Every time I reflect on America, and I do so quite often, what I simply cannot get off my mind, is summarized in these words, “What a country, and why is America so different from all other nations?”
“What a country?” is an expression often used to describe or amplify the negative and the positive. For this article, I am going to mainly focus on the positive about America while making passing references, here and there, to her negative side because, America for all her beauty, her blessings, her unique endowments and appeal, as a nation, is still far from perfect. But the truth is that there is no nation like it under the Sun. Perfection, we are told in the Bible, only exists in the Kingdom of God that all Christians do recognize as their final destination, but can only attain on two major conditions. They must first of all be cleaned of their sins and, they also must die before entertaining any hope of getting there. Neither of the two conditions is easily attainable. And since very few human beings are free of sin, and fewer number hardly ever crave the idea of dying, the case can be made that the Kingdom of God which is the next entity to compare with America, is at best a figment of imagination or a Utopia anchored on mere wishful thinking. Nobody has ever gone to that mythical Kingdom and come back to narrate his or her experience. It is a one way journey. so in the absence of any other nation to compare, we are left with no other choice than to agree that America is really one of a kind, and the only game in town, all things considered.
If you are therefore looking for something close or next to perfection in this planet, you have got to think America. I dare say, though, that good and evil are sometimes two sides of the same coin as clearly epitomized by America. Good and evil go “parri passu” like the Romans say. It is therefore not possible to talk about America without touching on some points that are not so kosher about the greatest country on Earth. If God is the father figure that the Bible says He is, he must be pretty impressed about the rascality, the resourcefulness, the daring nature or foolhardiness of America of all the nations He, the Almighty God, has created. Of all God’s children on Earth, America would appear to have carved a niche for herself as the most daring, the most progressive, the most resourceful and probably the most godly and sometimes the most devilish. It all depends on which aspect of America has caught your fancy. I am yet to see any nation in this universe that can seriously rival or beat America. You are going to read in this article why I happen to think so. Some of what I say might look silly to you. Just bear with me. I am taking liberty of my sojourn in America to put everything on the table. You would never find me writing this sort o thing, if I have never left the shores of my country of birth. Why? Because I am not stupid and secondly because I truly want to inherit the Kingdom of God, but I don’t want to die, if I can help it. I don’t know about you?
As I reflect on America, I cannot help but talk about how it had all begun, way back, with the early Pilgrims who had set sail in the May flower from the United Kingdom in particular and from much of Europe, running away from man’s inhumanity to man, religious intolerance and persecution, to a land beyond the mighty ocean, where they could freely practice their own faith without let or hindrance. That was the foundation. The thousands or Millions of Irish immigrants that later followed, were equally running away from the same problem and starvation following the potato famine which was also used as an instrument of war and massive oppression in those days. Who could have thought that those fugitives flocking, in their thousands at different times, mainly from Europe were going to become the very corner stone of the greatest civilization that man has ever known? Out of that evil has come the greatest good is all I am saying. America has today become the microcosm of the world and the undisputed leader of the free world with its erstwhile colonial master, Great Britain totally mesmerized and contented to now play a second fiddle, and very happy to be doing so. The British Prime Minister was correctly described not too long ago as the lap dog of an American President, and not even the British Prime Minister himself or any of the British powerful media has found it necessary or expedient to issue a rebuttal.
This article is all about exploring that phenomenon with a few contemporary events in the world that have caught my fancy and what lessons the other developing nations like Nigeria can take away from those unfolding events in America. America has earned the right to be called the only super power and the first in the committee of Nations around the world. Since America is not the oldest nation in the world talk less of this hemisphere. What has America done to earn this appellation, and what can nations like little Dominican Republic, and Haiti within four hours by air from America, and so many others around the world, do to begin to learn some useful lessons from America? That is my goal in this write-up. If I sound very passionate about it, that is because passion is the very essence of my DNA as an Ondo State indigene.
The term “only in America” has now become a universal cliche because America is simply leading the world and setting precedents that many, in our world, would have considered unthinkable some fifty years back. I am not going to talk about the technological breakthroughs that America has made and still continue to spearhead, as we speak, and many inventions that are yet to be made public like developing unmanned armored vehicles as weapons of war that would travel on its own to attack the enemy wherever they are, so that less number of American soldiers will be put at risk in future wars. You see the revolution that the Cellular phone is now making in the field of global communication, you have to wonder how far America will be willing to go to also prove that everything made by man can be infinitely improved. America has, indeed, proved that anything made even by God can also be infinitely improved.
In America everything is open to debate. Transparency in Government has become the order of the day. Bad leaders can run for some time, but the truth is that they cannot hide for too long. The system and the pressures and the check and balances that go along with power in this country, will expose them sooner than later. It is a wonderful country and I love it. Just take the current effort of the Federal Government to make sure that the 911 tragedy does not, ever again, come back to threaten the country. The current President had initially raised strong objections to the idea, and how it should be done, just like President Obasanjo has been the main stumbling block to the proposal by a clear majority in Nigeria to hold a Sovereign National Conference, to reappraise the problems of Nigeria, and how to decide how best the union of Nigeria should be structured and managed. Our own Obasanjo is saying “no” while the great majority of our people and our powerful News Media are saying “yes” for so many years now to no effect. Obasanjo had defied the nation in his first term as President, and he still managed to win a landslide victory for a second term regardless of his failure in many areas. Nobody dares ask the question that American regularly ask their leaders. “Are we better now than we were four years earlier?”. Something is just not right in our country. That kind of scenario, if it ever plays itself out in America, you can be sure that such a President would never win reelection. Never.
In America, the mere fact that a leader is left off the hook at any moment, does not guarantee he is going to be left off the hook for ever. The will of the people will always triumph, no matter what. The recent testimony of Richard Clarke the counterterrorism adviser to three Republican Presidents and one Democratic President in close to 20 years is a case in point. In America, if a President will not do what is required of him, the system is so self adjusting and perfected that an ordinary citizen or an aide like Dick Clarke can take the bull by the horn, and do for America what a President has failed to do, and still come out looking like a hero. Just listen to Dick Clarke making an opening remark before the Commission probing the controversy. “Your Government has failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you have failed you and I have failed you.” Those words of contrition are better issued by the man in the oval office. But because the President has woefully failed to muster the courage to say so, Dick has stepped up to the plate for one brief moment, and President Bush reelection effort may have suffered a major blow in my own humble opinion. If Dick Clarke were to be operating out of Nigeria, for daring to challenge or expose the President, the whole Presidency would be going out of him just like the Bush Presidency is doing to Larke right now, but the end result of such efforts in both places is what may be completely different.In Nigeria, assassins would be actively looking for Dick all over tha place trying to take him out and silence him for ever. It is true that the current White House is doing its best to destroy Clarke’s credibility by all means possible. The difference here in America is that the White House is more likely to self destruct from here on, because Americans aren’t stupid, and they are not going to stand for it. They always see beyond the pale, and they are going to respond with their vote, if you ask me. I think the President had committed a bigger blunder, when he went out to a dinner while the controversy was still hot, and he started joking about not finding the Weapon of Mass Destruction.. It was an insensitive type of joke to be making at a time like this. And if it ever becomes public that the White House is going after Dick Clarke, the opposition and the nation will strongly come to his defence in full force. And when the chips are down, it is the President and his supporters who will be gasping for oxygen. This is a prediction because I have lived long enough in this country to know this for a fact.
The 2004 Election may be all over for Bush from this point on, if care is not taken. Dick Clarke has managed to disarm Bush by taking away from him the most lethal weapon in his arsenal for this Election. Americans are just too smart to be fooled by the attack on Dick Clarke by the most powerful institution in America, the American Presidency. Dick Clarke had been smart enough to just nail the President by quoting his exact words from Bob Woodword’s new book. if you seriously take that statement, and there is no reason to do otherwise, what exactly does the White House want to crucify Dick Clarke for? The President has pleaded guilty as charged by Dick Clarke. The rest is now history for public records. This is one of the few occasions when Dick Clarke, a minority, compared to the President of the United States, is probably going to laugh last and laugh best. I did tell you before, that George Bush as the Damage Controller-in-Chief is going to find some ways to try and undo the trend Dick Clarke has eloquently begun. He just may not succeed, because the damage has been irredeemably done, and any attempt to quickly move to nip it in the bud, may be seen as a vendetta or an overkill and unbecoming of a President who wants to be seen as a War Hero. My point here is that a whistle blower in America, is not necessarily the bad guy who must be destroyed by all means, like it appears our own President Obasanjo is currently doing to Governor Orji Uzor Kalu whose Airline license has just been suspended or canceled altogether, for blowing the whistle on the powers that be in our country. Can you see the correlation or the comparison between American and the Nigerian situations? If you can, I would consider my mission in this article accomplished.
In America there are as many political parties as there are people in this country. What is important is that there are only two major political parties in America, and it is beautiful. The situation in America is a far cry from what IBB and Professor Omoruyi were attempting to do in Nigeria when they allowed the Federal Government to float and fund two political parties leaving Nigerians with no other choice than to join either of them or for ever keep their peace. It was Dictatorship per excellence, and part of my problems with Professor Omoruyi whom I respect and admire at one level, is that he could lend his name to that dictatorial project which was the very first thing that gave me the first clue to the mindset of IBB as a man looking for a way to ingratiate himself with the nation, as a platform for him to rule Nigeria for ever. All the talk about handing over to a civilian Government was nothing but a smoking mirror at best. By funding the two parties IBB has forced the two parties to see him as the father of the nation and therefore using that leverage to micromanage what goes on in both parties until he was ready to tell the nation, the election has to be annulled due to forces beyond his control. It was a huge deception from the beginning to the end, and Professor Omoruyi knew that for a fact, as the man at the center of the whole drama. IBB was using that strategy to enlarge his own coast and to expand his natural constituency which was the Military up to that point. That was why he still continued to fund no less than five of the registered political parties in Nigeria because of the several IOUs he has built in those days, using the limitless wallet and clout of the Federal Government.
That is why till tomorrow I still have problems with people who argue that IBB should be allowed to come to power again because he is very generous. Anybody can be generous if the money you are spending or giving out to your friends and loyalists is not your own. I would agree if you say M.K.O. Abiola was generous. I will agree with you, if you say late Bank Anthony was generous in his days or that Chief S.L. Edu was generous. I would agree with you if you say Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN is generous or that Alhaji Dangote and Alhaji Dantata are generous with their money. What IBB was doling out so lavishly did not belong to him or his parents. He did not sweat for it If he was born a General, there is no way he could have acquired all the wealth he has today. The money he was spending was yours and my money. Therefore it is easy for him to squander it anyhow. That is the more reason, he is dying to come back one more time, and his supporters like Professor Omoruyi and General Adisa are shouting on top of their voices “Ranka Dede Seriki Griki, Kai, Haka ni” if I think like them, and if I have benefited like them from the dictatorial reign of IBB, I probably would be shouting “K’emi ola o gun, Kabiyesi, Oluwa mi” God save Nigeria!
I was watching Charles Gibson of ABC News Channel 7 interview Terry McAuliffe, the Chairman of the Democratic Party and Ed. Gillespie, the Chairman of the Republican Party this morning on Good Morning America Program which I watch every morning. You cannot but be impressed when you see the two Party Chairmen in America, go at each other and articulating what their parties stand for. The job of a chairman is not for dead woods, like is done in Nigeria. It is a serious job for individuals who are strong enough to carry the banner of their two parties. They have to be good at developing strategies and raising funds to implement the strategies without relying just on the grants from the Government. They make sure that those who donate to their parties are men of timber and caliber, and not hoodlums and armed robbers at night. If you donate a heavy amount to a Party like IBB and the millionaire Generals had done to make Obasanjo President in 1999, the amount that is donated must be publicly declared and documented, and such donation must be done within the Law. If they don’t, the FBI will be after the donors and the Party that have accepted such donations. The IRS will be after such donors to make sure they are paying commensurate taxes. That is God’s own country for you. They would verify the source of your income, so you don’t corrupt the nation and the system. A few criminals may still manage to escape the scrutiny, but if you get caught, you pay the price. Only in America. The Rule of Law here is not a mere theory. It is the reality. That is why people always insist witnesses must testify under oath which makes a huge difference. Condolezza Rice is today dodging to testify under oath because she would be taking a greater risk she probably cannot afford to take. But now that the Republicans are charging that Dick Clarke might have lied to the Congress in previous testimony, the door may be opened now for this controversy to become another Watergate or the first stage of that terrible chapter in the history of America. The Law is no respecter of persons. If you are looking for one country that preaches and practices that concept to the letter as much as humanly possible, America is the embodiment of that. Do leaders cut corners or lie as they do in other polities, they sure do. But would they face the gun if caught red-handed, you bet. That is the big difference.
How about the role of the Media in American Politics? That is another area that differentiates America from the rest of the World. The Watergate Scandal, if it were in Nigeria would never have seen the light of day. So was Iran Contra Affair. The so-called White Water Scandal was blown out of proportion by the Republicans to permanently damage President Bill Clinton and his wife. When that had failed, the Republicans had created another Scandal out of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Luwenski They tried to blow it out of proportion to make sure the President did not complete its term. But God and the American people were on the side of the great President who not only completed his term, but had the single honor of leading America into the 21st century. His Vice President Al Gore, one of the best Vice Presidents this nation has ever known, has not only gone ahead to win the popular Election by more than half a million votes, thereby vindicating Clinton on all grounds. America is a wonderful country. As a mark of gratitude to the great and charismatic President one of the biggest and the most powerful States in the nation had gone ahead to reward the President’s First Lady with one of the highest political honors the State can offer, by electing Hillary Roddam-Clinton as the Junior Senator in the Empire State. Only in America.
America leads the world in most things including the good, the bad, and the ugly but mostly in all that is good and decent. America is the only country on Earth to publicly acknowledge God and His place in the World. America has offered a safe haven where all humanity can come and share of the American dream. “In God we trust” is proudly inscribed on the Nation’s currency and Pledge of Alliance talks of one “Nation under God” although that notion is currently being challenged by a medical doctor, Michael Newdow who is challenging the notion before the highest court in the country, because he claims it is discriminatory. Dr. Newdow, as an atheist, has successfully sued his 9 year old daughter’s California school to stop teachers from leading the pledge. Only in America.
It is one of the few countries on Earth where two males and two female adults of the same sex can choose to be lawfully recognized as husband and wife, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. Some will call that an abomination in our own society. Not in America. America is a country of superlatives. The first time I watched Jerry Springer show on Television, I couldn’t believe my eyes. America is a land of magic. There is nothing new in this country. You hear some stories here, you marvel. It is all part of the American mystique The greatness of America is the freedom to document such terrible aberrations so the general public and generations yet unborn can learn something from it. In our own kind of societies such abominations would be kept as a top secret for life. Not in America. Everything here is subject to open debate. In America a son can succeed his father as President, and no one complains if they are the only family in town. If they are good in what they do, America has no qualms allowing a son to take over from his father using the ballot box. A President Kennedy had done away with the stereotype and had selected his own immediate brother as the nation’s Attorney General. No questions asked. A President Clinton did have cause to ignore historical precedents and to pick a running mate from the same zone he had come from, and he still went ahead to win. A famous American hero Senator John Glenn at close to 70 or older had once volunteered to make himself a guinea pig, for the sake of humanity, by going back to Space one more time to test the effect of weightlessness on aging in America. Our Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts who had proudly served in Vietnam with so many medals and citations galore. The same Kerry, a son of privilege, had no problems returning from the same Vietnam to criticize the war as an unjust war, and to even forego all his medals, if the Government will not do the right thing for the veterans of that War. Thirty years later, and twenty-four years as a Lieutenant Governor and Senator, the same hero is today running for President, and somebody says he is not ready for prime time. Only in America. President Clinton once promised, that if he was elected, he would appoint a Cabinet that looked like America. He sure kept his promise when he named Robert Reich as Labor Secretary and so many people.