The recent US election has lived up to the associated uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ironies, the paradoxes, the contradictions and the realities have been on the global discourse. Given the position that America had assumed since the end of World War II as the policeman of the world and the model of democracy and its practice, the 2020 election raises a lot of questions just like the impact of the pandemic in the country has raised questions.
The seeming birth pangs that America’s soft power was waning started after the 2016 election when the alleged Russian influence on the elections became an issue of both domestic and international concern. The ghost of that election seems to have taken roots as most Americans still feel a sense of outrage almost four years after.
As I write, there are protests in America over the 2020 presidential election that has the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump and Democratic party candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden racing for the mandatory two hundred and seventy electoral votes as they and their supporters seemingly are at daggers-drawn over the President’s allegations over illegal votes in some states. He had alleged that there were irregularities and threatened to take his case to the Supreme Court even though votes were yet to be finally counted and results declared.
Joe Biden had on the other had said that he believes that after every vote is counted, his Democratic party was on its way to victory but insisting that neither him nor the incumbent was in a position to declare the winner of the election. While he wanted all votes to count and be counted, the President tweeted that vote counting ought to be stopped. The counting has taken so long due to the pandemic and the health implications of non-social distancing, some voters took the option of mailing their votes and as constitutionally demanded, such votes that came in within the lawful periods must be counted.
Both Americans and the global community have been on edge as the counting of votes continue especially in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada etc. But barely twenty four hours post November 3rd, supporters of the President went to some vote-counting centers to protest and allege irregularities and demand the vote-counting stops. The Democratic Party supporters equally had some of its supporters on the streets demanding the vote counting continues till all valid votes are counted.
Never in the history of America has the country appeared so divided along so many lines than what the world is seeing right now. America as a former beacon of democratic tenets and the famed policeman of the world has left countries dumbfounded and disappointed.
The idea of an ideological divide between America and the so called third world democracies has been challenged globally due to the political events in the country since 2000 with the Al-Gore/George Bush Jr. Florida vote-counting contest but magnified by the alleged Russian interference in 2016 with a climax coming with the 2020 presidential elections.
For both America and the rest of the world, The Roundtable Conversation has some critical issues of discourse. Technology, military and nuclear capabilities are quite different from the human elements and nuances. The manufactured products can enhance human activities but still, human beings determine the functionality of those systems and machines. The players in the political field of a first world are as human as those in the so called third world.
Democracy is primarily driven by humans and there are no first world or third world humans in terms of the innate human capacity to be functional or dysfunctional. That the electoral story of an America is up to global scrutiny and even mockery by some nations goes to show that strong institutions can only endure with the cooperation of the human elements that drive them. The limits of Presidential authority are being seen with the way individuals and lawyers are reminding those that want to disrupt the electoral process that the constitution must be adhered to. Credit must go to some of the governors of some of the states affected by the incidents and their state officials who insist on the rule of law according to the constitution devoid of partisan sentiments.
Dr. Sam Amadi, a lawyer, a University lecturer and a renowned public affairs analyst bared his mind to The Roundtable about the global implications of the witling of America’s soft power as is being witnessed in the events preceding, during and after the 2020 presidential elections.
He said that the US finds itself in a position where it is losing its soft power. The US is an overwhelming military power in the world but it is now no longer an attractive power. It has lost significant influence and soft power. This came through a long period of internal deterioration. Just like it happened to Rome, America is losing it. Saint Augustine he says, argued that the Roman Paganism was responsible for the destruction of democracy in in Rome and the fall of the empire.
He says that in the US case, political bickering arising from culture war and the dominance of identity politics instead of progressive politics of the FDR era meant that the idea of a common community was destroyed and replaced by culture war. So US politics has no grounding in common good. US is presently gravely divided and every leader needs to pander to extremist positions to win and retain power. The US abandoned progressive politics under the influence of neoliberalism and excessive identity politics. To Dr. Sam, that is his own Augustinian exposition on the fall of the US in the global view.
To Amadi, the implication of the US condition to the politics and development in Nigeria and other developing countries is very grim. The US has lost is glow and appeal. This will weaken democratic struggles and embolden authoritarian politics. Everyone may now point to Russia and China as the new models of governance and the world would be a brutal place for most people. In Nigeria, we have to rely on our efforts to fight our battle for democracy and good governance and not look to the US power to support and bolster democratic governance. America has seemingly lost its attractive femininity he insists.
On the positive side however, the fact that three Nigerian Americans were elected to different positions in some states in the US must force Nigeria to abandon the archaic definition of citizenship and statehood. The elections and appointments of Nigerians to exalted political offices in the US is a big chastisement to Nigeria and its crassly parochial systems and propositions.
But one common denominator between the current US political system and Nigerian politics is the divisiveness by political players and as always, the effects cascade to their followers and the countries cannot fully exploit the values of diversity. The US fortunately can bear some of the shocks of divisiveness even if the results are impactful.
This can happen because they have a system that can stand the test of time till there is a turnaround possibly. On the contrary, Nigeria has no strong institutions that can help steady the ship of democracy and development might continue to elude the giant of Africa that must be a beacon to other African countries. Nigeria is almost to Africa what US is becoming to the global politics as the electoral system wobbles along.
Nigeria had copied the US brand of democracy but seems to have been crawling and falling as the country has since independence been struggling with identity politics. To understand the impact of the now ‘more pronounced’ impact of identity politics that has thrown up the US to global opprobrium, we must look back to the damage Nigeria’s brand has done to the country in the last sixty years.
To be the poverty capital of the world means that Nigerian politics has not found the key to development. The idea of trivializing leadership on the altar of zones and creed sacrifices the essence of leadership. Leadership must be by the most qualified and ready for leadership. The political class must stop taking the country on a valueless merry go round of identity politics. The value of diversity in a country like Nigeria whose best human capital and natural resources continue to be the envy of the world must get its leadership evolution and electoral processes correct.
The drivers of institutions must live up to their oath of office if Nigeria must move forward. Despite the upheavals in the US, electoral officials, the judiciary and elected officials still stick to doing their jobs despite threats from protesters and even the President.
Sneering at the US over the current electoral problems as though the Nigerian system is saintly or must be fashioned to fail is a great disservice to generations to come. The human nature is the same and advancement in technology never replaces the human element and essence.
It is time for the Nigerian people to have introspection and independently create a solid system and stop looking for some ‘saviour’ country whether big or small to save the system. There must be lessons for everyone, political parties officials, citizens and everyone. It is not enough to blame any set of people as the system is almost chain-like depending on the efficiency of the whole.
The idea of political monopoly by any region, class, gender or class must be discarded as development democracy must be all-inclusive. Full representative democracy comes with peace and justice and must come with conscious efforts by everyone. The people of the United States have broken all voting records in the 2020 presidential election because there is awareness that each citizen has a civic responsibility.
Nigerians must be realize that each country in the world is chating its course as though no other country exists as that is the only route to development and stability. The US lesson is that humanity remains the same and as such there might be the so-called first and third world countries economically and technologically but human foibles and excellence are universal. Humans run the system and not vice versa. Nigerian must figure out the best way to come up with a leadership evolution process that makes the people empowered enough to give unfettered electoral mandate to the candidates of their choice unlike the present system where there is too much corruption of the system. Development only comes with a functional and transparent electoral process starting with party primaries to general elections.