When the New York Times featured an editorial opinion titled Nigeria’s miserable choices which appeared in the Newspaper’s edition of February 16, 2015, I was so irked after reading through the piece that I instinctively resolved to do a rejoinder to it.
As a matter of fact, I started immediately to write one when I intuitively stopped for reasons I could hardly offer explanation at the time. What I did not, however, clearly understand, was the fact that there would be a more opportune time to also assess the democratic processes of one of the biggest, the oldest, and the most enduring democracies of the world, the United States of America. Obviously, the US is seen as a model of democracy globally.
In that New York Times editorial piece, Nigeria’s front runners in the 2015 presidential election, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, and a former Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, were referred to as miserable choices; the former for his lack luster performance in office and the latter, for his alleged undemocratic credentials.
In the same vein, as the Americans go to the polls to elect their 45th president on November 8, this year, one has the opportunity to assess the top contenders for this topmost job in the world. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the Democratic Party while Donald Trump is running on the bill of the Republican Party.
However, events leading through their respective parties’ caucuses and primaries to their GOP nominations have thrown up strong controversies in varying degrees though for each of the candidates. Thus, in their long history of democratic practice, American voters have never been faced with such hard and miserable choices.
Donald Trump has consistently stirred up controversies on both national and international issues. Because of his most often explosive utterances, he is widely viewed by many Americans including his opponents and his party men alike as a racist, xenophobic, islamaphobic, homophobic, and a sexist. His threat to ban moslems from entering the US and to expel millions of immigrants from the country on assumption of office as president, lend credence to this characterization. His unfavorable disposition towards the Blacks whom he has described as being pathologically lazy and his uncomplimentary statement that “no Black would be president of US any time soon” portrays Trump as an unmitigated racist.
The list of Trump’s vituperations which have offended the sensitivities of not only the Americans but also those of the global community is endless. Already, a number of world leaders have reacted to his unguarded statements. Koffi Anan, former UN Secretary-General, in his statement, said that he was sorry for America. Similarly, the French President, Francois Holland had had cause to worry about Trump’s unethical campaign. Furthermore, a number of former US CIA directors have tagged Trump’s utterances as a threat to national security. But Trump has quickly reacted to this allegation by dismissing them as “Washington’s failed elite group”. His sharp razor tongue has caused a split in the rank and file of his Republican support base with notable Republicans withdrawing their support. A former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has described Trump’s email saga as “national disgrace”.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is currently experiencing a hangover arising from the actions she took in office while serving as Secretary of State. Notably among them is the issue of islamist militants attack on a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of the Ambassador and three other Americans on September 11, 2012. Her critics accuse her of incompetence, or even, taking part in a nefarious cover-up. The other equally explosive issue that is hanging on her neck like the proverbial Sword of Damocles is the private email server palaver. Some experts and members of the Congress have faulted Clinton’s use of private messaging system software and private server, saying, it violated State Department protocols and procedures as well as federal laws and regulations governing record keeping. Several congressional hearing sessions have been held during which she had been offered opportunity to defend herself. Nevertheless, the negative impact created by these issues, have refused to abate especially in this election year.
Thus, with less than 50 days to election -day, American voters will have to face the ordeal of choosing a president from two presidential candidates with a heavy baggage each.
Wilson Esate is writing from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.