There is a general assumption that age comes with wisdom. Here in Africa especially, the older you grow, the wiser you are expected to be. So, while the exuberant youth is almost certain to have many concerned elders avail him of unsolicited advice now and again, those who are in my age bracket – the 60s upwards, often discover they are on their own, with no one but their few age mates to reach out to when at crossroads. In moments of confusion, the sage is a prisoner of his own larger-than-life image. He is inhibited by the perception of him being a perfect, ever- knowing master from whom all guidance and patronages flow. Ultimately, he finds himself in a cul-de-sac, too ashamed or too self-conceited to admit to outsiders that he has a big problem on his lap that is beyond his wit. Until it is too late.
This looks like the crossroad that America has suddenly found herself. In 244 years of nationhood, indeed since 4 July 1776 when the country’s founding fathers sealed the declaration of independence from Great Britain following the Revolutionary War of the nineteenth century, the United States has arguably never been in such an internally-induced awkward position, a dangerous precipice that requires that every care be taken to avoid tipping over. In a stunning break with America’s democratic traditions, a beaten incumbent has not only refused to acknowledge defeat but has continued to deny the incoming all the collaboration and briefing required at this period, barely 60 days to a constitutionally prescribed day for hand-over of power. Embarrassing is an understatement.
Emboldened by GOP Republicans who publicly amplify his claims of massive voter fraud without proofs, the tragedy of Trump’s refusal to concede has gone beyond that of a leader throwing usual tantrums. The growing campaign by a coalition of conservative media against the outcome of the polls, the president’s revenge firings of key officials that some say may compromise critical national security agencies, the law suits challenging the results in various courts and the increasing scenes of demonstrations by thousands of pro-Trump supporters chanting “stop the steal”; all these keep reducing by the day the possibility of any resolve early enough to facilitate a smooth transfer of power January 20, 2021.
When you hear topmost officers of state like Attorney General William Bar making a case for probes into the elections and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying publicly that “there will be a smooth transfer of power to a second Trump administration,`” (in obvious disregard of the results in public domain), you must wonder whether the sitting president has not now finally taken the nation beyond the line of reconciliation. How does a nation heal when the division is so steep?
William Cohen, former Secretary of Defence and Republican senator was quoted as saying: “this administration’s conduct is more akin to a dictatorship than a democracy.” He wasn’t saying anything new, nor should this have come to us as a surprise really. Trump had always warmed up to strong men in power and had on a few occasions expressed the wish that if he had his way, he could rule without let or hindrance.
To the western nations and acclaimed leaders of the first world, notwithstanding their sophistication, this is certainly an unfamiliar territory. It would therefore be futile for Joe Biden and Democrats to look in their direction for a way out of this impasse. To solve a problem like this, America needs professional counselling from leaders who are steeped in the tradition of deception and citizen’s oppression and where else do you find them aplenty than in Africa?
Monkey catching is not a game for just about anyone but the experts. As we say in these parts, Omo buruku l’ojo tie (a day comes when the bad and recalcitrant guy is the most suited for the task at hand} Africa is home to some of the longest serving presidents whose wisdom could come handy here. And it doesn’t matter if they are still in office or out!
And here, the US must be grateful to God that, Nigeria’s Ibrahim Babangida is still alive even if ailing today. The self-styled evil genius has earned his place if he were to be consulted, and for good reasons. His place in history didn’t begin with the annulment of the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history, his political transition programme must count among the most deceptive in world records. It began with the inauguration of a Political Bureau to kick start a much desired national debate on a viable political structure for Nigeria. This was soon followed by a Constituent Assembly which in 1989 fashioned a new constitution for the country. Also, in 1989, he created, by presidential fiat, two political parties, the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Convention from which he would later ban some prominent politicians. In October 1992, Ibrahim Babangida cancelled the results of the parties’ presidential primaries, causing new primaries to be held in March 1993. The publicised terminal date kept changing – first in 1990, then 1992, and then 1993.
In all of his manoeuvrings, the people were applauding Babangida at every move, until he outplayed himself with the annulment of the June 12 1993 elections.
In rounding up this piece, would it be right to draw a correlation between America’s current travails and what we in Lagos Nigeria call ONE CHANCE?. When an unsuspecting passenger boards a bus towards his preferred destination only to discover midway that the driver and his conductor are devious individuals camouflaging as genuine transporters, intent on relieving him of his valuables. For some victims, such encounters could turn fatal.
From his first day in office, apart from his vociferous supporters, of whom Trump boasted he could murder in broad day light and still earn their applause, everybody else feared that America might be on a jolly good ride with Donald. He calls himself a genius. You can’t but agree. Only a genius can make of the world’s greatest nation what the president did in less than four years! His critics point to his open contempt for masks and social distancing as the key contributor to why America’s death toll is one of the worst in the world – 245,000 by last count.
Today’s Africa has proven to be better than the spectacle unfolding in the US. The continent did remarkably well with Ebola and even better with Corona virus. The picture of Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan conceding victory to his opponent even before the final ballot count and peacefully handing over is now commonplace in other countries where elections are held in Africa. Therefore, what brand of democracy is America teaching the world?. It was Fela Kuti – the legendary Afrobeat originator who sang, Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonesense. There is a way in which Trump’s intransigence may lure our leaders back to their inglorious past.
A footnote: Whatever happens in God’s own Country after January, 20, 2021 Africa will be waiting to help America become truly great again!