By Victoria Ojeme
Many Nigerians, including former President Goodluck Jonathan have spoken out and condemned last Wednesday’s violent insurrection at the U.S. Congress building.
The U.S Capitol attacked by a pro-Donald Trump mob, egged on by the president in a desperate and violent effort to overturn the results of the election.
Minutes after the news spread that the vice-president had announced he would not do the president’s bidding and reverse Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden at the ballot box, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters broke down the barriers around the Capitol building, and surged forward.
After breaching multiple police perimeters, they damaged and occupied parts of the building for several hours.
The storming led to evacuations and lockdowns of the Capitol building, and it disrupted a joint session of Congress assembled to count the electoral votes and formalize Joe Biden’s election victory.
Beyond the apparent threat the attacks posed to U.S. democracy, there is also the glaring systemic disparity in the way security forces handled the insurrection staged by mostly white supremacist ideologists.
This is even more obvious when compared with the way the Black Lives Matter rallies that took place last year were violently suppressed and hounded.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid also compared it to rallies against police brutality held in the last decade in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.
“White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they are committing insurrection, even when they are engaged in attempting to occupy our Capitol to steal the votes of people who look like me, because in their mind, they own this Capitol; they own the cops,” said Reid, who is Black.
“I guarantee if that was a Black Lives Matter protest, there would be people shackled, arrested or dead,” she added.
Nigerian author, Chika Unigwe, who is the winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature for On Black Sisters Street, tweeted “Protesting while black is rioting. Rioting white white is protesting.”
She also retweet another tweet from, Davontae Harris, an American Baseball players which said, “We’re not asking you to shoot them like you shoot us, we’re asking you to NOT shoot us like you don’t shoot them.”
U.S President-elect Joe Biden also denounced what he described as an unequal justice system reflected in the lenient response to the mostly White rioters who assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, suggesting a stark contrast with the treatment of racial justice demonstrators across the country last summer.
“You can’t tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said.
“We all know that is true. And it is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view.”
In some of his most pointed remarks to date on racial inequity, a topic he sometimes struggles to discuss despite his support from many Black voters, Biden pledged that the disparities would be addressed as he announced his Justice Department leadership team, including federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as attorney general.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle (DW) has reported on how Nigerians and other Africans are responding to the chaos at the US Capitol with irony, sarcasm and humor.
Many are astonished at the disarray around the US seat of power — especially those Africans familiar with the playbooks of leaders who refuse to concede defeat, who carry out coups or who incite political violence.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who famously made a phone call even before the final results were announced to concede his defeat and congratulate his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, in what was an unprecedented move for the country, gave Trump a stern reprimand.
Jonathan said: “I have repeatedly said nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any citizen, in any part of the world.
“Absolutely nobody. Again, I reiterate that it is better to lose power at the cost of gaining peace, than to gain power at the price of losing the peace. As a leader, one must not just look unto one’s own interest, but the interest and the good of society.
“It is never too late to reject the venom and inject the serum of peace. It is necessary to state that the highest purpose of leadership is to bring people together, even those that do not share in your philosophy. And you do not need an office to do that. All you need to achieve that height of leadership is conscience. Let us be men of conscience at this hour. GEJ.”
Other commentators seemed unable to resist having a little fun at the expense of the outgoing US president.
“Trump should just pull off his mask and tell us which African country he’s from,” a Twitter user in Zambia remarked.
Trump never visited the continent but famously called African nations “sh*hole countries” in 2018. He also made unkind comments about prospective immigrants to the US from Nigeria.
Some Nigerians drew parallels to what has happened in their own country, which is notorious for election disputes.
Unlike Goodluck Jonathan, most often losers don’t accept defeat, meaning many election results are contested in court.
As a result, Nigerians look enviously to the US as a country with a exemplary transition system.
Not any more, though. Nigerian Salihu Yakubu expressed surprise to DW’s Hausa service that “America’s present democracy is no different to Africa’s.”
In Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, people followed the events in Washington in horror, disbelief and bewilderment.
“What was so shocking is the behavior that was displayed by most of the leadership of the Republican Party in the US,” Adam Ow Hersi told DW in Mogadishu. “We could see some of them were enabling, others were indifferent and others were outright inciting the violence in Capitol Hill.”
Like Uganda, Somalia and Ethiopia are gearing up for elections this year. Some opinion makers in the Horn of Africa have expressed concern that the incident in the US might set a bad precedent for the region.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with a history of coups, political turmoil and violence, citizens told DW correspondents what they thought of Wednesday’s events.
“This is proof that electoral processes are not only being attacked in Africa,” said Mukubua.
Dina, another Congolese, quipped: “Stay calm, otherwise we’ll send you our electoral commission to sort everything out.”
In South Africa, Floyd Shivambu, deputy to Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party leader Julius Malema, sparked lively discussion with his many tweets.
“If these domestic terrorist and extremist activities were happening in any of the countries in the Global South, these imperialist nations would have condemned and threatened intervention by now. Where are our leaders in the African Union?” one of them read.
Twitter users responded to Shivambu with calls for the AU to send peacekeepers.
For Zimbabwe, the developments at the US Capitol meant the shoe was suddenly on the other foot. The contentious issue of longstanding and crippling US sanctions on the southern African country triggered some irony and provoked much laughter.
On Twitter, President Emmerson Mnangagwa stated: “Last year, President Trump extended painful economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe, citing concerns about Zimbabwe’s democracy. Yesterday’s events showed that the US has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy.”