the dignity and value of every human being.

The nation states of Africa were cynically cobbled together as a by-product of self-serving European imperial interests.  It is estimated that Africa is home to about 3000 tribes and our hodge-podge, fragile democracies have to contend with potent and omnipresent tribal tensions percolating below the surface.   In an address to the Ghanian parliament during his 2009 visit to Accra, President Obama said the following; ‘Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict…But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy…or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants…No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.’ These words were music to the ears of the general populace of Africa, whose societies have experienced severe economic injustice and social unrest due to corrupt leadership.  Indeed, corruption has a direct impact on national development and cohesion and plays a role in the refugee crisis from Africa to the West.

Traditionally the U.S. was the quintessential partner in our struggles against the culture of corruption, employing the carrot and stick approach, through the soft power of U.S. diplomacy to steer and encourage our efforts.   The fact that Trump now stands credibly accused of corrupting key branches of government to perpetuate his political power and annihilate political opponents, is from the play book of African dictators. These were pariahs who will live on in infamy and whose leadership style we assumed had been consigned to the rubbish heap of history.

From the onset of his presidential term Trump set the trajectory for his tenure, which turned out to be laser focused on self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment and self-deification.   He certainly disabused our minds of attributing any notions of ‘noblesse oblige’ to the guiding philosophy of his presidency, when  he  publicly stated his aversion towards appointing anyone of modest means to his cabinet and wasted no time in selecting appointees, mainly from the billionaire and multi-millionaire ranks. Thus earning the cabinet members the epithet, ‘champagne cabinet’. Ergo, giants albeit with feet of clay, such as Martin Luther King Jnr, Martin Niemoller, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, whose lives were emblematic of self-sacrifice and commitment to the service of humanity, would not have qualified to serve in his administration. The reason being is that Trump is totally devoid of and impervious to eternal, universal principles which promote the common good and uplift mankind.   Equally important is a calcified incapacity to realize that the well-being and optimal survival of future generations, in the U.S. and arguably worldwide, are conditioned on faithful and selfless stewardship emanating from the highest public office in the universe. Trump has demonstrated ad nauseum that he is akin to a black hole, sweeping and sucking all but the wise and scrupulous into its vortex. At the same time his cohorts work tirelessly, sparing no effort, to lower the drawbridge in order to mount unceasing onslaughts against the ramparts of democracy. They have thrown gasoline into the surrounding moat of constitutional checks and balances and set it ablaze.  To their lasting shame, they are more than content to sacrifice honour and truth on the altar of Trumpism, ‘while Rome burns’.

In our quest to wend our way in fits and starts, through the miry labyrinth of human conditions and experiences, to create homogenous nations and stronger democracies, the crooked activities of a flagrantly corrupt U.S. White House is treacherous. Trumps public acts of political self-immolation have culminated in credible accusations being formally launched against him by the U.S. House of Representatives.  He ostensibly stands accused of bribery, corruption and extortion. It is left to be seen how well democratic institutions will withstand what is being increasingly described as a constitutional crisis or whether Trump will succeed in turning the U.S. into his personal fiefdom.

It is our hope that the rule of law prevails, failing which the descent into the ‘law of the jungle’ will be a real and frightening inevitable outcome for all stakeholders in democratic governance! The law of the jungle is characterized by mercilessness, ferocity and carnage. In the animal kingdom these phenomena create equilibrium, however if transposed to human society would result in utter, unmitigated catastrophe on a monumental scale. Raw, unharnessed power does not belong in any human society. Behold Trumpism in full flower!

Ms Irene Fowler is an International lawyer (LL.M Harvard) based in Lagos Nigeria. Her work has appeared in The Hill, Washington DC., Global Policy Institute, Loyola Marymount University, California, Women in Leadership, London UK, Op-Ed News (A U.S. based liberal news website) and The European Network Against Racism, Brussels, Belgium, among other publications.


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