Sunday, 13 December 2020

LESSON FROM U.S 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The presidential system of government was invented by America’s founders in 1787. It is a democratic and republican government in which the head of state is also the head of government. He leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch and is elected directly by the people as the Chief Executive of the country. Being the Chief Executive of the country, the President possesses great powers. 

All the executive powers of government are vested in him subject only to the checks and balances of the legislature and judiciary as enshrined in the constitution. The quality of the leadership of the President in a presidential system of government determines the direction, character, fortunes or misfortunes of the country. The presidential election 2020 in United States of America has “trumped” up a lot of lessons for generations yet unborn to learn from. 

There is no silver bullet in a democracy to prevent the emergence of a queer, unconventional, conspiratorial, dishonest, corrupt, selfish and destructive leader from time to time. Washington Post as at 15th October, 2020, had documented about 25,000 lies and falsehoods told by President Donald Trump since his inauguration as the President of the United States of America on January 20th, 2017, which is about 1358 days on an average of about 18 lies per day. He crossed the 20,000 mark on 9th July, 2020. 

A case of the most powerful country in the world producing the most powerful liar as President. His niece, Mary Trump, lamented in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough”, how her family created the world’s most dangerous man. She practically described her uncle as a “criminal, cruel and traitorous” and belongs in prison after he leaves the White House. 

Almost every official who left the service of the White House in Trump’s regime echoed same sentiments. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican Senator and former Republican Presidential Candidate, opined that Trump has a relaxed relationship with the truth. The mere fact that Trump himself is considering a preemptive pardon for himself and family before the expiration of his tenure is a subtle admission that he may have run a criminal enterprise as President which may later come back to hunt him and family after his disengagement as President. Trump uses such adjectives as nasty, dog, monster to describe female opponents. 

Whoever is an opponent to Donald Trump is marked for destruction. Trump lives for Trump only. In his world, it’s either you are a winner or a fighter, there’s no room for a failure or loser. Perhaps, the most troubling of all alleged misdemeanours of Donald Trump is his insistence that the 2020 presidential election was rigged in favour of his opponent, Joe Biden and his refusal to concede defeat. This assertion of his was done without a scintilla of evidence. It challenges the integrity of elections, not only in the US, but undermines democracy world wide. 

Nations that had used the USA as the shining example of democracy to their citizens are at a loss what to tell their citizens on the current happenings in the US. Mitt Romney described his unfounded attempt to overturn the will of the people in the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden as madness.The lesson here is that no system is perfect and every country should be allowed to evolve their own system of democracy. Not even in the most backward third world country has there been a leader like Donald Trump. 

If Donald Trump had won a second term in 2020, this article would have been titled “America: The Emerging Third World”, because 8 years of Donald Trump would have changed the character of America permanently and forever.Another lesson is that leadership matters. Before, the arrival of Donald Trump on the political horizon of the US, one lie from a presidential candidate can make the candidate lose election and a lie from any civil servant might make him lose his job.

Indeed, Michael Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Adviser, lost his job, in the early days of Trump’s presidency, for telling a lie to Vice President Mike Pence that he didn’t meet with the Russian Ambassador in US, whereas he did. As Trump started manifesting avalanche of lies, it didn’t take time before most civil servants working for the government and republican party members started toeing his steps and the competition in American bureaucracy now is who will lie more to be in the good books of Trump. 


People who tell the truth are fired while the liars are promoted. Chris Krebs, the election official in charge of the cyber-safety of the elections, was sacked by President Trump for publicly declaring the 2020 US presidential election “the most secure election in the history of America” in contradiction to Trump’s claim that it was the most fraudulent election in US history.


The Republican Governor of Georgia was called a moron by Trump for refusing to rig Georgian election in favour of Trump. Dr Scott, who is not even an epidemiologist, was elevated to become Trump’s closest adviser on coronavirus because he was echoing Trump’s lies on the consequences of the coronavirus on the people and diminishing the importance of wearing masks, social distancing etc, while Dr Fauci and Dr Birx, well known epidemiologists, were benched because Trump found their honest comments on the coronavirus embarrassing to him. 

As a result, 289,450 Americans died from coronavirus complications, while a total of 15,392,979 Americans were infected, the highest in the world, as at 9th December, 2020. It was Alexander the Great who once said that an army of sheep led by a lion will become lions while an army of lions led by a sheep will become sheep. Leadership matters. Any country that gives its leadership to men without integrity is finished. 

A lesson for Nigerian politicians is the fact that the only reason why elected leaders in a democracy are given some months before being sworn in is to enable them form their government before the swearing-in date so they can hit the ground running from day one. The President-Elect, Joe Biden, started forming his cabinet immediately he was declared the winner of the election. He has selected his health, economic, defence, communication etc team and is ready to start work on day one. This is what democratic transition should be. Every situation is treated like an emergency.

In Nigeria, some elected leaders waste months after being sworn in to form a government leading to an irrecoverable loss of time. We must recognise in this country that time is the most unique resource available to any person, institution, organisation or government, especially in a democracy. It cannot be stopped, stretched, stored or recovered. It can only be managed.Time is life and a wasted time is a wasted life. Politicians who delay in delivering democracy dividends to the citizens are unwittingly wasting the lives of Nigerians. 

In a democracy, four years is four years, whether the elected leader performs or not. In Nigeria, some leaders will be busy travelling around the world and enjoying themselves instead of governing, only to come back to ask for third term when they run out of time. Sorry, you cannot stretch the time. Strong institutions and strong men are very important in a democracy. Strong men build strong institutions and strong institutions defend strong men. 

Were it not for the presence of strong men and strong institutions in America, the country would have gone under even within the first 4 years of Trump. When he employed an associate to man the post office system probably to use him frustrate the mail-in ballots which traditionally tend to favour the Democrats, it was some employees of the post office that raised alarm on the activities of the ally and the pressure from the people and the legislature on him made him reverse some of the obstructive policies and avoid the sabotage of the US mail-in ballots which eventually led to the loss of the election by Trump. 

Recently, the Attorney General of US, Barr, publicly parted ways with Trump by defending the integrity of the US election, stating that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the election, to the embarrassment of the US President.It is believed that Trump is considering firing him for this and he is considering resigning if that is what it takes to defend the integrity of the election. We must learn to build our institutions to provide enough checks and balances to a recalcitrant leader. Independent, impartial and incorruptible judiciary is a foundation for an enduring democratic society. The US election has demonstrated that justice can be speedily executed in electoral matters. 

Trump had the privilege of appointing many Judges of the Federal, Appeal and Supreme Courts. He appointed three out of nine US Supreme Court Judges. He openly boasted that he will rely on them to give favourable judgement to him in the event of any electoral dispute that may arise after the election. Trump has filed about 50 cases against the declaration of Joe Biden as the duly elected President of the United States of America. 

To his chagrin, he lost 49 out of the 50 cases he filed. Even the Judges he appointed in the Federal, Appeal and Supreme Courts ruled against him. When Trump took his matter to court to nullify the election in Pennsylvania, because he lost, it was an Appellate Judge appointed by Trump that threw out the appeal as lacking in merit asserting that “calling an election unfair does not make it so”. The Supreme Court denied him access to even proceed further with the case in the court. The Judiciary disposed of all these cases within about 34 days from the declaration of the presidential election. 

In Nigeria, the Constitution allows for 180 days to determine election cases yet some politicians are insinuating that it is too small. It is our attitude towards paying undue attention to technicalities rather than substantial justice and corruption that lead to the unnecessary delays in our courts. Justice delayed is justice denied. Our judiciary must be independent in its judgements despite who or the party that appointed them. Their allegiance should be to the country not the appointor. The Judiciary should be the last hope of everybody not just the common man. 

We must all be committed to free, fair, credible and violence-free elections in Nigeria. In a democracy, elections have proved the most peaceful and reliable method of transfer of power from one leader to the other and from one party to the other. Impeachment as a tool of removal of a recalcitrant leader is not reliable.In impeachment,what determines the fate of the leader is not how heinous or shameful the attitude of the leader is, but how many members of the legislature can move against him. It is always deeply partisan in deliberation and an uphill task for the prosecutors to achieve the necessary two-third majority of the legislature needed to remove the erring leader. 

Throughout the history of United States of America, no President has been removed through impeachment. President Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives dominated by Democrats but was acquitted by the US Senate dominated by the Republicans, despite the acknowledgement by every discerning person that he committed the acts he was alleged to have committed, which was to invite a foreign country, Ukraine, to investigate a political opponent, Joe Biden. 

Americans have demonstrated that they are willing to defend the sanctity of their elections when the Republican controlled states of Georgia and Arizona refused to rig the presidential election to favour Donald Trump, a Republican President, despite the insistence by Trump that they should do so. 

Also the Republican controlled Legislature in Pennsylvania refused to block the certification of the presidential election in Pennsylvania which Biden won. As at the 8th of December, all the 50 States of America and Washington D.C. have certified the elections which were organised under the individual laws of each State. In Nigeria, it will be difficult to remove any President through impeachment because of religious, ethnic, regional and sectional imbalances such removal may introduce. 

We are left with the option of strengthening our electoral system to ensure free and fair elections. We must learn to respect the will of the people freely expressed in a fair election irrespective of whose interests are affected. No sitting President in Nigeria should be allowed to use the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to influence and overturn the will of the people in his favour. 

Parties should learn to fight for the survival of democracy before the interests of their parties. We must appreciate what we have and stop thinking that others are better than us. If what is happening in the US were to be happening in Nigeria, some uninformed Nigerians will be screaming “Nigerian factor” and vowing that such a thing will never happen in US. Now that such things are happening in US, no American citizen is screaming “American factor”. They are all saying, “Trump factor”. 

The happenings have revealed that no country or institution is perfect and every nation should be vigilant in defending democracy. We must start becoming original and stop copying other countries. We have what it takes to become the best and soon we shall be by the grace of God. 

Olufemi Aduwo
President 
Center for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI) Inc, Maryland, United States,501(c)(3)Non-profit organisation and in Consultative Status with United Nations/ ECOSOC www.ccdiltd.org

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