America Votes: Any Lessons For Nigeria?

by Uzoma Nduka

Come November 7th, 2006 Americans will go to the polls to elect their representatives. Several bloggers and political strategists have opinionated divergent views of what party is going to carry the Congress.

A lot of issues come to mind during this election. These issues include security, economy, American values, homosexuality, abortion, ten commandments, social security, tax, immigration among others. Speculations from political pundits are that single moms who before now have had no interest in elections might turn out enmasse and change the result of the polls. Both the GOPs and the liberals are not too sure of how the votes will turn out. Fact is that the republicans have the ability to raise more campaign funds more than the democrats. But the democrats will hammer more on the Iraq war and the culture of corruption pervading the U.S. Congress, especially the Jack Abramof instance. While the neo-conservatives will concentrate heavily on the fact that democrats have no plan on Iraq than to ‘cut and run.’

All these drumbeats of politics will be laid to death by the electorates. Unfortunately, in my own opinion, a good number of American voters are not well-informed. And they are gullible. Most American voters are traditionalists i.e. they stick to their ancestral family party line and pattern of voting. They believe in the core values of their parties. But this is no longer the case because contemporary politicians have re-written the values which their loyal voters stand for to suit their novel and devil ideas. For instance, the Republican conservative goals have been shifted over time. That is why we are noticing some rumblings in the party’s rank and file. Most Republicans who hold high their original values do not concur with the contemporary re-definition of these values by a few members. Quick to cite is the current hide and seek game been played with the Mark Folley molestation of Congressional pager and terrorist detainee treatment.

Next to it is the role some Republicans played in the Jack Abramof lobbying case. It is already a known fact that Texas Representative Ton Delay has vacated his seat in the Congress because of it. And some others are to follow.

The DOW Jones is currently hitting the record peak of 12,000 plus which economists say is an indication of a robust economy. However, it has been pointed out that the only people who benefit from this increase are the corporate entities. Otherwise, many homes are on sale, workers do two to three jobs to break even, Americans are struggling to survive the biting bug of gas price, crime has continued to surge and rampages and gun-touting in schools has remained the burritos in the streets. The economy, according to President Bush, is strong and good. But how good is it? Who gains from the strength of the economy? Are individual economies better and swelling as well? Is social security getting some boost or knock-down?

United States Congress recessed for election campaign. They have gone to their bases to talk to them on why they should be re-elected. They will be speaking about issues they voted for in Congress and those they voted against or abstained from voting. New bloods have been warming up with zest and zeal, vigor and vitality to get to the U.S. Congress. They are armed with loaded information about their opponents. They have done their legwork and groundwork professionally well. Information dating decades and years have been dug up and displayed for the electorate to see and decide how and who to vote for. Some of these data appear bogus and oversize but some others are real and sincere. A few ads have been contested by certain people claiming muddled up information against them and wanting to know the source of their opponents’ information. A case that readily comes to mind is the ad posted by Representative Bob Beauprez campaign team on Bill Ritter. Both Bob and Bill are vying for the gubernatorial position in the state of Colorado.

To add, voting machines have been found to be inaccurate in elections in the U.S. There have been strong criticisms and powerful oppositions to the use of these voting machines. Some critics say it is used by GOP politicians who have strong ties with and interest in companies that manufacture these voting machines to attain selfish goals. There are so many things wrong with the voting machine system. One, many American voters are not computer savvy and literate. They are not used to PC and the use of it. So many of them have been voting the traditional way and are not quick to adapt to the new system. Secondly, these voting machines return falsified or faulty glitches and punches resulting in dimpled votes. Voting machines give rise to falling and hanging cards. This often yields to inaccuracies in vote counting. It is on record that “three of the largest voting machine vendors in America have convicted criminals in high positions”, according to Rebecca Mercuri, a voting machine expert. Mercuri told AFP that “Sequoia, ES &S, and Shoup all have top people that have been convicted for bribery of election officials or insider trading”. We should all remember what happened to the 2000 U.S. Presidential election between former vice president Al Gore and George W. Bush. If all these are true then democracy has a long way to go both in developed and developing countries.

Despite these electoral anomalies U.S. voters still vote on issues. They cast their ballots based on security, economy, health issues etc. But in Nigeria, we vote based on the three big R’s as in religion, race and relation. We are not well versed in proper voting principles and rules. Of course we have few politicians who have principles and who fight for the masses. All others are egocentric and corrupt.

For us in Nigeria, we ought to have election education for our electorates. The Ministry of Information through its Orientation Department should carry out basic electoral messages to homes and huts. They should educate the farmers and nomads on what election principles, procedures and processes are and how they should go about voting. The Ministry of Information should as well try to refocus and redirect the minds of electorates towards voting on issues and not on the big R’s. Nigerian electorates should stop voting for thugs, thieves, fraudsters and politicians who have not been able to deliver. They should know people who have passed through the rungs of the ladder to get to the top and not the get-rich-quick politicians. They should stand against party stalwarts who bribe them with salt and paltry sum of money to sandwich their conscience. Electorates should know who they are voting for and what the person is capable of doing or stands on issues.

The government on its own should learn from other countries that have used the voting machines in their respective elections and know the problems they have encountered with it. Voting machines are not perfect. They are prone to distorted result. And most often they are used by political parties to boost their own agenda. This is not what we want in Nigeria. We need a credible election. We need credible politicians. We need to weed out corrupt politicians who pollute our political climate. It is high time the educated among us begin to enlighten the illiterate voters who could be swayed by moneybags if government agencies back down on their responsibilities.

One more thing: democracy is an on-going process. It is never perfect. Democracy deals with people and peoples and not things. And so the inherent problems encountered in personnel management cannot be cast into oblivion so easily. As a matter of fact we should be patient with it-democracy- because nations do not turn to the better in a flash.

Also, we, Nigerians in the Diaspora, should lend voice to our people at home in other to have a durable democracy. The opportunity and chance to make Nigeria gr

eat is in our hands. It’s true that foreign governments cannot dictate how sovereign governments should be governed but the former can influence the decisions and policies of the later. Given the global trend of dependency and reliance developed countries cannot easily avoid the influence of developed countries, especially America. And this influence can be exerted by us in the diaspora through proper representations. Election is the power of the people in a democracy. Once it is cast and result known this power becomes transferred to the politicians. So if it is messed up in the beginning the suffering will linger until another opportunity comes. This is our chance!

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1 comment

Rosie October 23, 2006 - 3:10 pm

Well rounded arguement. I would have loved to see you properly differentiate between Nigerian Democracy and U.S. Democracy.


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