America, Their America



The title of this piece isn’t an original from my “fertile mind” as Patrick Albert, a colleague and former Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) would like to say.

The earliest writer to use that caption was Professor John Pepper Clarke, one among the second generation of great Nigerian writers which included Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo both of blessed memory and the indomitable noble laureate, Wole Soyinka.

The book by Pepper Clarke, published fifty five years ago was a travelogue to recount the author’s experiences as a student in God’s own country at that time. Mine is a glimpse into the ongoing political rumblings akin to a tug of war between the iconoclastic President Donald Trump, a Republican on one side and the Congress of the United States of America headed by a woman, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat whose party holds the majority in Congress.

What are the issues?

One, the most powerful President of the leading nation in the world is alleged to have engaged in a phone discussion with the President of another country and in that phone talk” suggested an investigation into the business affairs of a potential rival”!

The second issue at dispute is a charge that the President of the United States “withheld an approval by Congress to an ally.”

According to the Democrats in the Congress of the United States, top constitutional law experts, political and public affairs analysts in the United States, the accusations constitute abuse of office, corruption- undermining national security and attempting to undermine the integrity of elections scheduled for next year! Just these? Typical Nigerians would exclaim! In the words of Speaker Pelosi, the House Speaker, “The President leaves us no choice but to act by moving forward with charges over putting personal political gain over national security interests”!

Before this article is labelled Afghanistanism, a situation in journalism where one leaves reportage of events in ones immediate vicinity to focus on occurrence far away, it is pertinent to defend this by pointing out that besides the world being a global village where events in distant locations can impact for good or bad in other environments, Nigeria prides itself as operating the same Presidential style of government, a system of administration like what obtains in the United States of America. This means that political activities in a country which system has been copied should not be lost on politicians, political leaders and citizens in Nigeria. After all, Nigeria is also of strategic importance to the United States of America as perhaps, a regional power, most populous black nation on earth and the largest democracy in Africa. What goes on there should provide examples and lessons to others in the world community and Nigeria in particular.

The current political face – off in the USA was ignited by a patriotic whistle blower and one wonders if anyone in Nigeria could be so patriotic, so bold knowing the likely outcome of such an action. Are Nigerian citizens even fully conversant with the provisions of their constitution? Would they take action to safeguard that guiding principles of state? Are Nigerians not so susceptible to ethnic, religious and class consciousness to pay attention to strict adherence to rules, conventions and morals expected of public officers. Is the show from America, so exciting to watch possible in Nigeria or in any part of Africa? Would key players not have disappeared into thin air overnight and would the public have had the benefit of listening or reading the transcript of that critical telephone conversation?

Is the legislature in Nigeria independent enough to hold an Almighty President to such high standards in conduct? How many opponents and political rivals have successive Presidents in Nigeria not investigated and hounded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) and The Police Force?

Who, indeed, are our legislators?

Do they possess the knowledge, the mindset, the courage of convictions and independent mindedness to hold out against a President? Would Nigerian Professors display the courage to go out there in full public glare to examine the issues involving a President dispassionately and give a sound opinion as to the implications of presidential conduct?

Would the action of President Trump be seen as anything back here? Would the home locality, State and various interest groups not spring up to protest against the legislature in Nigeria if it were to embark on such an oversight? In Nigeria, oversight means an entirely different kind of activity? Let’s look at the desecration of the temple of justice by men of the Department of State Security (DSS) recently over the re – arrest of Omoyele Sowole, has anybody heard any whimper from the Legislature or even the judiciary?

Would the woman Speaker not be a subject of vile abuses, ridicule, a veritable target of hate and hate speech? Would our various courts not have become a theatre of lawsuits and counter cases to arm-twist Madam Speaker just to stall the work of Congress? Imagine the charge of withholding the approval of Congress? Does the Legislature in Nigeria at local, State and national levels check again to see what the various executives in their jurisdictions do with approvals by Parliament? Who checks whether items for which money have been appropriated have been implemented? Those are the “high crimes” around the big neck of President Donald Trump. In Nigeria, who even knows what constitutes “abuse of office” where it has become a given that legislators at various levels use their offices to solicit for advantages everywhere -contracts, employments for their relatives and hirelings, admission slots and even better grades for their children and friends in institutions of learning.

Who would tell Nigerian political leaders and public servants that abuse of office includes operating their private companies while in government employ and using information at their disposal to gain advantage for their firms while genuine contractors and others are effectively blocked off from patronage. America, their America; the scenes emerging from that country’s political arena being watched all over the world are interesting but is that society regenerating drama possible in our country?

America’s system is so beautiful and robust because they believe in the equality of all persons: nobody is a king and therefore no one should act like one. The Americans believe in accountability by politicians and other public officers and this explains why every individual who vies for office is well scrutinized. They believe in transparency where every elected official is accountable to the electorate and must act in consonance with the wishes of the people. There is separation of powers and over there, there is respect for the political rights of others while freedom of speech is religiously guaranteed.

These are some of the values which make America, their America a showpiece of presidential democracy. These too, are the principles which, because they are guarded jealously, make America, their America such a great country; a beacon of hope and a worthy example for true democracy in the world. One holds the view that if Nigeria was serious about copying America, it should ape all the positive ideals, besides discipline and integrity as other vital ingredients in the mix. Anything less is a poor counterfeit, a discredit to the high ideals of presidential democracy.

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