The Yankees went to the polls on Tuesday , November 3rd. And the whole world, is in electoral frenzy of red (Republican) or blue ( Democrat). As at the time of going to the press, yours sincerely was “pregnant” with anxiety of a preferred Joe Biden win.
When it comes to America’s polls, it’s better to be a student than a pundit. Popular votes necessarily don’t produce a President in America. In 2004, my preferred choice was Democratic ticket, John Kerry , only for the incumbent Republican President George W. Bush and his running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney to be revalidated for a second term. In 2016, Hilary Clinton nearly shattered the glass ceilings to be the first female President only for Donald Trump with less popular votes to emerge as the 45th President of America.
What ever the outcomes of the latest polls determined either through votes counting, the courts or streets brawls, whoever presides over America, the largest economy in the world and the most powerful country in terms of military power, is of special importance. Yet with our enthusiasm about American electoral outcome, the point cannot be overstated that the President is American for America.
Certainly who ever wins would not preside over the affairs of Africa, no less than he would pursue relentlessly the American interests which are already grounded in bi-partisan Washington consensus. Even the dysfunctional dispositions of President Donald Trump in the last four years had not altered the fact that any American President would patriotically work for America . Five critical success issues in 2020 US election are Coronavirus, (America has lost as many as 230, 000 lives), healthcare ( will Obamacare be repealed or not), race relations,( will Black lives matter), the economy and abortion. I search in vain for any issue that affects Africa. Of course, President Donald Trump has not hidden his preference for the candidature of South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee. But Joe Biden has not openly endorsed Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala either.
On both partisan divides, the headship of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has not been a campaign issue. Why then sweat a big stuff about who wins the American election? When would Africa’s electoral commentary charity start from the continent? Please don’t get me wrong. America’s big presidential debates, televised transparent congresses, political endorsements, no- bar partisan diatribes, non- carpet crossing, unpredictability (it’s never over until it’s fought through!) do capture political imagination of the democratic world. But the financial costs and exclusion of those without dip pockets are hidden behind this cinematic political razzmatazz! Definitely America’s four year electoral ritual is a delight for political commentary. But what of elections on the African continent? What lessons from the recently concluded Ivorian and Tanzanian elections? Are they elections or “selections”?
Four years ago, in 2016, sound bites of far way America’s elections drowned the political murmurs in Ghana. Ghana went to the polls on the 7 November in 2016, just four days after America’s. The election politically retrenched the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama of NDC, and produced Nana Akufo-Addo, of NPP.
That was just barely after incumbent Goodluck Jonathan lost to President Muhammadu Buhari In Nigeria. The two historic outcomes show that there is a democratic consolidation in Ghana and Nigeria. Which then raises the point: how many Africans are aware that Ghana goes for another remarkable Presidential polls on the 7th of December? Ghana’s December polls promise an exciting contest between former President John Mahama and President Nana Akufo Ado who had previously defeated each other in 2012 and 2016 respectively. Africa and Africans should be concerned with the political events in the continent no less than the political events in Washington. Our political charity turns into political hypocrisy or worse still, political folly, if it does not start at home.
Which then raises the issues in the “elections” in Ivory Cost and Tanzania. Ivory Coast seems back on the political trajectory of disputed elections, violence and plausible civil war. President Alassane Ouattara “has won” a controversial third term in office in an election boycotted by the opposition.
The votes are totalitarian: 94%, “even winning 99% in some of his strongholds”. The opposition had since created a parallel “transitional government” ostensibly to “organise a new election”,. It maintains that “ it was illegal for Mr Ouattara to stand for a third term as it broke rules on term limits”. Mr Ouattara’s supporters on the contrary cited a constitutional change in 2016 which they say means his first term effectively did not count, warning the opposition against any “attempt to destabilize” Côte d’Ivoire, which is still recovering from a civil war sparked by a disputed election in 2010.
The political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire once again underscores the collapse of political dignity among the contemporary Africa’s ruling ruling. For one, there is an entrenched political war of attrition among the ruling elite fueled by France which through to neocolonial agenda promotes divide-and-rule, 60 years after indepedence. It would be recalled that in 2010, Laurent Gbagbo, an incumbent, refused to concede to Mr Ouattara following the election that year. The latter was even stripped of Ivorian citizenship (said to be from Burkinabé) even after being a Prime Minister of the country. This acrimony between the two led to a bitter civil war in which some thousands died.
Ivorian constitution has a two-term presidential limit under which Mr Ouattara had been elected twice. He had promised to step down but in July, his, ruling party’s previous presidential nominee, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack. Mr Ouattara was said to be aware that Amadou Gon Coulibaly was terminally ill in the first instance. Mr Ouattara’s subsequent announcement to run for president was seen as a sit- tight design. The electoral numbers from Tanzania are similar to Ivorian ones. Seems like dictatorship of figures!
Incumbent Tanzanian President John Magufuli officially won “a second term, with a landslide victory of more than 84% of the vote”. His main opponent, Tundu Lissu, earned 13% of the vote”. The opposition had cried foul with alleged intimidation and repression. Tanzanian electoral law “after the announcement of the results by the National Electoral Commission, doesn’t give permission to someone who isn’t satisfied by the results,”. Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), said it observed oppression, and said “the opposition had been targeted in a way that challenges the fairness of the election”.
On the contrary, the East Africa observer team led by Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, the former president of Burundi, said the “election was free and fair”. Apparently we have so much to reflect on about electoral practices on the continent even as we switch from one cable network to the other “counting votes” in Washington. What ever the veracity of the contestants in Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania, the results announced so far give an impression of conquests than electoral contests which we have commendably witnessed during the presidential lections in Nigeria and Ghana in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Issa Aremu mni
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