Donald Trump lost the Iowa Caucus. Trump blamed the media, bad weather and Iowa’s three Muslims – Conan O’Brien.
If you are one of many Nigerians who do not want to hear anything about the build-up to the election of the next US President, stop reading now. If you continue reading, you are not likely to be in a better position to know who the next president of the US will be. You will read a lot of assumptions and speculations and projections, all of which could be swept away by the unfolding dynamics of a political system even Americans stretch to understand, and the rest of world finds cumbersome, confusing, wasteful, expensive and chaotic. And, yes, inimitable.
If you have read to this stage, you are likely to have been grabbed by a curious phenomenon most of the world had thought America will not event sniff at: Donald Trump. In many ways, this election is all about Donald Trump, although many wish it is not. Mark Rubio, one of the Republican contestants running against Trump said recently, apparently in exasperation: “This election cant just be about electing the loudest person in the room.” Rubio is wrong. So wrong, that he and his fellow contestants are now ganging up to stay in the race just to reduce Trump’s outrageous and unrelenting onslaught. The two Democratic contestants are competing to convince delegates to vote them as the better antidote to the Trump affliction.
It is rather late in the day to find adjectives to describe, or insults to throw at Trump. The world has used them up, and it appears the man and his supporters just gobble them up. Uglier than sin with a toupee, this man has found a niche in the psyche of many Americans which is stimulated by marginally insane politics and a strong faith that it can be placed at the highest office in the land. There not a few people around the world who will be disappointed that Donald Trump has made it to his current position as leader of the Republican pack, but they may be guilty of poor judgment over what keeps American politics going. In this respect, they may be comforted by the establishment vigilante of both parties who are now scrambling to rid the political process of a blight they all thought was a joke. They may or may not succeed. If enough Republican delegates and voters insist that this joke should be the US President, he will cease to be a joke. He will be the world’s problem, the elephant that will destroy the china and the shop. Even if Trump is stopped from becoming US President, the world’s blood pressure would have been dangerously elevated by the mere thought that millions of Americans actually wanted him as President. Trump reminds us that democracy gives people choices, but the people do not always make the best decisions.
Trump does more damage than keep awake all decent folks who want a more peaceful and secure world in which the US plays a responsible and accountable role. He shields a vital scrutiny of others who could become the next US President. The contestant closely chasing him for the nomination, Ted Cruz, is a conservative whose politics lacks the Nazi salute, the caging of journalists and the jocular clowning and obsession with body parts at Trump’s rallies, but he puts forward polices that are no less threatening to a world order that needs a middle ground to subsist.
Trump’s larger-than-life brand on the current contest takes attention away from the two Democratic contestants, one of whom are very likely going to be the next US President. Bernie Saunders wears a college professor’s mien and runs with a populist rhetoric against the solid establishment structures of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She, who could be the first female US President rides well ahead on the legacies of two former Presidents; one her husband and the other the incumbent. The assets they provide her will paper over a patchy record of personal integrity a drab personality and a stint as Secretary of State during which world peace was further endangered by US roles in Libya, Iraq and other parts of the world. If she wins the Democratic nomination, she could run against Trump or Cruz. Americans will then choose between a future involving massive turbulence in a world less disposed to shifting grounds for the US in trade and in conflicts; and one which is slightly more predictable, because it is unlikely to violently veer away from Obama’s path.
There are important reasons why this election is important for Nigeria and Africa. President Buhari recently told a foreign journalist that Nigeria will join the Islamic coalition against ISIS. That coalition has a major US influence behind it. The US recently said it is sending military advisers to Nigeria to assist the fight against Boko Haram. There is a reported alliance between ISIS and Boko Haram. The rumoured links between these terrorist organizations provides a spur to take the fight to ISIS, as well as welcome American boots on Nigerian soil. Nigeria and the US are thus more intimately involved in each other’s conflicts and security.
Nigeria will be a very junior partner in any relationship with the US in the pursuit of global security. The US is a major player in many theaters of conflict, many at which it lit the fire. A US under a president who raises walls to trade and international development; compounds poverty and misery by shutting out the rest of the world through movement of labour; assaults sensitivities of nations and faiths already dangerously alienated; and fails to come to terms with the reality that the stage has been taken up by powerful competitors, rivals and hostile nations who are not cowed by the might of the U.S, is a threat to the world.
The manner the US is led is vital to Nigeria and Africa’s interests. A US leadership that engages constructively and respectfully in relationships that reduce our poverty and improves our security is an ideal to be cherished. On the other hand, a leadership that provokes greater hostility all around the global community in search of US interests will severely compound Africa’s problems. America has been more responsible in shaping the current global security situation than any other nation. The world has paid for some of its follies, and its citizens have learnt to live in a world that is substantially hostile.
Many people will say whoever emerges the US President will make little difference to us here in Nigeria. For any other election, including the previous two which were won by the son of an African student, this will be largely true. This forthcoming election, however, should make more difference. If it is won by anyone other than Trump, we can expect a US government that will operate largely within familiar boundaries. A Trump presidency, on the other hand will rob America of any claims to leadership and credibility. For a nation that is deepening its relations with the US, Nigeria could end up as a passenger on a journey to dangerous places in a vehicle it cannot control.
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