BeyondU.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democraticrepublic hold lessons for African politics
Let me make the following points and draw somecomparative lessons following the entangled November 7 U.S.presidential elections.
First, were such an electoral cliffhanger as exists in the U.S.today to occur in most parts of Africa and the other so-called ThirdWorld countries, it would have been a fertile and ripe excuse forsoldiers and their associated goons of disorder to seize the ballotpapers, burn the papers, lock the ballot boxes and voting centers,jail the "unruly and divisive" politicians, detain a handful ofjournalist, murder some civil rights activists, detain editors forannouncing any part(s) of the election results, and install auniformed but uninformed commandante in charge. All in the "country'snational interests!"It's joyful to see a reasonable but robustdisagreement without bloodshed and fundamental threat to nationalstability and progress.
Second, were George W. Bush a Nigerian, Indonesian or Kenyanpolitical leader, he would have sent the Texas Rangers to Florida inorder to perform the "vital national security duty" of "knocking somesense" into those Gore partisans and demonstrating masses who raisetechnical and legalistic opposition to his presumed victory in thatsunshine state.
Third, amidst all the fierce debate, mediaexuberance, farcical drama on network news television, ethnicdivisions in America, intimidationof minority voters especially Blacks, partisan rancor, technicalhitches, allegations of voter fraud, and other electoral shenanigans,the demands, dynamics, rewards and terrible beauty of a democraticsociety are wonderful to behold. The developing world should, atleast, learn that fact from the U.S., and leave the other inanitiesand banal pursuits which obscure serious issues during theseelections.
Did you not know about how many times Goresighed than any clear explanation of how the Bush and Gore SocialSecurity plan will be handled? And even more important for myeditorial constituency, why was the psycho-babble about Bush's smirkmore important for the U.S. press corps than probing questions aboutwhy he believes the AIDS deaths, genocidal killings fields and oilresources in Africa are not priorities for the U.S. under a potentialBush presidency?
Fourth, after the Florida recount, we'll reallybegin the process of what counts: governing and the pursuit of U.S.and Africa bilateral interests. I recall that GW's father, formerPresident George H.W. Bush, did not falter to pursue a real effort at"compassionate conservatism" when deaths and humanitarian needs arosein Somalia. I recall that I wrote a commentary which appeared in theHouston Chronicle and other U.S newspapers titled "Bush's cavalryhope in Somalia...."
With the high -profile of James Baker III inthe Bush corner, he will be made to rethink. Former U.S. Secretary ofState Baker has business and public policy interests inside Africa,as well as thousands of Houston, New York, Los Angeles andColorado-based companies. I attended the remarkable reception chairedby Baker in 1999 at Rice University, here his team honored SouthAfrica's former president NelsonMandela. But continental Africans andAfrican-Americans must lead the charge to cause a Bush rethink of hisposition on Africa, that is, should Bush become President. Gore knowsbetter about Africa (see USAfrica The Newspaper).
Fifth, the U.S. like some developing countriesstill have ethnic political matters to contend with. Did you read oneabout Florida votes, Jews, Patrick Buchanan and the Nazi votes? Anunamused Jewish community leader, member of the Democratic party,Gore supporter and Florida's county commissioner Bert Aaronson cutthrough the fine talk to state thus: "I don't think we have 3,000Nazis in Palm Beach County" - referring to the Buchanan votes in thelargely pro-Jewish county (which Gore supporters say were meant to bevoted for Gore). For those who have lived under some rock or anotherplanet, Buchanan has been charged by many Jewish leaders for beingvery critical of Jewish interests and personifying"anti-Semitism."
Sixth, should Bush win after all these twistand turns, I'll like to ask him, pointedly: Where's the beef in your"compassionate conservatism" slogan as regards Africa, Africans inAmerica and peoples of African heritage? Are Africa's children dyingof basic and shameful hunger be hopeless?
Does Bush know that most of those childrenwhose homelands were torn asunder by U.S.-Soviet Union Cold War erapolitics can be saved with only 30 cents a day? Or they just childrenof a lesser God in this "compassionate conservatism" mantra? Or wasit just an appealing slogan to blur the lines of the politicalchoices for the 2000 elections? Worse, was Bush's dismissal of Africaas not being an area of priority a shameless dive for the right-wingvotes? Recall that beneath the handsome, likable and mild-manneredface, Bush can play it real rough and strictly to his personaladvantage. Example: his campaign in South Carolina and gratinginsensitivity to African-American concerns on the confederate flag;his march for votes and speech at the discriminatory Bob JonesCollege and the radio advertisements against Senator John McCain.
Any how, as we say back home, didn't Gov.Bush's younger brother, the incumbent Governor of Florida, Jeb Bushand his team promise to "deliver" Florida to make his presidentialquest a success?
Jeb, seriously speaking, has been fair, it seems to all concerned.Now, what can you really "deliver" for your constituency and heritagebeyond empty-talk?
Whatever Bush's answers or yours may be to myquestions and our shared concerns, I'm certain that these, myfriends, will be exciting but gridlock times for America. Indeed,beyond the assortedelectoral shenanigans which have left question marks all over theballot papers, the rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic suchas the United States are truly wonderful to behold and instructivefor Africa. Finally, the key for ourcommunity should be: no friends or foes, just who will "deliver" ourpermanent interests. No foolish sentiments.
Nwangwu,Founder & Publisher of the first African-owned, U.S.-basedprofessional newspaper to be published on the Internet USAfricaonline.com,USAfrica The Newspaper, The Black Business Journal, BBJonline.com,and NigeriaCentral.com,is the recipient of the Journalism Excellence Award, HABJ 1997. Heserves as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on internationalbusiness (Africa). Chido Nwangwu is writing a book on theexperiencesof recent African immigrants in the U.S.
Published on November 10, 2000. Readers response and viewsmay be published here and in our print edition, USAfrica TheNewspaper Election 2000 Special edition.
Powell as Secretary of State brings definable knowledge, gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency. By Chido Nwangwu
Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
Nigeria at 40: punish financial thuggery, build domestic infrastructure
Nyerere's life a model Africa's leaders should follow (Houston Chronicle, editorial outlook page)
Martin Luther King's legacy, Jews and Black History Month
Gigolos on the Campaign Trail. By Prof. Walt Brasch
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post?