Daily Trust (Abuja)

10 November 2012

Nigeria: The Audacity of Second Term

column

So Obama has been re-elected as President of the United States. For many around the world, it is a huge relief - the Republican war-mongering, represented by challenger Mitt Romney, may have to wait at least another four more years.

But is there hope that a Second-Term Obama will be more dynamic than the decidedly lacklustre First-Term Obama? But as in the past, what many people outside America find hard to comprehend is 'the American way'. Obama may try to bring change as he promised, but it will be difficult, now as then, to bring it in the time or quantity wanted.

Obama almost didn't make it this time around. The outgoing majority - white, male America - had had enough of him. Only exactly half of America elected him in the popular vote (which admittedly is almost non-consequential in America's Electoral College system. For example, Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000 by 543,895 or 0.5 per cent, but lost the Electoral College to Bush by five votes, 271 to 266).

Obama got 93 per cent of the black vote, 73 per cent of the Asian vote, 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote but only 39 per cent of the white vote. Nate Silver, a commentator who had accurately predicted the exact outcome of the election in all 50 states, noted that "forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number".

Indeed. But, as we said almost exactly four years ago on this page, with God nothing is impossible! The Arabs have a saying: "Iza aradal Lahu shai'an, hayya'a asbabahu" (if Allah intends to do something, He causes the causes that would cause the something to happen).

Storms are a regular occurrence in America, but how interesting that Super Storm Sandy came to hit, of all places, New York, at the time it did. That singular occurrence caused the suspension of the campaign for a few days, enough for Obama to appear presidential, and in control. Sandy literally took the sail off the Republican campaign machine.

Did Silver say forty five percent? Doesn't that percentage sound so familiar? Remember "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. My role is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." Remember?

That was Mitt Romney recorded secretly while speaking to some super-rich campaign contributors (see the 'hidden hand' at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvqHERTcytI).

As Obama said, he has a lot of work to do this time around. First, he has to repair the economy and create jobs. Americans always want a quick fix to restore confidence in the economy. But this may not happen any time soon as the House of Representatives is still held tenaciously by the Republicans, and they are averse to many policies Obama stands for, such as more tax on the super rich; they of the 47% audience.

Not far from the economic battlefield will be the social one; racial tensions. 93% of blacks voted for Brother Obama, so will he please swing open the prison doors and let the many millions of his 'unjustly jailed' brothers and sisters out? Not likely. (For reminders, statistics shows that though only 12% of the US population is black, but blacks make up 44% of the US prison population). Then the Hispanics; almost three quarters of them voted for Obama. What do they want? Reform of the Immigration system, in their favour.

Then Africa. Obama may be black (though a recurring question in many African-American circles has been 'how black?'), but he definitely is not African. Obama may have African relatives, but America and the White House will not suddenly become black-friendly. Will Obama come to Nigeria as he did Ghana in his First Term? Why, you ask, what for? What of Kenya, his father's home country? What for, you again ask? Will he intervene in DR Congo? Let it strike some oil!

Then the Middle East. First Syria. But by far the most contentious foreign policy issue facing the Second-Term Obama will be Israel. True, Obama had for four years shunned the hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu. But that was as far as he could go. Meanwhile, Israel continues with its impunity, including building settlements in Occupied Palestine in defiance of all laws and resolutions of the United Nations.

Forget that Obama has a 'Hussein' (a revered Muslim name) as middle name; forget that Barack is short form of 'Mubarak' (the blessed); forget that Obama's paternal relatives are Muslims: this president may continue to support Israel as the ones before him. But there is still hope; that Obama is buying time. And the time has come.

Have you all heard what many of our so-called leaders are saying about the US elections? That our politicians should take a leaf from Romney and congratulate the 'winner' (presumably from the nation's ruining party)? What joke! What of imposed candidates? What about the multiple voting? What of ballot stuffing? What of murder and other election violence?

But enough of America; let's go East. Democracy is only a name, a tag. Each nation-state could have it in its own way. For Africa, the Chinese way is surely a novel method. Despite the beauty and the smoothness of the US Presidential Elections, it is to China that I think Nigeria and Africa should turn its face towards.

According to Frederick Kempe, a Reuters blogger, "Now that all the high-cost, mud-slinging drama of the U.S. presidential campaign is over, the world can focus on another political transition of potentially greater consequence: China's 18th Communist Party Congress (CPC)...Don't be misled by the choreographed orderliness of the moment when China's new leaders parade on stage in order of seniority...the selection process...could be of much greater historical significance even than the re-election of America's first African-American President. This is because this new generation of Chinese leadership, following...transition from President Hu Jintao to Vice President Xi Jinping, will be unable to avoid fundamental and structural decisions about the direction of China's economy, foreign policy and political structure..."

Chinese leadership has been meeting in Beijing to install a fifth generation of leaders. More than 2,000 delegates of the CPC are meeting at a two-week Congress to bring about once-in-a-decade leadership change. The Communist Party meets every five years, but leadership change occurs only after every two congresses.

The CPC is the largest party in the world with over 82 million members. The members constitute 60% of the Chinese population. The delegates are voted in by the members in a lengthy voting procedure.

Current President Hu is also a delegate from his home town in Jiangsu province. The delegates are chosen to represent the country's population as broadly as possible. This system broadly reflects what a diverse nation like ours should have.

Therefore, this writer would rather have the rule of the 'best' (as in China), and not the rule of the 'most eloquent' (as in the United States), and definitely not the rule of the Gang of Thieves we have in other nations. (Wink!)

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