February 2, 2023

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American midterm polls: Any lessons for Nigerian candidates?

Posted By Godwin Onyemaechi

AMERICAN democracy with all its imperfections still remains a beacon for world democracies. The very ideological differences between the two major political parties seem to determine the followership of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The strength of American democracy is also evident in the rights that the American Independent Party, the Green Party, the Peace, Freedom Party etc., enjoy. Individuals are not compelled by law or coercion to belong to the two major parties.

The recently concluded Midterm elections obviously show that the core tenet of democracy, that of giving the voter the power is still sacrosanct even if the process might not be totally immaculate. The margin of error is obviously negligible. The voice of the people seem to sound loud and clear and candidates generally respect the poll results. Popularity helps but from all indications, only popularity does not solely determine the outcomes of elections.

The famous Republican TV celebrity, Dr. Mehmet Oz lost the Pennsylvania Senatorial Seat to Democratic candidate John Fetterman. Dr. Oz has since called his opponent to concede defeat. A practice Nigerian politicians must learn and adopt. The voters spoke loudly and clearly. That is the beauty of democracy.
AMERICAN democracy with all its imperfections still remains a beacon for world democracies. The very ideological differences between the two major political parties seem to determine the followership of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The strength of American democracy is also evident in the rights that the American Independent Party, the Green Party, the Peace, Freedom Party etc., enjoy. Individuals are not compelled by law or coercion to belong to the two major parties.

The recently concluded Midterm elections obviously show that the core tenet of democracy, that of giving the voter the power is still sacrosanct even if the process might not be totally immaculate. The margin of error is obviously negligible. The voice of the people seem to sound loud and clear and candidates generally respect the poll results. Popularity helps but from all indications, only popularity does not solely determine the outcomes of elections.

The famous Republican TV celebrity, Dr. Mehmet Oz lost the Pennsylvania Senatorial Seat to Democratic candidate John Fetterman. Dr. Oz has since called his opponent to concede defeat. A practice Nigerian politicians must learn and adopt. The voters spoke loudly and clearly. That is the beauty of democracy
The Midterm elections again show that voters determine what they expect from politicians. Top on the scale were inflation and abortion rights. There were concerns with crime rates, gun violence, immigration, climate change, student loans etc. but the overriding concern of voters were with inflation and abortion rights.

Generally, the human needs across nations are basically the same. What determines development or lack of same still lies with the people and they decide who to give their mandates in viable democracies.

The low performance of candidates backed by former President Trump has provided political scholars with materials to research on as the world pushes ahead the best tenets of democracy. The former President might be forced by the election outcome to have introspection even as the world awaits his proposed November 15 ‘Big Announcement’ in his own words.

Again, the Roundtable Conversation believes strongly that there are too many lessons for Nigerians as the campaigns for 2023 general elections hots up across the nation. It is not enough for politicians to take trips to the United States on the eve of every election year, it is not enough to merely mouth an imitation of the American democratic model, flawed as it could often seem, the real kernel of the whole democratic practice as envisioned by political philosophers like Baron de Montesquieu is truly making democracy a government of thre people by the people and for the people
The campaign rhetoric in the Nigerian political space reeks of some divisiveness that polarizes the people along mundane lines of region, tribe, religion, gender, age and other issues that do not spell progress of any form. It is purely hypocritical for the political elite to continually treat elections as though they own the people instead of being part of the people.

The fact that several institutions continue organizing series of peace deals compelling or persuading political parties and their candidates to sign pre, during and post-election peace deals negates the very essence of democracy not for the value inherent but for the fact that the politicians do not own the process enough to realize that power truly belongs to the people. It does not lie with politicians and their supporters to force any individual or group in the country to support their preferred candidate. Democracy is about choice.

Campaigns as the world could see in America, United Kingdom and even smaller African countries like Kenya that just elected a President Ruto is about persuasion. It is not about forcing the agenda of any political party down the throat of voters, it is about convincing the various voting demographics that you have policies that would care for them. It is very instructive that inflation and abortion rights were top on the minds of majority of the American voters.

The outcome of the elections in councils, districts and states all point to what truly matters to the people as individuals and groups. Inflation is like rain that falls on every roof so most times it has nothing to do with political leanings. Voters voted according to how convinced they were about the policies touted by the candidates at various levels.
Abortion rights might be seen by many with some moral lens but most women voters and some men see it as a human right issue and that accounted for the very good showing of the Democrats at the elections countering most pre-election permutations and exit polls. The Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed the rights to abortion in the US has been argued by gender rights advocates as an infringement on the rights of women to their reproductive rights.

This aspect of the election analysis must be taken note of by Nigerian political elite who assume that women do not matter. Their erroneous belief that leadership is a masculine affair and that women are merely good as dancers at campaign rallies and mobilizers for men might just be getting to the end of the road. The idea of taking advantage of poverty and illiteracy of the women to exclude and exploit their numbers is not a democratically progressive practice that is sustenable.

The Roundtable Conversation also wants to draw the attention of Nigerian politicians to the fact that at least eight Nigerian-Americans, five men and three women were victorious in different states of the United states in the midterm elections. This means that their political parties and voters did not care about their ancestral nations, creed or gender. Nigerian politicians must look at their images in the political mirror and ask themselves very salient questions. The country has one of the lowest gender inclisiveness in Africa.The voters listened to their campaign messages and gave them their mandate. That is what democracy is about, inclusivity and choice.

The Independent National electoral Commission, (INEC) in preparing for the coming election must realize that the world is watching. The logistical nightmare that were experienced in the past by voters must be totally avoided. The introduction of the BVAS technology must not be allowed to fail at the last minute. Every vote must count and be counted. Every eligible and registered voter in all nooks and crannies of the country must be given the opportunity to exercise their franchise. That is democracy at its best.

The bureaucratic bottlenecks often put in the ways of eligible and registered voters must not be allowed to rear its ugly head again. Voters are the mandate givers and that must be seen to happen without anyone filing left out. All the people and agencies that are charged with various duties during elections must realize that thy are equally serving them by doing their duties diligently and fairly.

It is again very hypocritical for politicians to traverse continents seeking post-election collaborative efforts but keeping a blind eye to the best tenets of democracy as practiced by politicians in those countries. Campaigns must be issues-based and that is what attracts voters, violence of any kind, verbally , psychologically or physically must be discouraged. Voters whether literate or not are attracted by humans who show their humanity to them and show them in many ways that they matter.

Economic issues are at the heart of the matter in Nigeria at the moment. The average Nigerian is at the end of the precipice economically. They do not want to hear a regurgitation of the problems they live with on a daily bases, they want politicians that do not just mouth the problems but ones with the real strategies to empower the people. If the American with their low level of unemployment and high infrastructural development are angry at the rise in inflation, the Nigerian voter facing double-digit unemployment, under-employment, inflation and food insecurity need candidates that understand that the welfare of the people is the reason there are governments.

The Roundtable conversation equally finds it interesting that the legislative seats in America are almost as important as the presidential and governorship seats. It shows why their democracy is as strong as it is. In contrast, Nigerian politicians and the people seem to focus mainly on the presidency. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence by legislative candidates at all levels. Most of them shy away from real campaigns and hide behind the presidential candidates of their parties. In democracies, each candidate must sell his or her programmes to the voters.

There is a seeming dubiety of some legislative and governorship candidates that continually hide behind presidential candidates and virtually do nothing to woo voters. This practice might have gone unnoticed in the past but the global political climate has changed with the millennials who are now very active and have no intention of showing the apathy. The interesting data of the US midterm elections shows that the 18-29 voting demographic voted the highest since 2018. The midterm was the best for any sitting president since 1950. That speaks to the place of the millennials in the twenty first century politics.

We believe that winners in the 2023 elections all things being equal would be all those that have been painstaking enough to address issues that matter to the majority of the voters in Nigeria. Global democracy continually gets more appealing and the beauty lies in the core strategic plans that candidates and political parties come with. This is the internet age and information is key and the voters have access at the tip of their fingers.

The Nation online

The dialogue continues…

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