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 reality toil, sweat and misery, some important lessons from God’s own Country should not escape our collective reflection as people. Whilst 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 country people to understand that either White House turns Blue or remains Red, it will always be ‘’America first’’ in Washington DC. President Trump has not been the problem of Nigeria in the last four years and a President Biden will not be a solution in the next four years. The problems of Nigeria are Nigerians and only Nigerians can be the solution. Therefore, the major take away from the American election for Nigerians should be a reflection on some of the lessons learnt on why America is and will remain a great nation regardless of who is President.
While the debate is still raging in Nigeria over the fundamental issue of devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units within a legal framework of restructuring in a top to bottom model, the recent elections in America has revealed to us a different concept of evolution of powers from the 50 states and over 3000 counties of America with administrative jurisdiction over election management[no big budget INEC that is controlled from Washington DC], judicial [including policing] and legislative matters in a bottom to top model of a consolidated supervisory power at the centre. In other words, Americans built their house from the bottom on a solid foundation to the roof top; Nigerians on the other have built their own house from the top of the roof on a structure without a foundation at the bottom [quick sand].
However, by far the biggest lesson Nigerians must learn from the recent election in the United States of America is that country’s domestication of the principles of universal citizenship on its home soil. Through a national policy of systemic assimilation and integration of diverse peoples [Asians, Africans, Europeans, Hispanic] into the American society with full political and economic rights extended to them as citizens, an American nation of citizens have evolved overtime with a harmonized identity resonance. The election of Kamala Harris as both the first woman and an American of Indo-African ancestry vice president of America along with a significant number of first generation Nigerian immigrants into various elected positions have once again re-affirmed America’s place at the very 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 realize 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 from 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 peoples mandate on Election Day through subterfuge.
Whilst Nigerians are rejoicing over the election of many of their kinsmen into various positions of elective responsibility in America with excessive triumphalism, it is imperative to ponder on our impossible realities at home. 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 had contested 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. The stories of Agbaje, Chukwuocha and Owolewa are only possible in nation of citizens like America and impossible in the Nigerian country of indigenous tribesmen, where some Nigerians resident in places other than their place of ancestral origin are treated as outsiders inside their supposed country. Considering the impossible citizenship realities that face Nigerians at home, the celebration of the election of our kinsmen into various government positions in faraway America is clearly a misplaced jubilation that should be replaced with deep and sober reflection. If anybody deserves to be celebrated for the historic feat achieved by our brothers and sister in faraway land, it is their host community of America, its people and systems that have progressively worked to break barriers to human integration such race, ethnicity and creed while advancing the frontiers of the oneness of humankind irrespective of colour.
America’s emergence as a microcosm of the world with citizens drawn from every corner of the human universe through its domestication of the principle of universal citizenship was made possible by a patch work of laws, policies and conventions that were cultivated with a purposeful administrative procedure and nurtured by a deliberately inclusive political process to blend diverse identities into an super American identity via a mechanism of integration and assimilation. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s inability to resolve the very fundamental question of national identity, has left its over 200 million people belonging to over 1000 ethno-geographic nationalities and still counting in a state of disharmony that has resulted in chaotic identity dissonance.
A country of indigenous tribesmen produce 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 by evolving a mechanism of integration and assimilation of its mono racial peoples wherever, they choose to reside in their own country with full economic and political rights accorded them as Nigerian citizens, renders any model of structure of state resting on quick sand and unable to fulfil its original intendment. Without a Nigeria of Nigerians, no structure of state or system of government will work for a people plagued by identity dissonance.
Nigerians must not be carried away by the euphoria of their kinsmen being elected into various positions in another nation they have found accommodation and fail to take note of the much needed critical lessons of nation building from the recent American elections. Imbued by an African roots mentality, Nigerians fail to realize that the trio of Agbaje, Chukwuocha and Owolewa are only Nigerians by origin but are now citizens of America by virtue of their residence in God’s Own Country. And the American people, including Agbaje, Chukwuocha and Owolewa will always put their nation of America first, far ahead of their country of origin [Nigeria] before any other consideration and if the Nigerian people continue to put their tribes ahead of their country, Nigeria maybe perpetually relegated to the bottom of the pyramid of human evolution, where life is nasty, brutish and short.