US ELECTION: LESSONS FOR NIGERIA
Since democracy is a journey filled with creative thinking and never a destination that detests innovation, the just concluded US Presidential and Congressional Elections have some lessons to teach emerging democracies in countries like Nigeria. Immediately Barrack Obama was declared the winner of November 6 Presidential election, the question I asked my friends on Face book was, “If Obama were to be in Nigeria, would he have won”? A true answer to the above question is very important because it will go a long way in addressing some of the fundamental issues that have constituted a cog in the wheel of our democratic journey.
From what transpired during the Republican Primaries between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and other candidates that latter backed down from the race, it was evidently clear that, the issue of utmost importance to the people was the economy, and never any of the socio-cultural and religious issues that ordinarily would have worked against any Nigerian candidate that would dare aspire for such position. We saw how former Governor Mitt Romney, a murmonist was able to defeat Senator Rick Santorum, a staunch Catholic who identified with social issues as against Mitt Romney, who made the economy his campaign issues.
Similarly, we saw how President Obama was able to defeat Mitt Romney, not because he is an African-American, nor because Mitt Romney is a White-American, but the victory was possible because Obama worked very hard! Mr. Obama had a formidable and well organized campaign team. His get out and vote strategy which targeted young and undecided voters is worth emulating by political strategists in Nigeria. The skillful manner, he handled the Hurricane Sandy as against how former President George W. Bush handled Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was also a plus for the President-Elect. The improved American economy, especially the last unemployment figure of 7.9 percent before the election swayed voters in swing states to Mr.Obama.
Another remarkable feature of the election was how the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton was on ground, visibly campaigning for the candidate of his party. Can this happen in Nigeria without “godfatherism” appellation been ascribed to it?
Long before now, some pundits have canvassed for staggered primary and general elections in the country. Their calls may be more meaningful now that, the Edo and Ondo States governorship elections have proved that handwork really pays, and that, the people are ever willing to reward every selfless effort made to lift them out of poverty and improve their standard of living, without really considering any of the myopic and jaundiced sentiments that have for long held our people and the society down for no just cause.
Another lesson we must learn from the US poll is the act of making provisions for early voting without counting the votes. Late arrival of election officials and voting materials to some polling units has in the past disenfranchised some Nigerians of casting their votes during general elections. Early voting will allow voters in the riverine areas whose franchise are sometimes denied, because of topography, means of transportation and logistical problems often encountered by election officials on the election day.
All citizens are equal, whether on essential duties or not, early voting will allow our uniform men and women who will be busy on Election Day to exercise their electoral rights which can never elude them because of their profession.
However, just as President Obama in his victory speech on Wednesday, November 7, reaffirmed his belief in the strength the United States derived from its diversity, our diversity in Nigeria should not be the source of division among us, but, it should serve as the bond that unites us together for national cohesion, growth and development.
Finally, as we look forward to the 2015 general elections on our soil, all the calls for issue based campaigns by well-meaning Nigerians of different education, should not only be lifted from the pages of our newspapers for public discuss alone, but it should also reflect in the way we plan and execute our various campaign strategies in 2015 and subsequent elections in the country.
Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.