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‘Trump’: lessons to a developing democracy


US president elect Donald Trump / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

US president elect Donald Trump / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

Anyone who has been following recent events in Nigeria would have observed the trend in which scenes pop up at random, hardly culminating in any cheering epilogue, save for the illogical comedy that serious issues generate. The common feature of these episodes is their abrupt truncation by fresh ones – an unfortunate situation that burdens the nation with a stark of unaddressed pressing issues.

Once more the curtains have opened to a new episode, this time drawn by the turn of events in remote USA as Donald Trump emerged victorious in her just-concluded presidential election, generating yet another bout of excitement and amusement amongst Nigerians. A quick reflection on the US presidential election is important at this point – just before another discordant episode pops up and little or no lessons are drawn by Nigeria and her citizens from the preceding one.

One remarkable thing about the US electoral system is the rule of law. It is the grandstand in which the success of all socio-political and economic systems sits – including the electoral system. In this case, it is a wide invitation to a voluminous candidature, calling on all eligible men and women – sponsored or independent – irrespective of social inclinations, to compete, shielded with a legal armor from injustices.

It is this evenhandedness of the law that encourages men and women of repute to join the race for elective public offices. It is not surprising that Trey Gowdy, an American attorney, politician and former prosecutor cheered thus about the American justice system: “the reason I like the criminal justice system is there aren’t Republican or Democrat victims or police officers or prosecutors. It’s about respect for the rule of law”. Here, rule of law is the greyhound that pounces on every criminal or offender, including its handlers!

Yet, the success of America’s electoral process does not end with enforcement of the rule of law, considering the tremendous energy expended in selecting candidates for presentation to the electorate, hence the rigorous exercise that threw up Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Political parties and other contenders are very much aware that victory is not guaranteed by a few oligarchs, godfathers or the incumbent holding up the ‘mosaic arm’ of their anointed candidate to the electorate. Preferred candidates, therefore, become ‘the good product that sells itself’ as they debate on fundamental national issues that influence the polls, while presenting their ideology and manifesto to the electorate.

Voting then becomes as easy as Sunday morning for a sufficiently informed electorate that believes in the credibility and impartiality of an electoral umpire, which enjoys the full support of a network of other strong institutions and systems, including technology – while the economy churns at full grind! Acceptance of election outcomes becomes a tradition that must not be defiled as losers quickly pledge their support for the new government and rally same from their supporters and, indeed, all Americans – with little or no traffic en-route to the law courts.

At this juncture, Nigeria, as a developing democracy, should take the huge lessons presented by the efficient and effective electoral systems of the US and other developed democracies, in order to, among others: ensure that rule of law is enforced and its sanctity upheld in a manner that Nigerians of repute are encouraged to step up to the role of governance, without fear of intimidation, denial and victimization; institute a meritocratic candidature system that throws up only competent and patriotic Nigerian leaders; develop an efficient and reliable polling system that will restore public confidence and instigate participation; strengthen public and democratic institutions that will work hand in hand to ensure hitch-free electoral processes; institute an efficient and reliable legal system that will remove ambiguity, bias, delays, inconclusiveness in the administration of justice in electoral matters, and tampering with election calendars; leverage technology in ensuring efficiency in the electoral process; phase out the use of militarized apparatuses in the supervision of such civil activities as elections; develop an inclusive and value-based educational system that incorporates political socialization in raising an informed and patriotic electorate; restructure the polity in a way that eases the operation of the electoral system; etc.

Worthy of note is the fact that successful electoral systems like the USA’s were not born out of a seasonal process of filling up elective positions, but consistency in refining laws, policies, procedures and processes, in line with democratic values and principles. Such is the spread eagle posturing of a nation that prides in the strength and efficacy of her institutions.

That was President Obama’s gospel when he advised that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”. This is food for thought for Nigeria.

Lastly, as most Nigerians have keenly followed the electoral process – from candidature to final voting – that culminated in the election of Donald Trump as US president, may they bring this display of vigilance home and follow national issues through to positive conclusions by contributory participation, constructive criticism and advocacy for rule of law, equity, peace, freedom, efficiency and order, so as to pull down the dark theatre that orchestrates this soap of discordant episodes that the nation has become and refocus her towards the path to greatness.
• Igbo is a banker in Abuja

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