Nigeria’s election: unfurling the spangled

Developing Just Leadership

Adamu Adamu

Rajab 12, 1436 2015-05-01

News & Analysis

by Adamu Adamu (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 3, Rajab, 1436)

Mohammad Buhari won the Nigerian presidential election fair and square. The US tried to interject itself into the fray not because it loves democracy but because it has an altogether different agenda. Beware the American benevolence!

The presidential election in Nigeria (March 27, 2015), has come and gone. A party that swore to stay in power for 60 years managed to stay for merely 16. And then it all came crashing down. There were many reasons why this time around a change in government became not only possible but inevitable.

First, there was the incompetence which was of such magnitude as would have just by itself begotten the kind of change that could end it — and what a bloody end it would have been! Second, there was the propitious magic of a symbol around which the surging multitude could congregate and in whom it could place its hope and wait. Third, there was an intransigent chairman of the electoral commission who didn’t like being dared. Fourth, there was of course the card reader — that indefatigable sentinel of democratic arithmetic. And all these were there on the scene but they were only of benefit if there was an election; and there wouldn’t have been any election but for the fifth, which was working behind the scenes — the United States of America and some of its Western allies.

It all started with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who came calling: he came, he saw and he sauntered between the two leading candidates and sat with them individually and together and in the end gave his marching orders. It was all too humiliating and humbling for us all; but for someone on the edge of the precipice, a spider’s web begins to look like the firmest handhold, and the country eagerly took it.

Thereafter, the US State Department kept up the pressure as did British Prime Minister David Cameron. Other European allies, inspired or indeed coerced by the US, joined the fray, and all of them closed ranks, albeit with all the makings of the anxiety of Western statesmanship.

In his bid to help, President Barack Obama even took the concept of the virtual classroom to brand new heights when he took the unprecedented step of delivering a stern, stentorian transatlantic tutorial on democracy and electioneering that was almost insulting in its simplicity.

Obama represents that category of leaders who may be good in their own right, but who, in their leadership roles, remain naive enough to believe the lie of the ideal. And while they are unable to change the reality of the situation, they remain unwilling to go ahead with it unchanged. They may recognize just what is wrong, know exactly what is right, but remain unable to pursue and do either with vigor or conviction, because of opposition that may have been racist, politically-inspired, or out of his own desire not to appear to have been so easily and accurately predicted. But on Nigeria, despite the stiff opposition and virulent propaganda of televangelic Christian Zionists in the US, Obama decided to fully side with democracy in Nigeria.

So concerned was the American president that he sent a message to the people of Nigeria over the head of the country’s president, who probably saw nothing wrong with it. No one condemned Obama for interference in our internal affairs, as if we have any affairs at all.

Gone are the days of the impropriety of interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The new world order has since moved away from its tortuous revulsion to any attempts to violate the sanctity of non-interference.

“Hello, today I want to speak directly to you the people of Nigeria. Nigeria is a great nation and you can be proud of the progress you’ve made.

“Together, you won your independence, emerged from military rule and strengthened democratic institutions. You’ve strived to overcome division and to turn Nigeria’s diversity into a source of strength. You’ve worked hard to improve the lives of your families and to build the largest economy in Africa.

“Now you have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress by voting in the upcoming elections.

“For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear.

“So, I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections, and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence before, during, or after the votes are counted.

“I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence.

“When elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins. Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today.

“Boko Haram, a brutal terrorist group that kills innocent men, women and children must be stopped. Hundreds of kidnapped children deserve to be returned to their families. Nigerians who have been forced to flee deserve to return to their homes.

“Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress. I’m told that there is a saying in your country: to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.

“Today, I urge all Nigerians, from all religions, all ethnic groups, and all regions, to come together and keep Nigeria one. And in this task of advancing the security, prosperity, and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

That’s the spirit of the American Revolution and the world needed to see it. Otherwise, it would have asked: where was the universalism of the American experience? Was the American Revolution about freedom for Americans or was it about freedom for man? When will the key to this modern materialistic equivalent of the biblical City on the Hill be given to non-Americans? But if it had to take 87 years between independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, and another 100 years between the proclamation and the enjoyment of civil rights by citizens who are black, the world shouldn’t expect, and should understand, if the internationalization of democratic right and its enforcement by the US takes the next millennium. And that, perhaps, is how long the claim to global leadership should wait.

But suddenly, Uncle Sam looked like he was ready to fight someone else’s battle for the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Even though America had in the past gone to war ostensibly to defend or deepen democracy; in each case a river of oil was always bubbling and flowing close by. But in this case, even though there was oil, it was now of no strategic interest to the US. In the past, America had also gone to war to fight and contain communism or, in its more acceptable euphemism, to make the world safe for democracy.

Indeed, in recent past, nowhere has this American idea and belief in the uniqueness and specialness of its own destiny in world affairs, and especially its famed exceptionalism and readiness to lead a reluctant world toward democracy been seen to be clearly at work. But whatever may be said of America’s role in world affairs, its intervention in Nigeria represented the best in America, something the world rarely sees. But why did the US choose — or feels it has to intervene?

If the elections had failed, this country would have become embroiled in a series of wars without borders, between regions and within them; between faiths and within them; and between the haves and the have-nots. And each of them would have been a fight to the finish and, so, there would have been three finishes; and Boko Haram would have waited for all sides to get tired killing each other before it came in for the final kill, and that would have been the fourth finish.

But perhaps it was none of these considerations that led to the covert American response. It is likely that Obama suddenly woke up to the spirit of Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln and decided to launch the task of promoting, spreading and defending democracy in his continent of origin.

Or he might have easily realized that if Nigeria’s army is unable to deal with Boko Haram fighters at normal times, during times of turmoil, the entire country would surrender to them within a matter of days. Or the US Departments of State and Defence must have calculated and war-gamed that the implosion of Nigeria would pull the entire West African sub-region down with it in chaos and blood. And it would be just a matter of time before the entire continent caught fire and burnt to ashes.

The only difference between the 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry, for instance, and the bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 2014, was simply that the two tragedies were separated by two centuries. And if the antagonists at the Baltimore port were equally matched, those in the Mediterranean enclave of Gaza couldn’t have been more mismatched — howitzers and stones, cluster bombs and slings.

Under normal circumstances, which side a nation founded on ideals as high and noble as those of the American Republic would have supported ought to have been clear and predictable. But over the years, politicians have polluted the ideals of America’s Founding Fathers with support for Israel and sundry Middle Eastern dictators and other related misfortunes. And it was at Fort McHenry that the bombed-out Star-Spangled Banner inspired the writing of America’s national anthem.

Yet this nation must thank the United States of America for unfurling the spangled banner and making it possible for Nigeria to prevail. But for the American action, this government had no intention of conducting an election in March or at any time, or of allowing it to be free or fair. It wanted war but God gave Nigeria peace.

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