SEVERAL weeks after Americans voted in the November 3, 2020 general election, the country’s Electoral College met Monday, December 14 and affirmed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory as President-elect and Vice President-elect respectively.
It was an election that shook the very foundations of American democracy, and the presidential system of government fashioned in the United States of America.
The crisis was generated by President Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud.
Globally, democracy was put on trial, perhaps more than at any other time in the history of the United States. To the credit of Americans, what the world witnessed was the victory of democracy over the inherent dictatorial tendencies of men.
The 2020 US election offers quite a number of lessons for Third World countries that desire a place of freedom under the sun.
First, the election and its aftermath showed that strong institutions withstand assaults.
Institutions are not just magnificent buildings, furniture, gadgets or even animals; they are human beings with character – people who have been acculturated to say the truth always and stand by it regardless of the cost.
Strong institutions are built with citizens who have imbibed the culture of incorruptibility – people who place truth above everything else.
The United States Supreme Court and other courts that threw out the Trump campaign’s suits were constituted by such conscientious public servants and citizens.
Another significant lesson from the 2020 US election is the role of the media in a democracy. Through that election, the role of the media as custodians of the culture of truth and transparency was underlined.
The American transnational media, led by the Cable Network News, CNN, continuously beamed their searchlights on the electoral processes, beginning from the campaigns, voting and counting of votes, down to declaration of the results they openly gathered from the collation and counting centres.
Because the entire process was transparent, all the media, including FOX News which had been sympathetic to Donald Trump, toed the same line by announcing the results as facts.
None of the media could afford to risk ‘suicide’ by deviating from the truth; and there was no obnoxious law restraining the media from announcing the results as gathered and vesting that power in one compromised, sickly institution that ridicules itself with the appendage of an independent electoral body.
Electronic voting and transmission of results are other important lessons.
With reliable experts like Chris Krebs, the official in charge of cyber-security in the US election, electronic voting and transmission of results make rigging almost impossible because every activity there leaves digital footprints behind.
Having witnessed first-hand, the victory and beauty of democracy engendered by strong institutions and Information Communication Technology, Nigeria must choose now to begin to put these things in place.
A good place to start is the enactment of the Independent National Electoral Commission Bill, 2020 before the 2023 elections.