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MAGNUS ONYIBE

Magnus Onyibe is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA and a former cabinet member of Delta state government. Since the return to multi-party democracy in Nigeria over 21 years ago, Onyibe has written and published over 200 opinion pieces on the Nigerian economy, business, politics, leadership, governance and foreign relations issues.

When Donald J Trump’s tumultuous presidency ends on January 20, 2021, he would be handing over to president-elect, Joseph R Biden, a United States of America (USA), that has degenerated from first to third world.

That is remarkable because the trend has always been for a country to move from third to first world as reflected by the case of Singapore, the island country, which leaped from first to the third world as documented in a book titled “ From Third To First World: The Story of Singapore, written by Lee Kuan Yew, that country’s most famous leader under whose watch the country experienced the phenomenal leap forward.

There is a legion of reasons that the USA which Trump will be handing over to Biden would be a third world.  And it is simply because after about four (4) years of Trump’s presidency, the USA that was the acclaimed leader of the democratic world; and the foremost defender of political and social liberalism; the most advanced society economically, which is a prime position that it has proudly held for at least  60 years as the leader of the pack in the first world, would be a shadow of itself due to the ferocious attacks and systematic destruction of its critical institutions that bolster democracy.  In the course of Trump’s presidency in the past four (4) years, the erstwhile structures that serve as the bulwark and anchor of the famous American liberties have also experienced denigration of monumental proportions.  Consequently, the fundamental principles and ethos of the USA as the melting pot for people from all over the world seeking freedom or where to blossom as long as they meet the immigration criteria of bringing something worthwhile to the table became a pie dream with Trump constructing physical and virtual barriers against them.

Strikingly, under Trump’s watch, the American dream which served as the magnetic force that pulled even his parents from Europe to the USA, and which is the basis,  as well as the very essence of the USA also known as God’s own country, has almost vanished. As a result of the onslaught on the institutions of democracy, politicians from both the democratic and republican parties are now mostly in harmony about the fact that the hitherto acclaimed and critical democratic foundations of the USA which are core to its existence have been gravely bastardized in the past fours years.  It became even more alarming when it was discovered that president Trump was ready to go to the extent of engaging in an act as bizarre and incredible as a coup detat that he was reportedly contemplating in the hallowed chambers of the White House to remain the occupant of the Oval Office.

Thinking of resorting to a declaration of marshal laws as part of his self perpetuating strategies following his loss in the November 3, 2020, presidential elections which the candidate of the opposition party, former vice President, Joseph Biden won, mimics situations in Africa and particularly in Nigeria where removal of leaders from office through coup detat was the norm until the last two decades. As part of the wind of democracy sweeping across the continent of Africa, change of government through military force is now an anathema on the continent as the idea has been consigned to the dustbin of history in the better part of the last two decades.

That’s basically because, in the so called third world countries, dominated by African and South American countries, military coup detat is not fashionable anymore. It is evidenced by the fact that since the past decade or so, virtually no country in Africa has been under military rule. The assertion above is underscored by the reality that the few countries where military coups resurrected in the past half a decade or so, the coup plotters had their dreams as soldiers of fortune with the inordinate ambitions of taking over the reins of power in their countries quashed. Which is in tandem or in conformity with African leaders policy , under the aegis of African Union, AU towards ensuring that coup plotters were either forced or eased out shortly after the coups. To demonstrate that coups are no longer in vogue in Africa , President Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria -himself and ex coup plotter, is reputed to have told the officers who staged a putsch in Gabon in June 2019, that the  “Era of coup is long gone.”

As proof of the AU’s ability to bark and bite, literarily speaking, in Zimbabwe the coup plot that toppled Robert Mugabe in 2017 was not allowed to be sustained as a new president Emerson Mnangangwa was quickly elected. Ditto in Mali in 2020 where Bah Ndaw was named interim president shortly after the coup.

Effectively, there are zero countries in Africa whose leaders are not elected via general elections and open ballot. Whether the elections are being conducted with fidelity or how illiberal the democracies and their leaders are, is another kettle of fish. So Trump’s determination to remain in the White House through hook or crook echoes the attitude of African or third world countries leaders who rig their countries elections to sit tight in office.

Another odd thing about Donald Trump’s USA that controverts the situation in the third world is that it is usually the incumbents that rig elections by deploying the apparatuses of government such as the electoral agency, police force, and lately the armed forces as well as the judges in the law courts who aid and abet in the perfidy  in favor of the persons holding the reins of power. The wisecrack ‘It is he who pays the piper that dictates the tune’ rings true here.

But strangely, it is Trump, the incumbent president that is crying foul about an election that all the security and intelligence agencies under his control including his chief judicial officer have endorsed as being free and fair.

Nonetheless, if democracy has become so entrenched in Africa, it never could have been imagined that the USA famously referred to as God’s own country, a clime that the whole free world practically looked up to as a bastion of liberal democracy, would descend so low to the extent that its president would attempt to sit tight in office in the manner that third world leaders like Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Paul Biya in Cameroon have been doing. The warped idea is not only most absurd but fantastically odd.

And the relegation of the USA from 1st world to 3rd world is not being made up by me.

Actually, it is a comparison made by Trump himself in some of his recent tweets where he stated that:

“Courts are bad, the FBI and “Justice” didn’t do their job, and the United States Election System looks like that of a third world country.”

Before Trump’s last attempted gambit of contemplating the sinister plan to invoke the marshal law in order to self perpetuate, some of Trump’s supporters had also reportedly planned to kidnap the governor of the state of Michigan, Gretchen Witmer who has been at the receiving end of Trump’s verbal and tweeter tirade. Fortunately, the FBI nipped the weird plot in the bud before the sinister act could be hashed.

The politically inexperienced Trump who never served in public office before becoming president was on a mission to repeal most of the legacy policies of his predecessor in office,  Barack Obama. He was particularly keen to discontinue the public health care act that provides affordable medical care to about 30 million Americans, tagged ObamaCare. He also made building a wall to fence out immigrants from the Mexican side his raison dete, just as he also relished locking up in cages, children forcefully yanked from their illegal immigrant parents. Similarly, DACA, a program that grants children brought to the USA as kids the pathway to citizenship which the Obama regime used executive order to introduce after being blocked in parliament by the republicans, was also targeted for cancellation under Trump’s presidency. When the USA opted out of the global agreement on climate change, the withdrawal from the multinational agreement to halt Iran nuclear development plan and his antagonism to NATO- a security partnership with Western Europe aimed at warding off aggression from Russia and the truncating of the trade agreement between USA, China and some European countries on global trade resulting in tariff wars are added, the full circle of the destructive effect of  Trump’s presidency on planet earth would come to a full circle.  Of course, that’s not discounting the US 45th president’s complex and personal relationship with Russia that was alleged to have interfered with the USA elections in 2016 in his favor resulting in his impeachment by the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives, political action and decision which the Republican Party led senate failed to affirm.

Remarkably, all of the above political misbehaviors are typical of the so-called third world leaders, (dominated by African and South American countries) which Trump infamously referred to as ‘shithole’, and countries of rapists. Who could have thought that Trump shares some of the characteristics of the countries that he detests and therefore unjustifiably vilified, as evidenced by his plans to sit tight in office by perverting the electoral system. Even most of the Asian, Middle East and Eastern European countries such as Chile, Argentina, Pakistan, Yugoslavia etc where self perpetrating leaders hitherto thrived have enjoyed reversal in that respect, so why would such an outlandish option be appealing to the President of the almighty USA in the 21st century?

Encouragingly, most of the aforementioned countries, hitherto categorized as banana republics, where military coups used to be their predilection, have in the past decade pivoted their political systems to the point of totally embracing democratic processes.

So it is jarring that the 45th president of the USA , Donald Trump would dare to consider such a fringe idea.

Frighteningly, due to Trump’s penchant for quirky actions, all of a sudden, the inviolable status of the USA’s Democratic system of transfer of power is being threatened for the first time in recent history after it actually commenced 215 years ago when George Washington, the first president of the USA first published his farewell address, marking one of the first peaceful transfers of power in American history and cementing the country’s status as a stable, democratic state.

Characteristic of advanced democracies, (before the ascension to the presidency by Donald Trump) the USA was proudly and diligently wearing the badge of being the moral compass of the world in the practice of democracy. But the past four years of Trump’s presidency have exposed the underbelly of democracy in the USA.

First, it was strange that Trump emerged as the elected president of the USA in 2016 even though the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton beat him with about 3 million popular votes. But the uniqueness of the American electioneering system is such that it is the candidate that wins the most electoral college votes, not the one that won the most popular votes that is declared the winner. Apparently, Trump was trying to exploit a similar  electoral technical loophole that he used against Hilary Clinton one more time against Biden, hence he embarked on a subversive move to stop the electoral college officials in the so-called battleground states of   Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan from endorsing the electoral results confirming Joe Biden as the president-elect as required by the country’s constitution.

Unfortunately for him, the electoral college officials shunned and rebuffed his nefarious moves just as the courts, including the Supreme Court of USA ( SCOTUS) where 6 of the members were appointed by Trump and the Republican Party over the years, proved that they are beyond partisan politics by ruling against Trump’s obnoxious and diabolical plots to upend the election.

And happily, it was good news (that Trump did not have his way) for most Americans who voted for Joe Biden and by extension the world at large, that are about to heave a sigh of relief from the combative and tumultuous Trump’s presidency that has seen the USA gravitating from one face-off with one country or continental organization to another, and therefore constitutes a threat to global socio-economic harmony.

After the conscientious politicians who constitute the various state electoral colleges resisted Trump’s unholy pressure to subvert the system that has sustained the USA’s democracy since George Washington, (the 1st president of the USA who reigned from 1789 to 1797 ) successfully transferred power to his successor, President Trump has not relented in his nihilistic intentions to thwart the ascension of the president-elect, Joe Biden to power as the 46th president of the USA.

His latest antics was the refusal to sign into law the bill that was passed by Congress and which would help the long-suffering American workers ease the devastating pains of unemployment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill which had seen both the Republicans and Democrats wrangling as they engaged in a battle of wits in parliament with respect to the size of the budget to be allotted towards ameliorating the pains of millions of working-class Americans who are in dire need of succor via the payment of $600 unemployment benefits to each of them that have lost their jobs. Happily, the bill was eventually signed Sunday night after nearly one week of dilly-dallying by the president.

Historically, presidents in the USA don’t succeed in their re-election bids after they fail to perform well, especially while dealing with socio-economic crisis such as war, terrorism, hurricane, and the pandemic of any sort. It’s on record that 6 American presidents in recorded history have failed to get second term mandate. These include William Taft who served as the 27th President of the U.S. (1909-1913).

He won due to his friendship with the very popular outgoing President, Theodore Roosevelt . He however fell out with his mentor in the course of his first term, so he could not successfully secure a second term on the goodwill of Roosevelt  whose shoes he could not fill.

Next is Herbert Hoover who was the 31st President and served from 1929 to 1933. The stock market crash of 1929 occurred immediately after Hoover entered office, leading to the Great Depression. He was blamed for his failure to stem the economic and financial losses, so he got defeated in 1932 by Franklin Roosevelt, the only U.S. president to be elected to more than two terms.

Another president that failed to get a second mandate is Richard Nixon, (1969-74) who resigned as 37th president as a fall out of the Watergate Scandal revolving around his administration’s attempted burglary into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and a cover-up of his involvement until it was unraveled.

After Nixon is President Gerald Ford who served as the 38th president of the United States. According to public records, Ford came to the presidency as the only person never to be elected vice president or president. He became vice president under the 25th Amendment when President Richard Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned in disgrace. Ford was appointed vice president by Nixon and confirmed by congress.

As the Watergate scandal escalated, Ford became president after Nixon also subsequently resigned, becoming the first U.S. president in American history to do so. Ford then pardoned Nixon of all crimes committed while in office, an enormously unpopular decision.

He was thus defeated by Jimmy Carter, the 39th president (1977-1981). Carter also lost his re-election bid following the outrage that trailed the failed rescue of American hostages in Iran.

Ditto for George H W Bush (1989-93), who is the 41st president of the USA that lost his second term bid in the wake of the failed and some would say, unjustified USA involvement in Gulf war 1 which saw the country occupying Kuwait after it was liberated from Iraq. The economic toll from the war cost George H. W Bush his second term bid.

In the case of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the USA, it is essentially his failure to step up to the plate by dexterously managing the on-going COVID-19 pandemic that is his Achilles heels.

Apart from his identity politics rooted in American nationalism as reflected by his ‘America First’ mantra, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back is the apparent lackadaisical attitude of president Trump towards the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in his mishandling of the crisis arising from the deadly coronavirus that has killed over 333,000 Americans before the year’s end, representing one out of every 1000 Americans and still counting. The situation is made grimmer by the fact that although Americans constitute 4% of the world population, yet the death toll in that country represents a quarter of the world’s population.

For lack of dexterity in managing such a medical crises situation that has degenerated into tragedy and calamity resulting in the death of Americans in epic proportions, Trump was bound to join the likes of ex presidents Jimmy Carter and George H W Bush who are the most current members of the club of one-term-presidents of the USA . Although the last ritual towards the realization of Biden’s presidency would happen on the 6th of January when Vice President Mike Pence, (by virtue of his dual role as senate president) presents the electoral college results to a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives for ratification, it is a reality that the real estate/property mogul and tv talk show host turned politician barely 5 years ago, is yet to come to terms with. As he may still be hoping to literarily pull a rabbit out of the hat as magicians do, in furtherance of his desperate quest to extend his stay in the magnificent White House whose construction commenced in 1792, was completed on November 1, 1800, and has been home to all USA presidents ever after.

Without a shred of doubt president Trump has led the most controversial presidency since Richard Nixon (1982-74).

But contrary to the majority of opinions about his mishandling of COVID-19 pandemic and well known narcissistic attitude and demagoguery, he harbors or nurses the view that he is the best thing that has happened to the USA since the discovery of penicillin which was the most effective medication against smallpox that had at one point in time (like Covid-19 pandemic) wreaked havoc on mankind.

Clearly, from reversing the fortunes of the USA  from 1st to 3rd world through his scotch earth policies, history won’t be kind to Donald Trump as it has been celebratory of Lee Kuan Yew, the very well venerated ex-prime minister of Singapore who catapulted his country from 3rd to 1st  world as documented in his widely published book.

In a seminal book by two Harvard University dons, titled” How Democracies Die”, the duo of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt detailed how elected leaders can gradually subvert the democratic processes and system to increase their power.

According to the social scientists, when they embarked on the project of writing the book published in 2018, they had the notion that the culprit would only be in far way Africa , South America or the Middle East. But they had no inkling that such a country that would typify a dying democracy due to the subversion of the system by its leader, would be  the USA and a perfect example of such a leader would by the 45th president of the USA, Donald J Trump.

Who knows if there are other arrows in president Trump’s quivers as the world waits with bated breath for his next actions on the 6th of January which is the day the outgoing Vice President, Pence would present the electoral college result to the joint session of the senate and the House of Representatives, as a traditional precursor to the activities at midday of 20th of January 2021, when he is expected to exit the White House after handing over to Joe Biden as the 46th president of the USA. Baring all the political acrobatics and theatrics that could be unfurled by Trumpists to delay the process, the procedure should be a mere political ritual in fulfillment of the spirit and letter of the rules of the transition of political power from one president to the other introduced by George Washington over one hundred years ago.

The only other snag is: would president Trump personally hand over the reins of government to President-elect Biden as has been the tradition, or given his current foul and sore disposition, would he outsource the task to Vice President, Mike Pence? If President Trump’s maverick nature is taken into consideration, anything can happen on 20 January, 2021. But regardless of Trump’s shenanigans, ultimately on that day or later date , Joe R Biden would mount the saddle and be given the nuclear bomb code as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the USA.

Meanwhile, the incoming president’s job is well cut out for him.

By every indication, Joe Biden and his team would spend his first term healing the very badly wounded country. And they would start by bringing down the walls built by Trump to separate white America from black America and blue America from red America. At the same time, they would be in a hurry to recalibrate the global position of the USA (where it has lost a lot of ground) to reclaim her prime position as the true leader of the free world through words that unite the world and by engaging in noble actions around the world that would promote love towards and between all of humanity.

My advice to President Trump is that before he embarks on further misadventures or gambits aimed at facilitating his impossible ploy to self perpetuate in office, he should take to heart the admonition of president Buhari to the Gabonese coup plotters in 2019 which is that “ the era of coups is long gone”.

Specifically, it is about time that the president faced the reality that the era of Trumpism has come to a screeching halt, therefore it is time to move from the White House back to his property at 1100 Pennsylvania avenue in Washington DC as he had planned to if he had lost the elections in 2016 or to his Mara-Lago resort in Florida since he has declared himself a persona non grata in New York by changing his state of residence owing to the rash of legal actions against him with respect to alleged improprieties bordering on tax issues, which forbids him from living in his Trump Towers property in New York.

Most of all, as he engages in the 11th hour game of granting pardons to his friends and family, he should not forget to pardon himself for obstructing justice via his offer of state pardon to his acolytes that could have witnessed against him, but instead took his offer of state pardon and thus engaged in perjury. Better still, when he can no longer stand the heat,  as the proverbial long arms of the law encircle him, he can seek asylum in Nigeria.

I believe his request would be granted, as I’m optimistic that president Buhari would not be as mean as Trump has been to victims of human rights abuses from around the world who have been seeking asylum in the USA, but whom Trump decided to erect physical and virtual walls against.

Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.

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