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Like America like Nigeria?

The old saying, ‘Like father like son’, would have been true of Nigeria in relation to America but for the fact that America is not Nigeria’s father. When you consider how the American and Nigerian societies have been torn into shreds by bigotry and political partisanship, you are left to wonder who is copying who.

Americans used to be single-minded about their national interests. In spite of ideological differences, they always found a way to build bridges of understanding to advance positive causes which had implications for the rest of the world. Now, America is recoiling into a shell of narrow nationalism which is so narrowly defined that the world’s number one policeman now has its own Jews and Gentiles.

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Every nation on earth has a son or daughter with American citizenship. America used to be a mini-UN among nations. Not any more. Some racist nationalists even consider the native Indian population outsiders – that, in a country where all citizens, except the native Indians, are descended from immigrants!

Africa used to be the continent of maximum rulers: Idi Amin Dada, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha, Ali Bongo Ondimba, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi et al. Now, America’s newfound nationalism has thrown up its own fledgling maximum ruler in the shape of President Trump, a self-confessed admirer of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Il Jung.

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As Americans grapple with the longest government shutdown in history caused by their president’s determination to blackmail Congress to approve $5 billion to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, Nigerians are similarly marooned in the island of  bitter recriminations between the two major political tendencies. Instead of articulating deliverables, what we have been having is a cocktail of blackmail, disinformation, tendentious vituperation and a resort to micro-nationalism.

As Nigerians tear each other apart in the name of politicking, terrorists are inching their way back to the realisation of their sick dream of a caliphate in the North-eastern part of the country. The recent resurgence is not like anything we have seen before. More sophisticated weaponry and foreign fighters are being deployed to thwart the gallant efforts of our military. Armed herdsmen have spread their tentacles all over our major cities, killing, maiming and kidnapping. Yet, we fiddle while our country burns.

Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the man who lost to MKO Abiola in the annulled June 12, 1993, elections reportedly authored a warning to Nigeria’s ‘big men’ via social media recently:

“… Keep on feeling less concerned when our national territory has been invaded by foreign mercenaries and we keep on pretending like all is at peace… Nigerians are being slaughtered like cattle, and their cries are hitting the ground. Hearts are hurting, souls are ravaging for Revenge and they’re gathering storms of war…

“The earlier our leaders drop their ethnic and religious differences and come together to demand an end to the killings moving from one village to another to slaughter our people. Speak out now for no matter how small your voice may sound, our collective voices will sound like a big mega phone to help stop the looming danger”.

By now, one would have expected the major political parties to showcase what they would be doing differently if they were trusted with power. What is their masterplan for defeating terror? What are the details of their plans to revolutionise food production, power, job creation, and infrastructural development? How would they design the security architecture differently to ensure that policing is localised rather than centralised? What are their plans to unbundle those aspects of our national life that are too unwieldy to be prosecuted with the current unitary structure?

Rather than chart an alternative course, what we have been having is an attempt to draw the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, into the fray as if it was one of the political parties. Nigerians have been repeatedly deceived by the political class for so long that the people are wary of finding themselves in a situation similar to that of the US electorate who were told that, “Mexico will pay for the wall” – but the tune has now changed to “Congress must fund the wall”.

Reason has taken flight in our own approximation of political debates.

The social media is awash with salacious insults being traded by foot soldiers of the various political tendencies. The people who constitute the electorate are their own worst enemies. Instead of seizing the opportunity of this period when politicians are going on their knees for votes – to commit them to specific programmes and deliverables, they are propagating fake news, cloning photographs to make opponents look bad and rationalising the inadequacies of their preferred candidates. No one cares about programmes.

Maybe the United States, arguably the world’s number one nation, can afford the luxury of self-injury inflicted by its politics. Nigeria can’t.

In the Second Republic (1979-1983), Nigerians knew by heart the programmes of the five political parties and how those goals were to be achieved. Can we say the same today?

If it is not already too late, can we begin to demand the how’s why’s, when’s and other details of the programmes of the various political parties? These circus-like ‘mega’ rallies where the wretched of the earth dance Ajasco for their carpetbagging lords is beginning to give the impression that it will take some doing to separate the people from their chains.

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