Trump's impeachment: 10 relevant lessons for Nigerian Democracy




No matter how much Donald Trump rails, he will, in the next few hours get into the infamous books of American democratic history as one of only three Presidents to have ever been impeached in the over 200 years old American democracy. Should the Republican dominated Senate consider patriotism above partisanship, he will also be the first ever President of the country to be convicted by the Senate and removed from office. The latter is highly unlikely, however, as the impeachment debates have been highly polarized along Party lines. But, with more and more Americans beginning to lend their voices to the impeachment, it will not be a total surprise, if the Republican dominated Senate compels their leader to resign. Whatever happens, there are already some quick lessons that Nigeria can pick from the current travails of the United States President. Some of these lessons are:

  1. The Constitution is Supreme: even though I admire Trump's unique political styles, drama and courage, I do not agree with those who push forward the narrative that he is being witch-hunted by Democrats. Trump has been given every opportunity to come forward and defend himself, but he has refused to seize this opportunity, rather, he has chosen to cry wolf, where there could be none. Nigerian politicians can learn from this and work harder to ensure that anyone, no matter how highly placed who offends the Constitution, is given appropriate sanctions.
  2. The Country's interest is superior to any other considerations: There are about 23 members of Congress, whose chances of getting reelected to the Congress will be hurt should they vote for Trump's impeachment, but these parliamentarians, except one, have all made it clear that they will be voting for Trump to be impeached. This is even as they are aware that their constituents voted more for Trump in the last general elections, and may punish them with their votes in the next election for attempting to remove their man from office.
  3. The People Must be Consulted: Members of the American Congress have all convened a constituency briefing before today to let their constituents know how they will be voting. For some of them, the decision to vote Trump places them in the good books of voters, while for others, it might be tantamount to a political suicide. However, these congressmen have given good accounts of themselves by trying to convince their constituents on why they are voting where they are voting.
  4. It Has Been About Conscience and Not Cash: If this was happening in Nigeria, tranches of ghana-must-go bags would have exchanged hands and it would have been difficult, as at this day to know how most of the congressmen will be voting. Even though lobbying is legal and allowed within legislative circles, cash and carry legislation does not qualify as lobbying. Legislators are convinced by lobbyists on the long-term benefit of particular legislations to their constituents first, and to the nation.
  5. Loyalty to Party and the Country: The impeachment process has been beclouded by the most intense partisanship in recent American politics. While it is obvious that the Democrats have Trump in his jugular, Republicans are considering what this impeachment will mean to the Party's fortunes going forward. It is also expected that the voting will be strictly according to Party lines. However, some Republican congressmen are said to have indicated interest to abstain, while one Democrat has made it clear that he will be voting against the articles of impeachment. Jeff Van Drew has also gone ahead to indicate his willingness to defect to the Republican Party, even though, all his campaign staff have thrown in their resignation letter, in protest against the move. Republicans who have chosen to stick with their leader are arguing that Trump's prodding of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is in the best interest of the nation. Also, Trump's own appointees and Party members, including Sondland who was a major financier of his campaign has come out to give evidences that indicted the President. This wasn't because they don't like the President or that they want to get back at him for some personal reasons, but because they owe their allegiance to the country, rather than any individual or Party.
  6. The Judiciary Prefers to Watch: if this was happening in Nigeria, some people would have been hired to obtain some questionable injunctions from a court, stopping the impeachment process. While Trump had written to the Supreme Court asking for its intervention in the matter, the Supreme Court judges have ignored his request, while the 86 years old Justice Bader Ginsburg has told the BBC that Trump is a legal illiterate for making such demand. At the end, the legislature will be allowed to do its job without interference from the judiciary. If Nigeria can learn this, it will be good for our democracy.
  7. Tribe Or Religion Do Not Count: In all this, neither Pelosi nor Trump has made mention of their religions or regions. None of the respected commentators has also tried to pander to such petty rhythms. They have focused on issues and the debate, even though, sometimes do get heated, has never devolved to the prettiness that has become the landmark of our political debates here.
  8. Trump Has Taken Responsibility: President Trump has impressed me by his boldface defence of his actions. Never for once has he or his personal lawyer, Rudy Guillani denied that the phone call was made. They have even insisted that they are continuing with the idea to ensure that Biden or any other person is brought to book for their actions. Their strongest defence however is that the action was not targeted at gaining political advantage. Nigerian leaders can learn to take responsibility for their actions rather than the culture of denial that pervades our political space.
  9. The Fear of Perjury: The White House blocked all its staff subpoenaed by the Congress from going to testify. This is because they understand that these individuals would, at least for the fear of consequences of perjury rather than disloyalty to the President, tell all they know, and this might further indict the President. However, for blocking these White House personnel, President Trump has earned himself an extra charge of Obstructing the Congress. In Nigeria, these personnel would have seen this as an opportunity to save their principal by telling barefaced lies to the Congress.
  10. Patriotism Beyond Politics: Outside those in the legislature, some prominent Republicans have come out to condemn Trump's actions and openly support the move to penalize him for Abusing his office as President. Also, it is instructive that while Trump's supporters have continued to vent their disapproval of the impeachment moves, but at no time have we been greeted with the embarrassing sight of a group of hired thugs, attempting to disrupt house sitting or harass these congressmen for performing their legitimate duties.
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