THE United States presidential election has expectedly ended as a befitting climax to four months of intriguing electoral process in the world’s lonely superpower. The three-tiered debate that ended with a focus on USA foreign policy dovetailed into an exciting process that produced victory for the incumbent President Barack Obama. During the four months of campaign and electioneering, the entire world focused on the country; and in climaxing all of it, Tuesday’s election in many ways dramatised the liberal democratic process with its inherent properties of consent, and ultimate legitimacy to temporal custodians of state power.
The majority testament, which the votes represent, was celebrated in raptures of emotion, infectious even for the man and woman glued to the tube. It was a celebration of vision and democratic culture with the winner and the challenger united on the interest of America. Mitt Romney, who lost the election asked Americans, in pious tone, to pray for President Obama to lead the nation well.
Beyond the euphoria of the election, it is necessary to underscore the important components of the process. All the way, it was issue-based - from the Republican Convention in Tampa and the Democrat’s Convention in Charlotte from which both candidates were endorsed by their parties. The issues ranged from the economy, healthcare, tax plans, job creation to productivity at the domestic level; while Israel, Iran, Syria and China dominated the foreign policy agenda.
Towards the tail end of the campaign, Hurricane Sandy that struck the East Coast of the United States became at once an opportunity and a test for President Obama.
In the event, he acted promptly and impressively, showing leadership, being visible to the nation, in short acting as a commander-in-chief. He instinctively won over some key Republican figures, who thought that his response to the natural disaster was most outstanding. It was a lesson on how leaders should handle emergencies. And it worked because American took note.
These issues and their consistent representation determined ultimately the electoral fortunes of the candidates in ways that showed that in the end, politics is about diverging policy options on the affairs of the state.
Interestingly too, the outcome of the elections became the rallying point for projecting to the American people a big picture of the future. Victorious President Obama reinforced equality of Americans and its unity in purpose and not as a “collection of red states and blue states.” He was emphatic that “we are and always will be the United States of America.” For him, the victory is the change that the American people wished for and the opportunity they took to make that change happen.
To be sure, the U.S. election harbours a considerable number of lessons for Nigerian politicians and the world. The electorate believed in their candidates and their promises. Here in these climes, there is so much betrayal and cynicism to the extent that Nigerians no longer trust politicians and state actors. As past American leaders have always emphasised, the people are what matters most in the governance process, in other words, they are the king. The American election was not financed from state resources, a sad reality of our country, but through funding guided by clear parameters that foreclosed fraud and manipulation. Thus, an electoral strategy for campaign and funding is desirable and the Nigerian electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), must give consideration to this suggestion, to improve the institutions of election in the country.
In the vexed context of global identity politics, Obama made history. His second term victory, the first for an African-American, spoke loudly to the fact of the changing dynamics of today’s America. More works still remains to be done to place all American citizens on an even keel, but Obama’s victory shows that a conceptual breakthrough has been achieved. He came in as an apostle of change in a country he met weakened by overstretched military commitments and a depressed economy. He took steps to plug the drain and in the process created about five million jobs and got the automobile industry running through massive state bailout. Though these achievements were limited, Obama still represented hope for a better American future. This much he emphasised in his victory: “The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope…For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our Union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
While we congratulate Americans, we must remind President Obama that though Africa hardly featured as a footnote in his campaign issues, now in his final tour in office, he must vigorously engage the continent. He must assist the continent through policies that drive development; far from using it as only a battle-ground for his administration’s counter-terrorism efforts.
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