American Elections : Lessons Nigerians Must Learn | Independent Newspapers Limited
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American Elections : Lessons Nigerians Must Learn

Nnedi Ogaziechi
Posted: Jul 26, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

“I am thrilled to announce my running mate,

Tim Kaine, a man who’s devoted his life fighting

for others…”

– Hilary Clinton


The run-up to the November 2016 Presidential election in the United States of America has turned somewhat into a global soap opera. Hate or like the country, it has succeeded in consolidating both its hard and soft powers and the world is in awe. The system is in no way perfect, (it is run by humans after all) but for some dysfunctional democracies like ours, there are huge lessons.

With Donald Trump as the Republican candidate and Hilary Clinton as the presumptive nominee of the Democrats (at the time of writing this), the battle for the White House has become even more intense but exciting all the same. Would the business mogul and reality TV star, Donald Trump or the former first lady, Senator and Secretary of state, Hilary Clinton take the oath of office come January 2017?

The answer to the above question lies with the highly involved American electorate; men, women, old, young, Jews, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.

The awareness and expectations of the average American voter is astounding. Each segment of the voting population has expectations and that accounts for the prominence given by candidates to the different demographic groups.

The Presidential candidates’ choice of running mate is done in a way that whoever is put forward would bring value to the campaign in real concrete terms. In a way, the choice of a running mate on its own tells a lot about the candidate in view and expectations on a personal and party level.

The above statement by Hilary Clinton as she presented her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine says a lot about her understanding of the psyche of the average voter who connects with people who are willing to SERVE (emphasis mine). She carefully chose a man who has won all eight (8) elections he has stood for. A man whose life has been dedicated to service of the people and who has a litany of electoral victories as testimony from the people.

In contrast to the American system, the Nigerian voter often has everything but service as a precondition for ‘electing’ candidates. There are mundane considerations like ethnicity, religion, geographic region and some monetary or material considerations always on the way.

The apathy shown by most voters often empower most dubious politicians to take the people for granted. That is why accessing public offices is often a do-or-die affair by people whose public and private lives cannot stand public scrutiny.

In American elections, they do not set off to elect saints (because humans are fallible) but there is serious scrutiny by the public and media who are stakeholders in the system. Certain character traits and personal life choices from early ages are seriously taken account of because in most cases, certain character traits are exhibited throughout life.

The Nigerian democracy seem to be retrogressing as both the legislative and executive arms at both federal and state levels are peopled by those whose antecedents in life are ignored by both party leaders and the electorate.

For almost a year, now, the candidates for the two American parties have had their lives and actions on the mountain top literarily and voters irrespective of party affiliations are taking a stand knowing that whoever gets into the white house would be the one to determine his or her fate with that of their generations born and unborn.

Countries of the world that have chosen the democratic form of government do not necessarily have to totally copy the American model, but each human society is bound by existence realities to adopt models that institute institutions that make democracy functional for the people.

***Nigerians should begin to think seriously about the character of people that are allowed to access power at all tiers of government; ***and that means the people being more realistic beyond exploiting individual and group interests often tainted with selfish considerations that ultimately spells doom for generations.

It is hypocritical to pretend to practice the American Presidential system while jettisoning the due processes that assist in making the system function for the people. The country might just continue running in circles till we all wake up to realise that a people really get the leadership they deserve. Character and antecedents should matter in the selection and election of people who run for elective offices.

The chaos that has characterised elections at all levels would disappear when elections are reserved for people whose person and professional lives are like Caesar’s wife, beyond reproach. Sainthood is not a prerequisite but integrity is a stepping stool. The Nigerian public must show an equal interest in the system like the Americans far beyond active membership of political parties. Nigeria is blessed with human and material resources and should have the very best steering the democratic ship.

The consequence of not taking or not scrutinising like Americans do is failure in leadership.


By Ogaziechi Nnedi