The US Presidential election further matters because institutions matter. Americans are going into the election on Tuesday convinced that the system will protect the voters and their choice. So much money has been spent on the campaigns -over one million TV ads, and more than $7 billion on television advertising alone- but not money on a desperate attempt to bribe the voter. There are political parties but those political parties function as institutions not as personal fiefdoms. There are individuals occupying such positions as Chairmanship of the political parties and of the Electoral Commission, but they are not part of the debate because the system does not make them unduly obtrusive. Apart from the Presidential election, Americans will determine who controls the Senate. There are 33 Senate seats up for grabs. The Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority; if the Republicans are able to gain 4 seats, they will gain control of the Senate and also maintain their control over the House of Representatives. These elections are just as important as the Presidential election.
The candidates are important too. This sounds like a restatement of the obvious. But of course, that is what it is. There is no candidate in this election who has not been subjected to laser jet scrutiny: who they are, what they represent, what they say, what they will do or not do, this is not really about their villages or state of origin; but their beliefs and non-beliefs. The voter can make a mistake, but he or she is given enough opportunity and latitude to make an informed choice. There is no room for anyone to smuggle himself or herself into office without passing through the crucible of scrutiny. The emphasis is on the responsibility that comes with office and the ability and character of the applicant to it. When all is over, Americans want to wake up with the feeling that they have chosen the better man for this time and that the choice is a true reflection of the majority. That is what matters.
And all of these matter because it is the country that matters most. Pro patria: Love of country. This is all about country, that is, America's prestige and place in the world. The average American will make a choice to sustain the exceptionalism of the United States as a country that can still be remembered and protected as "God's own country," a country where all Americans can still feel that sense of pride, that they are "the best" in the world. And that is why the key issue has been how to make America better for Americans: healthcare, medicare, social security, housing, energy, immigration reform, taxes, jobs, national security, the economy, foreign policy- issues that connect with the ordinary people in their daily circumstances.
And one more thing: in the midst of last minute 2012 US electioneering, Hurricane Sandy occurred, wrecking such havoc on the Eastern Coast of the United States that should be familiar to Nigerians who had also just witnessed the same devastating impact of climate change in parts of the country. During that critical moment, Americans refused to play the politics of disaster. They all united as Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, even the Romney team praised Obama for his leadership. Great lesson!
So, as they say, what is our own in this matter? As Nigerians monitor the US elections along with the rest of the world, we must spare a thought for our own democracy and this administration's efforts at its consolidation; in noting the differences and commonalities, we should reflect on the projected values of duty, responsibility, institutional integrity and love of country. That is what I think. And let me add: Good luck to the Americans.
Dr. Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Goodluck Jonathan