I was reluctant about writing this article, because I know that Nigerian “lootocrats” masquerading as leaders never learn. It is not a secret that these so called leaders spend more time abroad than they do in Nigeria. Due to their abundant loot, they have the most sophisticated television sets, cable channels and generators that keep them tuned into the global circuit of news. Most of them are also from the earlier generation that lived through the 1st republic and the reasonably good governance of that era. Thus, it is not a lack of knowledge of what to do that has created the rot in Nigeria, but a deliberate conspiracy to loot and vandalise the nation. Like a Pig that is pathologically inclined to dirt, no matter how much exposure, experience or knowledge Nigerian leaders are bequeathed, they will sooner jump into the murky and filthy pond of corruption and misrule.
As we celebrate Barack Obama’s historic re-election and the elaborate swearing in ceremony, conducted in the finest traditions of American excellence, it is pertinent to point out the many lessons from American democracy that provides a real time lecture of political science. First, it is remarkable that in more than two centuries of American democracy from George Washington, the first president in 1789 to the present, there has never been cases of organized election rigging, thuggery, hand picking of candidates and other such corrupt acts by American leaders. George Washington came under immense pressure by the ever present palace sycophants to manipulate the system and become a lifelong president, but he refused. He spent two terms in office and bowed out in dignity, having chosen to make the necessary sacrifice and lay the foundation for a durable democracy. That singular act by George Washington contributed in birthing the iconic American democracy that has become a beacon for the rest of the world.
The American constitution, exhaustively debated and negotiated by the founding fathers and a broad spectrum of American society remains a living and somewhat sacred document, imbued with the finest ideals of freedom, justice, equality and fundamental human rights far ahead of its time. That the same constitution enacted centuries ago, remains America’s article of faith is testament to the near divinity of the founding fathers. The cherished attributes of a living constitution, functional state institutions, a jealously guided free and fair electoral process and ultimately the sacrifices of the founding fathers have preserved American democracy for more than two hundred years and contributed in large measure in making America the greatest nation on earth. President Obama’s re-election owes to this long legacy of exemplary American democracy that is nurtured through rich debates , ideology and free elections.
Another fine attribute of American democracy is its anchoring on ideological political parties that are defined by policies and programmes that differentiate each party from the other. This affords the American citizenry a clear choice in picking their leaders at every level of government. The world was treated to charged and lively sessions of public policy debates between Barack Obama and Mit Romney as they traded off endlessly on the economy, jobs, foreign policy amongst others with each candidate articulating a clear plan for job creation and the re-invigoration of the economy. The economy and jobs took a deserved centre stage in the political debates in recognition of the fact that the welfare of citizens constitutes one of the most fundamental purposes of government.
Unlike in Nigeria, American politicians do not ignore the welfare of their citizens, neither do they arm thugs to kill, maim and snatch ballot boxes, nor do they have presidents and godfathers that arrange with electoral umpires to rig elections, announce fraudulent results and loot the coffers once in power. This fundamental difference between America and Nigeria has made America the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth while Nigeria in stark contrast is one of the poorest and most dysfunctional (failed) states on earth. Nigeria is on a self navigated route to perdition except we learn the important lessons from American democracy.
By Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu