As Nigerians are momentarily distracted by the excitement and anxiety of the thrills and suspense-filled election drama in the United States of America from their everyday toil, sweat and misery, some important lessons from ‘God’s Own Country’ should not escape our collective reflection as a people. While it is understandable that Nigerians are divided in their support for Republican President Donald Trump and his main Democratic Party challenger, Joe Biden, for sundry reasons, it is important for our people to understand that, whether the White House turns Blue or remains Red, it will always be “America first” in Washington DC, hence, some lessons on why America is and will remain a great nation, regardless of who is President.
While in Nigeria we are still debating the issue of devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units within a framework of restructuring in top-to-bottom approach, the recent election in America has revealed to us a different concept of evolution of powers from the 50 states and over 3,000 counties of America with administrative jurisdiction over election management [no big-budget INEC controlled from Washington DC], judicial [including policing] and legislative matters in a bottom-to-top consolidation of supervisory power at the centre.
In other words, Americans built their house from the bottom on a solid foundation to the rooftop. Nigerians, on the other hand, have built their house from the roof on a structure without a foundation at the bottom [quicksand].
However, by far the biggest lesson Nigerians must learn from the recent election in the U.S. is its domestication of the principles of universal citizenship. Through a national policy of systemic assimilation and integration of diverse peoples [Asians, Africans, Europeans, Latinos] into the American society with full political and economic rights extended to them as citizens, an American nation of citizens has evolved with a harmonized identity resonance.
The election of Kamala Harris, the first American woman of Indo-African ancestry as Vice-President, along with a significant number of first generation Nigerian immigrants into various positions has once again re-affirmed America’s place at the top of the pyramid of human evolution. Under a just, fair and egalitarian atmosphere, all American hands are on deck round the clock to preserve, defend and protect a system that is working for all and has enabled them to realise their American dreams, irrespective of their race, colour or creed.
America’s domestication of the principles of universal citizenship and its progressive evolution into the world’s most diverse but united nation state has been its greatest source of strength, as the system has produced patriotic American citizens over time.
Nigerians have seen a redefinition of patriotism in America to mean loyalty to the nation and its constitution as against loyalty to the person of the President and his political party. And because the various organs of the American government are manned by patriots who put their country first, the institutions of the state are strong enough to be immune to the virus of disruptive political control.
In America, incumbency advantage is a measure of the satisfactory performance of an incumbent seeking re-election and not his ability to deploy institutions of the state [security, INEC, CBN] to suppress the opposition and steal the people’s mandate on Election Day through subterfuge.
While Nigerians are rejoicing over the election of many of their kinsmen into various positions of elective responsibility in America in excessive triumphalism, it is imperative to ponder on our impossible realities at home: The fact that it is easier for Oye Owolewa, who is originally from Kwara State, to be elected as a member of Congress representing Washington DC in faraway America than to be elected councillor of a village in neighbouring Kogi State should ordinarily dampen our celebratory mood and make us sober. Similarly, Esther Agbaje, from Ekiti State, who just won a seat in the Minnesota State House of Representatives, would not stand a chance of being elected if she contests for a seat in the Ekiti State House of Assembly anywhere outside her local government of origin. As for Nnamdi Chukwuocha, an ethnic Igbo who has just been re-elected into the Delaware House of Representatives, it would have been near impossible for him to be considered for election into the Hausa-dominated Kano State House of Assembly, no matter how long he has resided there.
It is sad that, 60 years after independence, Nigeria is still a country of indigenous tribesmen and not a nation of citizens, where a Nigerian can be Igbo and Kano, Hausa and Enugu, Ijaw and Borno, Kanuri and Bayelsa, Yoruba and Benue, Tiv and Ondo. Nigeria’s inability to resolve the very important question of national identity has left its over 200 million people belonging to over 1,000 ethno-geographic nationalities in a disharmony that has resulted in chaotic identity dissonance.
A country of indigenous tribesmen produces warrior-like rulers and ethnic champions as against a nation of citizens that produces leaders that are statesmen and patriots. Nigeria’s unresolved question of national identity and its failure to domesticate the universal principle of citizenship renders any structure of state resting on quicksand.
Whereas Americans will always put their nation first before any other consideration, the Nigerian people will continue to put their tribes ahead of country. Consequently, Nigeria has remained permanently at the bottom of the pyramid of human evolution, where life is nasty, brutish and short.