The strange events that reached the crescendo on January 6, in the country formerly known as the United States of America (USA), which with a heavy heart I’m reluctantly rechristening, the Divided States of America (DSA), are indeed unprecedented and epochal, but fortunately not apocalyptic.
That’s because, in the end, the coup detat that was launched against the Capitol — House of Parliament — as vice president Mike Pence emphatically and defiantly noted, democracy won, not the coup plotters.
The victory of democracy referred to by the out-going Vice President, Mr Pence is encapsulated by the fact that the ceremonial certification of former Vice President, Joe Biden’s election as the next president of the country from 20 January this year, which the coup plotters wanted to stop from happening, was concluded as the very resolute American congressmen and women, quickly regrouped, after initially retreating into safety, at the onset of the insurrection.
With their constitutional duty of facilitating the transition of presidential power fulfilled, a process which George Washington, the first US president introduced in December 1783, was accomplished, and Trump’s last proverbial trump card was demystified as his untoward plans were thwarted.
The noble gesture of handing over power when there was overwhelming pressure for George Washington to serve a third term, according to recorded history had earned the first American president, the title “ The greatest man(president) in the world “.
It is an adulation which no less a personality than King George lll of England bestowed on George Washington as the king marveled at how a man who just won a war would yield power so voluntarily to John Adams.
Donald Trump who by all indications thrives best in controversy, even if he failed to accept that he lost the contest, he could not as much as deign to be high-minded enough to end his tempestuous four years term as president with dignity.
One disconcerting fact that has been pricking my mind is that with eighty-one (81) million votes cast for Joe Biden the winner and seventy-four (74) million votes for the incumbent, Donald Trump, the loser in the presidential election of 3 November, America is clearly divided almost in the middle or by half.
So without a scintilla of doubt, there is a huge gulf between blue and red America, (hence l chose to rechristen the country, Divided States of America, DSA) represented by the coup plotters who are part of President Trump’s supporters that stormed the capitol and the true democrats and devotees to the rule of law, that went ahead to certify Biden’s victory as the elected 46th president of the USA.
Not attesting to the challenger, Joe Biden’s electoral college votes of 306 that’s more than the 232 cast for the incumbent, Donald Trump, on January 6, 2021, could have resulted in a constitutional crisis that would have been like the situation in Nigeria in 2010 whereby our constitution did not ( at the time) make provisions for what would happen when a seating president suddenly dies which was the case when Umar Yar’Adua passed on in 2010.
It took the doctrine of necessity to cure that lacuna. Now, would there have been a similar extraordinary measure if Trump had succeeded in perpetuating his zeitgeist ideology of having his way or the high way?
Conscious of the fact that January 6, was sacrosanct, President Trump had set up the booby trap by driving his supporters into a frenzy with inciting words that charged them up with the intention of hanging the Vice President, Mike Pence and murdering the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi as evidenced by the battle cry of the enraged secessionist in their chants when they laid siege on the Capitol like charging bulls.
Trump’s programmed insurrection as reflected by the storming of Capitol Hill by the enraged supporters is akin or reminiscent of the sort that caused the American civil war fought from 1861-5.
As it may be recalled, the American civil war was a battle between 11 states in the south that seceded and declared themselves as the confederates and then engaged in four years long war with the federalists in the north. The secessionist confederates were eventually defeated by the federalist, much the same way that the 6 January coup detat was foiled thus retaining the unity of all the fifty states. A status which the current schism is threatening to end after 250 years of sustaining it.
According to information obtained from www.pbs.org with respect to the cause of the civil war, “ a common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral issue of slavery.
In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict” the report concluded.
Although the causative factors for the 6 January insurrection, now tagged the coup in Washington, are not exactly the same as the trigger for the civil war fought for four years, two and half centuries ago, but the current issues are a sort of hack back to the white supremacist days, fostered by the outgoing president Trump, via his promotion of extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, KKK during his about to expire four years tenure in the White House.
That said, let’s now dwell on the present and the future by referencing my earlier essay focused on the ruckus in the USA titled “ From
First To Third World: The USA That Trump Would Bequeath To Biden” written and published on 28 December 2020.
In that piece, l made a prognosis of what might happen on 6 January. Given that President Trump is easy to second guess because he tends to act on impulse, l had predicted that there may be chaos during the certification of the electoral college result by a joint session of Congress presided over on 6 January, by Vice President, Mike Pence. When the anticipated attack eventually occurred, it was shocking to see that it was beyond mere chaos, as the capitol was engulfed by mayhem unleashed by the unhinged Trump supporters who exhibited zealous, if not lunatic ferocity.
Below is what l had predicted.
“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 a far way Africa, South America or 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 be 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, Mr Pence would present the electoral college results to the joint session of the senate and the House of Representatives, as a ceremonial precursor to the swearing-in activities at midday of 20th of January 2021, when Trump 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 normally 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 hundreds of 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 January 20, 2021. But regardless of Trump’s shenanigans, ultimately on that day or at a 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”
Remarkably, l expressed the opinion above about a week before the siege on the capitol. And Trump’s revelation that he won’t attend his successor’s inauguration is a development that l had predicted in the piece. But the bizarre situation of the secessionists storming the Capitol in an attempt to kidnap and hang Vice President Pence and kill Speaker, Pelosi were certainly not in my wildest imagination.
Co-incidentally, there are lots of similarities in the behaviors of the American thugs that stormed Capitol Hill and the Nigerian thugs that hijacked the #EndSARS protests. A cursory look at the television footages of Trump’s supporters who attempted the coup in the capitol on 6th January via his instigation while Biden’s win of the presidential contest was being certified, reminds me of how political thugs go on the rampage in Nigeria damaging voting materials such as ballots and collating documents in areas where a ruling party is not likely to win and in the process engaging in the disenfranchisement of some citizen. Take for instance what happened in FESTAC town, Satelite town, Okota, Akowonjo, Egbeda and other such areas where thugs disrupted election procedures in Lagos state in 2019.
Such art of brigandage and voter disenfranchisement in Nigeria, mirror voter suppression that’s perpetuated in the USA. Both perfidious acts are geared towards subverting the will of the masses, thus stealing the victory. Astonishingly, that is a mission that Trump wanted to accomplish after the 3 November presidential election of which he had pressurized via phone calls and the invitation to White House, without success, election officials in states where he lost to steal the votes for him.
Unlike in Africa where electoral officials, Police, State Security agencies, the military and the judiciary are more often than not useful tools for the subversion of the people’s will expressed via elections, the respective officials approached by Trump to help rig the election in his favor, put the USA and democracy above selfish interests by turning him down. I can’t help but long for the days that relevant Nigerian officials would be that high minded.
Another notable common trend between the thugs in both countries is that the thugs that broke into USA House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s office and the ones that gained access into Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s space were clowning by seating at their desks in a manner that reminds me of the hoodlums during #Endsars protests in Nigeria who broke into courts and wore judges gowns, vandalized police stations where they seized uniforms and adorned themselves with the full police regalia, while even being hailed by fellow thugs as ‘IG’ inspector general of police.
In a sacrilegious manner, the thugs during #EndSars protests did not confine their desecration to only government offices but also broke into the palace of the respected Oba of Lagos, whose staff of office and royal footwears were stolen and gleefully shown off on social media much the way that the secessionists in the USA stole the lectern in Speaker Pelosi’s office and showed it off on social media.
It also mimics the manner Nigerian thugs snatched the mace from the senate chambers while in session and scampered with it when the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari was being speculated, while he was away receiving medical care in the UK, a couple of years ago.
So there is an interesting pattern of behavior between the arsonists that attacked politicians in the capitol, USA and the brigands that unleashed mayhem in police stations, courts houses and prison yards in Nigeria during #EndSars riots.
By relieving the experiences of those in leadership positions and clowning around in the paraphernalia of their targets, what is it in the high offices that are tripping vandals?
It is a phenomenon which social scientists may have to devote time to unravel.
Meanwhile, a principle or attitude in USA Democratic system which is yet to be adopted or imbibed here in Nigeria is the nobility of resigning if and when public opinion indicates that a public officer has failed woefully in the discharge of his /her duty.
The above assertion is underscored by the fact the police officers in charge of the Capitol police who were flat-footed when the mob attacked a joint session of senators and House of Representatives, are on track to resign on the 16th. These officers are Steven Sund, chief of capitol police and Paul Irving, Sergeant-At-Arms in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate Sergeant- At-Arms, Micheal Stenger. How come such honorable path does not appeal to the leaders of our security architecture whom Nigerians have shouted themselves hoarse in their call for President Buhari to sack them or resign honorably?
The West Virginia lawmaker, Derrick Evan who was amongst those involved in the siege and caught in the television footages in the rotunda of the capitol, has honorably resigned.
As expected, the pressure is being mounted on President Donald Trump to also resign or get impeached.
Also being called upon to resign are senators, Josh Hawley who was the driving force behind the objection to the Arizona electoral college result and Ted Crux who encouraged Trump supporters to storm the Capitol.
Another legislator involved in the seditious move is kelvin McCarthy, the Republican Party minority leader in the House of Representatives who spearheaded the dissent in the lower chamber.
Whether the identified politicians would do the needful by resigning, remains to be seen. But from experience, those who fail to conduct themselves properly in the political arena in the USA, never go unpunished.
However, given President Trump’s non-conformist tendencies, he is unlikely to resign as being demanded. However, whether he would be impeached or removed from office before his tenure lapses on the 20th by invoking the 25th amendment is another kettle of fish.
While many stakeholders are holding their breath as to how January 20, 2021 presidential inauguration might turn out , it is abundantly clear that the USA would reclaim its place of glory after Joe R Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the USA.
As the saying goes, you can tell the character of a man by the company that he keeps. The cabinet members that the president-in-waiting Biden has nominated reflect the different shades of America. That’s a policy of political inclusiveness begging to be adopted in Nigeria for peace to reign and for the much-sought progress and prosperity for the masses to set in.
From the first Native American nominated into the US cabinet post to the first African American to serve as secretary of defense, as well as the first openly gay man, reflecting the many shades of America, the incoming administration of president-elect, Joe Biden appears to be carrying all stakeholders along and therefore it is full of promise and hope, not only for Americans but the entire world.
My enthusiasm is buoyed by Biden’s campaign message that he would be the president of all Americans, including those who voted and the ones that did not. Ultimately, the new administration would be the antithesis of Trump’s fire and fury. At least the expectation of most Americans and the world in general.
Based on Biden’s verbalized vision and body language, his reign is not only envisioned to be a healing balm on Americans that are currently badly bruised and divided, but it is also seems poised to lead the world with clear plans on how to eradicate the Covid-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging the world, restore peace in the current war theaters, tackle climate change and boost trade and enhance its stabilization in a highly disoriented and disunited world.
Until all of the above plans come into fruition or appear to be happening, l’m not willing to reverse the current nomenclature, Divided States of America to the United States of America.
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.